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How to Fix Blotchy Self-Tanner (Quickly!) in 5 Steps

Left is a texture shot of a body scrub and moisturise and right is a before-after image of legs from applying a bronzing foam

Even if you’re a faux-glow pro, nothing’s foolproof – so once in a blue moon, you might end up with a patchy fake tan. Inevitably this will happen before a big event. But if it does, there’s no need to despair. A bad fake tan is only temporary and, take it from us, it’s a whole lot easier and quicker to fix than a bad haircut.


What causes a patchy fake tan?

Common reasons for patchy self-tanning include having products on the skin (perfume, deodorant, oil-based moisturizers, etc.) that can cause your tan to break down and fade unevenly.

So, if you’re feeling less like a golden goddess and more like a patchwork quilt? Read on. We’ve rounded up 5 tips on how to fix a patchy tan, pronto. And prevent it from happening the next time around.


1. Exfoliate darker areas

Oops, you’ve done it again – and your tan is a patchy or streaky mess. Your first course of action to even things out is to exfoliate any darker areas. Exfoliating with a mitt and gentle body scrub will help lift away those dead skin cells that have absorbed a touch too much colour. 

Additionally, ingredients like glycolic acid are fab at naturally fading your colour. Especially on your face, where you might not want to scrub too energetically in case you cause sensitivity.

@coco_and_eve Skin care benefits + Bronzy ✨GLOW✨ #cocoandeve Bali Bronzing Foam #howto #selftan #tutorial #fyp ♬ original sound - Coco & Eve


2. Add colour where you’re paler

An alternative approach is to top up your tan on any areas that seem to have been missed in your initial application. To tan these smaller areas, grab your tanning foam and a kabuki brush. Apply a small amount of tanner to the brush and buff it into your paler spot. No time to let it dry and fully develop? Apply a tan drying powder or a dusting of talc to help set it before you head out the door. 

If you’re wondering how to fix a patchy tan quickly – as in within the next hour – you can also use an instant, wash-off tan. Or a liquid or powder bronzer should also do the trick. 

@coco_and_eve Yeah… for even & streak-free results😉 #cocoandeve #selftan #ummyeah #foru ♬ umm.. yeah - andrew


3. Prep better next time

While patchy fake tans can partly be caused by a dodgy application, a lot of it comes down to prep. Or lack thereof. You should ALWAYS, we repeat, ALWAYS exfoliate before self-tanning. Firstly, to remove dry skin that will drink up the lion’s share of DHA and get extra-bronzed. And secondly, to prevent an uneven, unsightly fade as skin cells shed at different rates.

As well as exfoliating, it’s best to do any hair removal 24 hours prior. This will create a nice, smooth canvas – and prevent you from shaving away all your tan two days after applying. As elbows, knees and elbows are notoriously thirsty, it’s a good idea to apply moisturiser to these areas first to avoid excess pigment.

And if you're ready to reapply tan? Make sure you remove all traces of your last glow-up by exfoliating, or you'll risk an unnatural and uneven skin tone.



4. Go for colour-guide technology

If you want to make sure you’ve applied your self-tanner evenly, skip clear formulas and go for a tinted mousse or lotion. Like our Bali Bronzing Foam which comes in three tinted shades. Apply your tanner in front of a mirror so you can clearly see if you’ve missed any tricky spots, and use a back tan applicator so all bases are covered. 

Know that the colour you apply is just a bronzer – it’s not the exact shade you’ll end up and any streaks aren’t permanent. But it’s a good idea to apply with a tanning mitt as it allows smooth, even glides and a fast application that stops product pooling in certain areas.

5. Moisturise!

When you apply your tanner, make sure you’re working with clean, dry skin. Skip the moisturiser (apart from on dry areas as a barrier), deodorant and perfume, as these products will interfere with your tan’s development. 

But, after you tan, make sure you go crazy with the moisturiser. Moisturising is one of THE best things you can do to prolong your tan and prevent an uneven, patchy fade. So, slather it on, morning and night. Preferably on damp skin, a minute or two post-shower. 

And if you've tried all the above and are still in dire, streaky straights? Check out our previous article, 8 Ways to Remove Self-Tanner, for more DIY solutions – including some clever uses of pantry staples. 


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Written By: Pip Jarvis 

Edited by: Iris



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10 Jul, 2022

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