How to Lighten Your Spray-on Tan

by Melissa J. Bell ; Updated September 28, 2017

Cover scars with petroleum jelly before applying a spray tan, for even results.

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"Fake" should describe your type of suntan, not its appearance. If your self-tanner or, frustratingly, professional salon tan turns out streaky, blotchy, orange or just way too dark for your natural coloring -- sorry, fair-skinned tan fans -- don't think you have to suffer through looking like an Oompa Loompa gone wrong. Fade your faux tan down a few shades overall or just in a few darker spots by interrupting the tanning chemical process and taking off the darkest skin cells as soon as you can.

Work Quickly

Spray tans darken in a few hours and become waterproof in seven hours, so you're not in immediate need, but the sooner you act, the better the results. Wipe down the worst of your tan right away with a wet cloth, then hop into a warm bath mixed with 1 cup of baking soda. The water not only helps wash off your tanner; it also relaxes your skin enough to increase the effectiveness of your next fading effort: exfoliating. Leave the bath after 30 minutes and towel off gently.

Exfoliate Gently

Mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda with enough lemon juice to make a paste, or bust out your favorite skin scrub. Baking soda is gentle and nonabrasive, and with the added bleaching quality of acidic lemon juice, makes for an effective tan-fading exfoliant. Get into a warm shower and scrub down to remove dirt, leftover tanning chemicals and the top layer of dead skin cells. Target the areas you most want lightened, especially if your tan is uneven.

Fade Over Time

Not every tan will lighten enough in a single day -- you may have to spend some time working at it. Cut a lemon in half and rub it over your skin to help fade the tan. Apply a lotion that contains alpha-hydroxy acids once daily to encourage faster skin cell shedding. Use a loofah or exfoliant in every shower. If you have too-dark spots in areas you normally shave or wax, do so.

Next Time

Prevent your next tan from turning too dark or streaking by preparing your skin to receive the chemicals. Dry, rough skin takes color much more starkly. Shave six hours before your appointment, but use no shaving cream. Exfoliate your skin, then moisturize with a water-based product. At the appointment, cover all crevices, such as around the cuticles, with a barrier cream to prevent pooling. Immediately wipe off any excess tanner. Afterward, apply no moisturizer until after your first shower.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

A writer with a Bachelor of Science in English and secondary education, but also an interest in all things beautiful, Melissa J. Bell has handed out beauty and fashion advice since she could talk -- and for the last six years, write for online publications like Daily Glow and SheBudgets.