How to Prevent - and Fix - Self-Tanning Disasters

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Damage Control

Self-tanning is a messy process, and even the most devoted self-tanorexics can make mistakes. Here are a few tips for cleaning up the mess, if you end up with a bad sunless tan.

Tan Remover Solutions

These are especially useful for getting the orange off of your palms, fingernails, and the bottoms of your feet. If you don't have the patience to wash your hands 15 or 20 times while applying the lotion, just use Jersey Girl's Shimmer Dimmer ($14.50) or St. Tropez' Self Tan Remover, in towelettes ($6 for 10) or a soap ($15). These products are most effective in removing the tan before the DHA has started the chemical process or color change. They can still help after the tan has begun to develop, but they will not be able to remove streaks or blotches completely.

Loofahs, Scrubs, and Shaving

Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate, to slough off some of the affected dead skin cells. Draw a bath, shave your legs, and then scrub the darker streaks or spots with a loofah. Be careful not to overscrub, or you'll end up red and splotchy, in addition to unevenly tanned.

Harsh Chemicals

We don't necessarily advocate these, but they are an option if you're in a real pinch. Chlorine, peroxide, bleach, and anti-dandruff shampoos are all supposed to strip off the top layer of skin and interfere with the DHA, thereby lightening the fake tan. They may also irritate sensitive skin, so exercise caution -- dilute the chemicals with moisturizer and avoid your face and neck at the very least. And never apply immediately after shaving or exfoliating.


If self tanners go awry on your face, first try to blend with a tinted moisturizer -- a heavier foundation will only draw attention to the uneven color. Next, aim for a fresh-looking face. Skip the bronzers and blushes because adding a third shade of tan to your face will only exacerbate the problem. Apply a natural lip gloss, and for a more made-up look, draw attention to your eyes with liner rather than color.

Add More Tan

Prefer filling in the light spots to lightening the tan spots? It's a little tricky, but if you're on the pale side, you can try to fill in the color with self tanning towelettes. Try Estee Lauder's Go Tan Sunless Towelettes ($28 for 10) or Comodynes' Self-Tanning Towelettes ($15 for 8) to fill in the light spaces and even out your color.


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