Streaks? Splotches? Five tips to fix the most common self-tanning mishaps

Streaks. Splotchy colour. We’ve all been there. Here’s a need-to-know guide to fixing common DIY tanning mistakes.


Navigating through the world of self-tanning can be tricky, especially for newbies. Fear not: we talked to Shannelle Gellert, owner of SunnaTan, a Canada-based all-natural skincare, airbrush tanning and aftersun product line to get her top self-tanning tips. From how to get a foolproof faux glow at home to fixing the most common self-tanning mistakes, it’s all here.

Problem: Your tan comes out streaky
“The best way to fix a streaky tan is to prevent streaks altogether by choosing a self-tanner and method that works best for you,” says Gellert. “If you’re new to self-tanning, I’d recommend using a [product] with a little bit of bronzer in it so you can see where you’ve applied it, and most importantly, where you haven’t.” Another way to avoid uneven colour? “[Use] a tanning mitt with large circular motions for your application, and then give the tanner plenty of time to develop and settle,” recommends Gellert. She also advises holding off on sweating, crying, wearing tight clothing or coming into contact with water for about eight hours after you apply your self-tanner to prevent streaks.

Problem: Your palms have turned orange
“Your palms absorb the tan faster because generally our hands are dry,” says Gellert. She recommends slipping on a tanning mitt prior to application as protection. If you’re stuck without one, in a pinch a latex glove will do the trick. If you absolutely must tan without a glove of some kind, Gellert says to divide your body into sections and wash your hands frequently during the process to ensure the self-tanner doesn’t have time to sink into your palms. If it’s too late and your hands are already orange (gasp!), St. Tropez has a few tips for how to remove self-tanner from hands using readily available kitchen items like baking soda or lemon and sugar.

Problem: You’re having trouble selecting the right self-tanner for your skin
“Not all self-tanners are built equally,” says Gellert. “My recommendation is to do your research and read your labels.” For example, if you have sensitive skin, she recommends selecting a product full of natural ingredients. “DHA is the main ingredient in self-tanners, it’s a naturally occurring compound, however DHA is drying by nature so you want to choose a self-tanner that also contains moisturizing agents to counteract it,” says Gellert. This will help your tan go on smoothly and will ensure it fades as evenly as possible. “If your skin is dry, your self-tan will not last as long and will fade unevenly, so start with a lighter application and colour until you’ve built up enough practice to move to a darker tan.”

Problem: Your colour wasn’t quite what you were looking for
Solution: “The best and most simple way to remove a tan is to have a long bath (over 15 minutes) in warm water with Epsom salts,” advises Gellert. While you’re in the tub, gently rub your skin with an exfoliating mitt or face cloth and the tan should begin to soften and come off. Gellert recommends doing this a few times if you want to fully remove your tan, but one soak should suffice if you just want to lighten it a bit. “This trick also works wonders if you want to get rid of the remnants of an older self-tan [before you apply] a fresh one.”

Problem: Your tan fades too quickly
Solution: “Depending on the type of self-tanner you use, you can continue to build and layer your colour with more product [when you notice it fading],” says Gellert. “Another preservation technique is to be sure your skincare products, from your lotion to your body wash, are tan-friendly.” Look for products that are alcohol and fragrance-free, and make sure they don’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate. “All are drying to the skin which can negatively affect the duration and colour of your tan.”

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