The 5 Most Common Spray Tan Mistakes, Corrected

tanning by the pool

Marc Bordons / Stocksy

We have to admit, the spray tan is one of the best inventions of the 21st century. It might sound like a lofty claim, but after years of the tanning bed being the one of the only ways to get a sun-kissed glow year round, we're grateful for a quick, painless, and non-harmful option.

When it’s done right, you’ve got that just-back-from-vacation glow. When it’s done wrong, you look like you got a bad spray tan — it's too dark, it's too orange, it's splotchy. And then there are all the scenarios in between—a little streak here, a bare spot there. No matter what the situation is, we’ve got the solution. We spoke with Sophie Evans, the St. Tropez Skin Finishing Expert & Celebrity Self-Tanner to get more insight on how to fix your bad spray tan.

Scroll through for five fixes to the most common spray tan snafus!

Too Dark All Over

Too Dark All Over
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When your technician takes you to bronzed goddess status when you were looking for more of a sun-kissed glow, employ the exfoliate-and-soak method. Start by dry brushing to loosen dead skin cells, soak in the tub for at least 10 minutes to lift the color, and finish by scrubbing down with a physical or chemical exfoliator, like Cane+Austin’s Face and Body Glycolic Acid Scrub ($42).

Evans' approach is similar. "Lightly exfoliate and use an exfoliating mitt like the St. Tropez Tan Remover Mitt ($6.50) and it will buff away and lighten the self-tan. A hot shower and full exfoliation will lighten up a spray tan fast," she explains.

7 Most Common Spray Tan Mistakes
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads $18.00

If it’s your face that comes out too dark, employ a similar but gentler method. Thoroughly wash your face with a gentle scrub and then use a glycolic peel, like First Aid Beauty's Facial Radiance Pads ($18). This will lighten the skin just enough. 

Dark Splotches

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Olive & June Polish Remover Pot $8.00

If you’ve got dark splotches in small areas like the hands, feet, elbows, or knees, grab some cotton balls and your nail polish remover. Acetone fades DHA, the chemical responsible for skin darkening. But it is drying, so be sure to rinse off and moisturize well after using it. Switch to pointed cotton swabs if your knuckles need attention. 

If you're not comfortable using acetone, Evans has additional advice. "Invest in an exfoliating mitt and buff away at the dark patch, she says. "If its really severe, I normally apply a hair removal cream and leave on for half the recommended time, then rinse off to reveal a lighter, even color."

Buildup in Ears

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Well Earth Goods Zero Waste Cotton Swabs $10.00

Word to the wise: Always have a friend check out your ears the day after your spray tan. The solution can collect in your ears, leaving them way darker than the rest of your skin. Not cute. If this happens to you, use a damp cotton swab (or two) to clean up the residue. If that doesn’t work well enough, dip the swab in rubbing alcohol and try again. 

This is easier to spot and easier to clean up. For an overly tanned belly button, use a dry cotton swab. You can even do this preventatively. Just be sure to give your spray tan several hours to process before doing so, or you could end up with a white ring around your belly button.

Chest and Bum Creases

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Try as you might to avoid them, sometimes creases under your chest and bum just happen. If they do, the best way to target that specific area is with a tanning towelette. Dr. Dennis Gross Skinare Alpha Beta® Intense Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face ($38) give you control to just fill in the necessary spots with subtle color that will blend in with your existing tan. Be sure to follow this clever hack and trim your towelette, so you don’t use an entire sheet on such a small area.

"To fix creasing you have to lightly exfoliate every 2-3 days with a very gentle exfoliator," explains Evans. "The St. Tropez Tan Enhancing Body Polish ($18) was made for maintaining the evenness of a self-tan. It contains minute exfoliating granules that will not rip or tear at your tan, but lightly exfoliate keeping your tan even and ensuring it fades evenly. Concentrate in areas where you get the creasing which is the neck, inner arm, breast area, etc."

And to prevent the creases before they form, apply a thin layer of baby powder before you go to bed. This helps prevent sweat from rubbing off the spray tan in those areas. (Do this to your feet, too, before putting tight shoes or going out on a hot day.)

Green Armpits

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Athena Club TLC Wipes $9.00

So you forgot to remove your deodorant before you got a spray tan, and now the reaction between the tanning chemicals and the aluminum in your deodorant has left you with green armpits.

Unfortunately, if this happens to you, your best plan of action is to catch it early, clean off the area, and hope for the best. Since you probably can’t hop in the shower for a few more hours, use baby wipes instead. Evans advises, "Green armpits are where you had deodorant left on the skin prior to self-tan application. The only thing you can do is remove it and reapply the tan. I would use either hair removal cream or use a tan remover and a good exfoliation."

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