From streaks and patchiness to dodgy colour, self-tanning can be a minefield. We quizzed tan experts James Read and Claire Lambert on how to come back from even the most disastrous of tanning mishaps…
We’ve likely all been there, at least once. You’ve got to dash out the door for an important occasion, and your tan has gone stripey. Maybe you’ve also got a bit of tan on your top, not to mention your bathroom walls, and you don’t know where to begin the clean-up process of both self and space. It’s starting to feel like tanning was far too much trouble to go to in the first place, and your stress levels, not to mention your skin tone, are no longer on an even keel.
It doesn’t need to be this way. We called on tanning experts James Read and Skinny Tan’s celebrity tanner Claire Lambert to solve some of our most burning fake tan fails, to advise on how to get a perfect fake tan every time , to lend some fake tan removal tips, and for reassurance that it’s not only possible to salvage a botched job but to avoid fake tan gone wrong altogether.
My self-tan has gone streaky and smells less than fresh. How do I stop this from happening?
James Read: “Always use a tanning mitt as this helps to make the application much more even. Apply one thin layer, wait 30 minutes and then apply a second layer. Leave your hands and feet until last, and work the excess tan from your arms onto your hands and from your legs onto your feet and ankles. Self tans will always have that ever-familiar smell, as it comes from the DHA chemical that stains (ie tans) your skin. Each person is different, so it smells different on everyone, but most brands now use odourless or organic DHAs now.”
My hands and ankles always go dark and patchy…
Claire Lambert: “You’ve probably either not exfoliated enough or not moisturised properly. Make sure you exfoliate all the areas where things are likely to rub. That includes where your bra strap sits and the front of your ankles where shoes might rub. Once you’ve exfoliated, go in with a moisturiser straight away."
Help! My face looks mottled! How do I fix patchy fake tan?
CL: “We wash our faces a lot which can mean we strip tan more quickly here. Continue with your normal skincare routine but add a few face tanning drops into your usual serum or moisturiser. This will help keep your tan topped up and even. Tan drops that are made specifically for the face often have hydrating or skincare properties which can help with any dryness.”
How do I remove fake tan from my palms and the soles of my feet?
JR: “Always use a [biodegradeable] wet wipe straight after tanning on these areas, as this will remove the tan. If you have forgotten to do this and they are stained, soak a flannel in a mixture of lemon and lime juice with water, put in the microwave for a minute and leave to cool. Then rub over the areas which are over-tanned and this will help break the colour down.”
I've booked a tan with a professional - what shall I wear and when can I shower?
JR: “Professionals should always give you some paper knickers to wear, but you can wear your own if you would rather. If you’re feeling uncomfortable you can wear your bra, but I would suggest taking down your straps, as you don't want tan lines. When they have finished just wait a few minutes before getting dressed and make sure to wear loose, dark clothing. Don't wash (including backs of hands!) and shower for eight hours.”
My tan is tacky. Can I still get dressed? What should I avoid? I'm worried about my sheets…
JR: “Always wait a few minutes after tanning. Rub talcum powder under your breasts, armpits and backs of legs as this will stop your tan from sweating off. White sheets are OK as the tan will come out when you next wash them, but if it really bothers you, try to use a colourless tan like my Sleep Mask Tan £29.05 so you won’t get any transfer.”
CL: “Clothes can rub away your tan so always make sure you moisturise post-tan. Or, try using a finishing product such as the Skinny Tan Dry Mist Finishing Spray £12.99. This will help to take away any tackiness and create a gentle barrier between the tan and your sheets and clothes. Perfume can also affect tan so avoid spraying it directly on your skin.”
How can I make sure my tan doesn’t go orange?
CL: “If your tan keeps developing into an orange hue then you’re possibly using a shade that is too dark for your skin tone or too much product. Try using a gradual tan and build up until you work out what your optimum shade is.”
What do I do if my tan is too dark?
JR: “Not the most practical, but if you can, go to a steam room and sit in there for 20 minutes. Sounds bizarre but it does tend to reduce the colour by a few shades and if you can handle the heat, stay for a bit longer until the tan has completely come off. I learned this trick from personal experience!”
Why does my fake tan fade so quickly?
JR: “Maybe you didn't apply enough, or you have used an old self-tan that has been sitting in the cupboard for a year, which means it doesn't work as well. I always recommend using an aftersun as this prevents your tan (real or fake) from fading too quickly. Instead, it’ll wear off nice and evenly.”
Patches of my tan last longer than in other areas. What shall I do?
JR: “Rubbing these areas with wet wipes will remove the old patchy tan, leaving the skin fresh and ready for a new layer. I do this to all my celeb clients and it works so well.”
I've shaved and my tan is fading fast. Does shaving remove fake tan?
JR: “it does remove your self-tan if you wet shave. The best way is to use an electric shaver, as it will remove the top layer of your hair rather than your skin.”
CL: "Do hair removal at least 24 to 48 hours before applying tan, otherwise your tan stick in those little dots you get after shaving. If you haven't got the time and you have shaved then try blasting skin with a cold shower to try and shrink pores, apply a tiny bit of moisturiser and then apply tan or try using a clear fake tan such as the Skinny Tan Coconut Water Tanning Mist £24.99 they don’t have a colour guide which is the bit that can sometimes stick in those little post-shave dots."
My normal makeup doesn't match my tan. Any advice?
JR: “Keep the tan very natural on your face. Less is definitely more and you can always build up the colour with a bronzer."
CL: "If you’ve fake tanned and you're nice and dark but your foundation is too light don’t buy a new foundation. Instead, get your foundation and add a few drops of your instant tan into it, this will give you a little bit of a darker shade to help you match your fake tan with your foundation."
How long does a self-tan normally last? When can I tan again?
JR: “Tans usually last five to seven days but it's important to moisturise daily to keep your skin hydrated and this also stops it from fading in a patchy way. Exfoliate after three days, then every day after that so your tan fades evenly. It's important to wait for your tan to fade before you apply more otherwise the colour will look orange and unnatural.”
If you're in a rush to be rid of your tan, we like Lusso Tan's Bath Bomb £8.50 . Drop it in your bath, soak for 30 minutes or longer and give your skin a scrub for tan-free skin when you emerge from the tub. It worked beautifully with Lusso Tan's Tinted Self Tanning Mousse £22 own self-tan, but we can't speak for every tan brand.
We also like Isle of Paradise's Over-It Remover£17.95 , which requires buffing into the skin to banish tan.
I don't have time for all of this. How can I get a glow with a minimal amount of fuss?
JR: “Wash off tans are great and you can’t go wrong. Face tanning mists gradual tan you in minutes and dry in quickly so they’re another great alternative, that's why I created my H2O Tan Mist £20 . This works over the top of your makeup or SPF. It's all about ‘on the go’ which means quick, easy and hassle-free.”
After more tanning advice? Check out these expert tanning tips to help you glow like a pro