Sun-kissed skin is undeniably desirable: a good tan can leave you looking radiant, healthier, and even help define your muscles.
However, achieving a flawless, even tan is no easy feat. We’ve all been there: you apply self-tanner with dreams of a bronzed glow, only to find unsightly patches of uneven colour the next day.
This article will help you navigate the tricky world of self-tanning and guide you towards fixing a patchy tan quickly.
What Causes a Patchy Tan?
A dreaded patchy tan is usually the result of a number of factors, and knowing what causes these imperfections can help prevent them in the future. Let’s face it – prevention is always better than cure. Here are the most common culprits when it comes to uneven-looking self tan:
One of the most common causes of a patchy tan is uneven application: if you apply your self-tanner in a hurry or without proper technique, you’re likely to end up with an uneven tan. The key to avoiding this is patience and care – always ensure you’re applying your self-tanner evenly and methodically.
Dry and Unexfoliated Skin:
Another major cause of a patchy tan is dry, unexfoliated skin. Self-tanner tends to stick to dry areas and can absorb unevenly if your skin isn’t properly prepped, so it’s crucial to exfoliate and moisturise your skin beforehand – this helps to create a smooth and hydrated base for the self-tanner to adhere to.
Outdated or Low-Quality Self-Tanner:
Lastly, the quality and condition of your self-tanner can drastically impact the results. Old or low-quality self-tanners may not spread as evenly, leading to patches and streaks. Always ensure you’re using a high-quality self-tanner that’s within its expiry date.
How to Get Rid of a Patchy Tan
So, if you’ve found yourself with a patchy tan, don’t despair. There are several strategies to correct uneven patches and restore a smooth, bronzed glow:
Exfoliation is a quick and effective method to help fix a patchy tan. Using a gentle exfoliator or a soft loofah, scrub the areas where the tan has accumulated and become blotchy. Be careful not to overdo it, as this can lead to skin irritation. Aim to balance the colour by lightning overly dark spots, rather than trying to remove the tan entirely.
Use a Tan Corrector:
Several brands offer tan correctors designed to help fix uneven tanning. These products typically work by accelerating the natural skin exfoliation process or by breaking down the active ingredient in self-tanners. Apply the tan corrector on the affected areas according to the instructions on the package, and don’t apply fake tan directly afterwards.
Try a Mild Bleaching Agent:
If exfoliating and using a tan corrector are not enough, you can consider using a mild bleaching agent like lemon juice, as the citric acid in lemon juice acts as a natural lightening agent and can help even out a blotchy tan. To do this, mix equal parts lemon juice and baking soda to form a paste, apply it to the patchy areas, leave it on for a few minutes, and then rinse off.
Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Self Tanner
If you want to ensure that your next self tan application is a success, remember that an at-home bronzed glow isn’t a quick process, but one that requires adherence to a number of important steps before, during and after the application! Here’s our own expert guide to applying false tan:
Step 1: Skin Preparation
Before you reach for that bottle of self-tanner, make sure your skin is ready to receive it. This means exfoliating 24 hours before the application. Using a gentle scrub, pay special attention to your knees, elbows, ankles, and any other areas where skin tends to be rougher. Post-exfoliation, hydrate your skin with a lightweight, oil-free moisturiser.
Step 2: Choose the Right Product
Select a self-tanner that suits your skin type and the tan level you desire. A lotion or cream is ideal for dry skin, while a mousse or gel works better for oily skin. For fair skin, start with a product labelled “light” to avoid a too-drastic change. If you have darker skin, you might opt for “medium” or “dark.” If you’re in a hurry, you might want to consider self tanning towelettes, which are simpler and less messy to use, but still offer that coveted, bronze glow you’re looking for.
Step 3: Application
Use a tanning mitt for the best results, as this will give you a streak-free finish and protect your palms from getting stained. Apply the tanner in sections to ensure you don’t miss a spot. Start from your ankles and work your way up to avoid smudging the product, and apply the product in long, sweeping motions and make sure it’s evenly spread.
Step 4: Pay Attention to Problem Areas
Problem areas like knees, ankles, and elbows tend to absorb more product, leading to a darker tan. To prevent this, lightly skim these areas with the leftover product on the mitt, ensuring they get a thinner layer of product.
Step 5: Face Application
When applying tanner to your face, be careful to avoid the eyebrows and hairline. Use a minimal amount of product and blend well.
Step 6: Wait and Dry
Wait for at least 10 minutes for the tanner to dry before getting dressed. Avoid tight clothing and sweating for up to six hours post-application to give the tanner time to work. Depending on the brand you use, you may need to take a quick shower (water only) to rinse off the colour guide after around 6-8 hours.
Step 7: Correct Mistakes
Mistakes can happen, and when they do, don’t panic. You can fix streaks and overly dark spots with a tan eraser or by gentle exfoliation. A patchy tan can often also be fixed by reapplying a light layer of self-tanner over the area and blending it well – just make sure not to apply too much, or you’ll end up with an uneven, two-toned finish.
Ultimately, applying self-tanner can seem daunting, but with practice and patience, you can achieve a beautiful, sunless tan right at home. No sun damage, no orange skin, just a flawless golden glow that’ll have people wondering which beach you just returned from!
How to Make Your Tan Last Longer
Once your tan has fully developed (and after having followed the steps outlined above), don’t forget about that all-important tan maintenance! If you’re planning a getaway and want your tan to last the duration of your holiday, here’s what the experts recommend:
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate:
The longevity of your tan greatly depends on how well you maintain your skin post-application. Just as your body needs water to function optimally, your skin craves hydration to stay healthy and keep that tan looking fresh.
Apply a moisturiser daily, choosing a formula that doesn’t contain exfoliating ingredients like retinols or Alpha Hydroxy Acids, which can accelerate the skin’s natural shedding process and fade your tan more quickly.
Avoid Hot Showers and Baths:
While a hot bath or shower might be your go-to method for relaxation, they’re not ideal for preserving your tan. Hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and faster cell turnover, which will speed up the fading of your tan. Instead, opt for lukewarm water and keep your bathing time to a minimum.
Be Gentle on Your Skin:
Avoid activities that naturally exfoliate the skin, such as waxing or using loofahs, rough towels, and abrasive scrubs. When drying your skin, pat it dry instead of rubbing. This can help preserve your skin’s top layer that holds the tan.
Stay Hydrated from Within:
Your skin reflects your internal health, and this includes the state of your tan. Drinking plenty of water will help keep your skin cells plump and hydrated, which can prolong the life of your tan. Adding foods rich in healthy fats, like avocados and nuts, to your diet can also boost skin health and help preserve your tan.
Use a Gradual Tanner:
A gradual tanning lotion is a great way to extend the life of your tan. It delivers a subtle colour boost that can help maintain your tan’s depth and even out any areas where the tan has begun to fade. Apply a gradual tanner every few days or as needed to keep your tan looking its best.
Protect Your Skin:
Sun exposure not only risks your skin health but can also dry out your skin and lead to peeling, which will take your tan along with it. Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 whenever you’re outdoors, even if it’s cloudy.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section we answer your questions on how to fix a patchy tan quickly.
Why did my fake tan result in a patchy tan?
There are several reasons you might experience a patchy tan, including uneven application, dry skin, not using a tanning mitt, or using outdated or low-quality self-tanners.
Can I fix a patchy tan after I’ve already applied my self tanner?
Absolutely! You can gently exfoliate or gently buff the patchy areas, apply a tan corrector, or use home remedies like a mix of lemon juice and baking soda.
How do I remove excess tan or a bad fake tan completely?
To remove fake tan, you can gently exfoliate your skin, use a tan eraser, or apply home remedies like baby oil or a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda.
How can I achieve a natural-looking tan without getting orange streaks?
Choose a high-quality self tanning product that’s suitable for your skin tone. Ensure you exfoliate and moisturise your skin before application, use a tanning mitt for an even spread, and apply the product in circular motions.
After achieving a fresh tan, how do I maintain that flawless glow?
To maintain that beautiful tan, moisturise daily with an oil-free moisturiser, avoid hot showers and baths, pat dry after showering, drink plenty of water, and reapply a gradual tanner when necessary.
What should I wear after applying fake tan?
Opt for loose-fitting clothing to prevent smudging or removing the tan before it has fully developed.
Are there any top tips for achieving a sun-kissed skin look without resulting in a patchy fake tan?
Yes! Always exfoliate before tanning to remove dead skin cells, moisturise your dry areas like knees and elbows with an oil-free moisturiser, apply using a tanning mitt, and make sure to wait until your tan is completely dry before dressing or coming into contact with water.