If you’ve ever had dealings with brown, sticky self-tanner, you’ve probably lived through the most humiliating beauty fail of all: bright orange palms. It’s practically a self-tanning rite of passage. I’ve been bronzing for years, yet just last week I caught sight of my own Day-Glo hands on my walk to work and proceeded to try and hide them through a day of meetings. (Not too easy, FYI.)
So, I got in touch with Jules Heptonstall, St.Tropez tanning expert, to find out how I can fix my faux tan fail—and the multitude of others that can happen when sporting a mitt.
Keep scrolling for his extremely helpful tips for fixing every kind of fake tan mistake, from smoothing out streaks to blending blotchy faces…
We’ve all experienced streaks, haven’t we? They tend to crop up if you don’t scrub properly pre-tan, or you pull your jeans on before the tint has a chance to dry. Before you reach for the most vigorous exfoliator in your bathroom, Jules warns: “Don’t panic-scrub—you’ll end up taking the self tan off in patches and it’ll become a snowballing effect.”
Instead, he recommends custom-blending a light body polish and a 50-pence sized drop of bath or massage oil and using the mixture to gently buff your skin in stages, as opposed to doing it in one session. A bath will help as well. “Fill the tub with a bath oil and soak your skin to soften the tan. I find Jo Loves bath colognes (£60) are best for this as they’re infused with so many citrus ingredients.”
Finally, once the oil-laden bath has loosened up the streaky patch of skin, take the St. Tropez Tan Remover Mitt (£4) and work it in circular motions to encourage an even fade.
If there’s one thing worse than a patchy body tan, it’s a blotchy tan on your face or hands. At least if you have a streak on your legs, you can hide it under a pair of tights. Not to mention, the skin on your face is far more delicate than that on your limbs, meaning bath oil and a thorough buff aren't going to be good for that blotchy forehead.
“Apply a clay mask, which will rapidly aid in sloughing away the tan,” says Jules. We like Clayspray Red Clay & Cacao Smoothing Face Mask (£25), which plies pores with a dewy glow to boot. “This works on the hands too, especially if the tan feels too intense,” he adds. “Soak them in a bath oil with warm water first, then cover your hands in the mask to tone the tan down.”
There’s a reason your post-tanning shower might not be shifting that biscuity smell, and it has nothing to do with how well you’ve lathered up and rinsed your guide colour. Instead, it comes down to how your skin reacts to the tanning agents, as Jules reveals that “not all of us develop in the 12 hours, some skin (including mine) still develops for up to 24 hours after application.”
There is some reprieve, however. “Richly fragranced body washes and body butters will mask that biscuity smell if it’s still lingering on your skin,” Jules adds.
This one may sound a bit far-fetched, but having forgotten to tan an entire thigh before, I can confirm that missed patches can and do happen when you’re in a rush. In the event that you, too, forget to bronze a part of your body, try to catch it as early as possible, and use a mitt or makeup sponge to buff a little more on. “Remember: Brown guide-colour streaks on the skin after you’ve finished your application mean your tan layers have overlapped, which is a good thing,” says Jules. “White streaks mean there is still skin that needs to have tan on it.”
Sometimes self-tan stains can last longer on your nails than they do on your skin. Unfortunately, yellow-tinged tips are not, and probably never will be, on trend. So Jules recommends you grab a nail buffer and scrub the marks away, then avoid future mishaps by “applying a lip balm on your nails just before you tan to prevent colour settling on them.”