In the quest for the perfect faux glow, you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. If the bathroom lighting isn’t great when you’re applying self-tanner, you may miss a spot and discover the telltale paler patch the next morning. Or you may decide to skip exfoliating your rough knees and elbows, only to find out they’ve turned a darker shade of tan than the rest of your body.
Streaks and stains can happen, but the good news is that you can get even. We tapped self-tanner maven and St. Tropez Skin Finishing Expert, Sophie Evans, for tips on fixing the most common self-tanner faux pas:
Problem #1: Your dry knees, elbows, and hands absorbed too much self-tanner and you have streaks.
Solution: “If you have dark marks or streaks and you need to fix a mistake fast, the quickest way is to apply baby oil to the darker areas and let it sit for 10 minutes,” suggested Evans. “This allows the exfoliation to be more effective.” Next, exfoliate the too-dark spots with a scrub, and then, using a hot, damp wash cloth, buff over the skin. Or you can try this DIY self-tanner remover from Real Simple: Mix 1 teaspoon of baking powder with a 1/2 teaspoon of water and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice until it becomes a paste. Rub the paste onto the darkened areas for about three minutes, and then remove it with a warm washcloth. Repeat if necessary.
Another effective tactic Evans swears by: hair removal cream (where appropriate, of course). “Apply it with a Q-tip onto the darker area, leave it for half the time as recommended on the packaging, and then remove it,” she says. “If you leave the hair removal cream for the full time, it can create lighter patches, and we want to make the skin match.”
Problem #2: You missed a spot after self-tanning and now it’s clearly whiter than the rest of your body.
Solution: “For white patches, simply lightly exfoliate the skin, and then go over the area with self-tanner,” suggests Evans. She recommends always using a tinted self-tanner — what Evans calls an instant guide color — so you can see exactly where you are (and aren’t) applying it to correct and prevent self-tanning mistakes. Some good ones include Sephora Collection Tinted Self-Tanning Body Mist and Dior Bronze Self-Tanner Natural Glow for Body.
Problem #3: Your self-tanner stained your clothes or your pillowcase.
Solution: Pretreat self-tanner strains with a mixture of laundry detergent and water, letting the solution soak into the stain for 15 minutes before throwing the stained clothing or pillowcase into the washing machine, according to Jeeves dry cleaners in New York City. If the stain doesn’t come out post-wash, treat the spot with glycerin from your local pharmacy. Glycerin acts a natural stain remover that breaks down the self-tanner dye. For white clothes and pillowcases, dab a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution on the stain using a white washcloth (otherwise the hydrogen peroxide will lighten any washcloth you use).
In the future, wear all black or clothes you don’t care about getting stained after applying self-tanner. You can also opt for a fast-drying self-tanner solution to prevent staining in the first place, such as St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse or Spray, which dries in 60 seconds and is fairly transfer-proof unless you sweat. Self-tanner lotions and oils are never going to feel truly dry, notes Evans. “If you are scared of sweating [after self-tanning], use baby powder to keep the skin dry and keep the tan in place,” she says. “Once the tan has developed and the first shower has happened, the self-tanner will not transfer at all!”