The fact is, no one wants to look like they got a fake tan, even if they did. It’s all about that natural summer glow. But if you’re having a spray tan experience that’s left you looking a little more like Ross Geller after “four twos,” don’t stress. There are a few things you can do to tone it down.
Yes, it’s possible to lighten a too-dark tan.
Sarah Burdge, owner of Spray Tan in Ten NYC, told HuffPost that if you’re trying to lighten a tan that turned out much darker or perhaps a little more orange than desired, “a good tip is to put any kind of baby oil or coconut oil and let that set on [your] skin and then soak in a hot bath.”
The hot water, Burdge said, will help lift the tan from the skin, and according to Gete Solomon, a NKD SKN VIP tanning artist, the oil will also break down the tan.
“What you always tell people not to do is take hot showers or be in any kind of jacuzzi because that will take your tan off faster,” Burdge added. “So if it’s too dark, you’re going to tell them to do the opposite you’d normally do.”
After soaking in the bath, Burdge recommended taking a shower and rubbing lightly with a loofah. Solomon also stressed the importance of exfoliating, noting that scrubs are great for stripping the tan off the skin.
However, you want to make sure you’re not scrubbing too hard, Burdge said, as that can result in a patchy-looking tan.
You don’t have to live with splotchiness, either.
According to Bridget Bergin, owner of New York’s Brazil Bronze, people can also end up with splotchy, uneven tans because they’re sweating or touching their skin too much soon after the spray tan is applied. You really can’t shower, sweat or get wet while the solution is still developing, she said.
But patchy tans can be fixable, too. And again, exfoliation is key.
“Exfoliate it off as much as you can,” Bergin said, adding that you can always go back to the salon if the patchiness seems too drastic to fix on your own.
One DIY solution, according to Burdge, is to make a scrub from lemon juice and sugar.
“Let it set on [the] skin or the patchy spots, and then take a really good loofah and lightly scrub around on the [darker] areas that are patchy,” she said. “That typically will take it off.”
Drip marks aren’t the end of the world.
Then there are the dreaded drip marks ― usually a result of getting wet, sweating excessively or even crying right after you’re sprayed, while the tan is still in the development stage. Even those can be managed, though you need to act quickly.
“I’ve had clients who’ve gotten stuck in the rain and they have spots, so what I tell them to do so they don’t stay spotted is to actually take a little bit of lotion and rub around [the spots] because they still have bronzer on their skin,” Burdge said.
By rubbing the lotion around and across the light spots, you blend in the remaining bronzer, Burdge explained. The key is not to let the spray tan solution dry completely with the drip marks visible, or else you’ll likely wake up with a spotty tan, she said.
Solomon recommended a similar solution, though she suggested the use of a mousse-like product, as opposed to a lotion.
If you’re only dealing with a small drip mark, Bergin said, you can try patting it dry and a tan may still develop there. However, if you’ve been soaked somehow and you’re just covered in spots and drip marks, your best bet is to shower it off and head back to the salon for a fix, she added.
Steer clear of mishaps with good prep.
Bad spray tans can usually be avoided with a few simple preventative measures.
Before your appointment, you should exfoliate your skin, Solomon said. If you shave or wax, do that beforehand as well. If you wait until afterward, you risk removing the tan along with the hair.
You also want to make sure your skin is totally dry and free from any added lotions or oils, Solomon said, as those products can affect how well the tanner sticks to the skin and how evenly it applies.
What you do afterward matters.
So that you won’t ruin your tan right after it’s applied, bring dark, loose-fitting clothing to wear after you’ve been sprayed, Bergin said. She also noted that it might be a good idea to skip public transit (which can be hot and overly crowded in warmer months) and take a cab home to avoid sweating.
“You don’t want to be sweating at all,” she said.
Before anybody gets spraying, you should discuss your comfort level with your tanning technician, Burdge said. If you’re a first-timer who’s a little nervous, opt for something light, since it’s much easier to add color later than take away.
Another thing we’ll tell you before you set out to get that (faux) bronzed glow ― don’t inhale. And of course, your fake tan won’t protect you from the sun, so do yourself a favor and always wear sunscreen.