Dirty orange elbows, conspicuous white hands and uneven colour everywhere else… we've all seen or experienced the evidence of a dodgy self-tanning job before and it's not pretty! As we transition into autumn it's only natural to turn to a little self tanning to retain some of the summer glow – but if you find yourself locked in a bathroom with a tandoori tan that could rival the cast of Jersey Shore, read on for tips on how to remedy the situation.
"If your skin ends up more tangerine than tanned, one of two things has likely happened: either you’ve used a product with a poor quality tanning ingredient, or you’ve over applied — or both," explains Heidi Reid, founder of Custom Tan, a range of eco-certified organic tanning that has twice been voted Australia’s best self tan.
Virtually all self-tanning products contain DHA (DiHdroxyAcetone), a colourless three-carbon sugar that, when applied to the skin, causes a chemical reaction with amino acids in the surface cells of the skin and produces a darkening effect.
"DHA, like all beauty products, is available in varying qualities. The cheaper the DHA, the lesser the product mimics a natural tan, and the more it looks like a colour you’d rather paint your nails with," Heidi says.
"You can usually determine a poor quality DHA as it often carries that unmistakable fake tan smell, although it could be so heavily masked with fragrance in an attempt to drown out the smell of the DHA. Your best bet is to seek out a product made with organic ingredients."
Whether you're getting a spray tan at the salon to extend your summer beach tan, or you're opting for a self-tan application, the golden rule is that more is not more, according to Heidi.
"Sunless tanning is designed to be natural, and therefore should not be over-applied," she explains. "DHA is designed to react with the skin and not to be continuously slathered on top of itself, so the application should be subtle. It will continue to develop over time."
"If your tan is running or leaves bubbles of solution on your skin, you or the technician has applied too much. Your tan should look and feel like a regular cosmetic. You shouldn’t end up wet or ridiculously dark compared to your normal skin tone." — Heidi Reid, founder, Custom Tan
Sunless tan stains the epidermis, or the top layer of your skin, so the easiest way to try and solve the problem is to soak and exfoliate, suggests professional spray tan technician Jodi Bibra, proprietor of tanGO tan removal products and accessories. "Soak in a hot bath with a good quality body oil — I recommend Palmers — as this will help to soften the skin and make the tan removal process easier," Jodi says. Baby oil is another alternative; you may want to consider rubbing the oil directly on your skin and leaving it to sink in for at least 30 minutes beforehand.
Once you have soaked for around 20 minutes, step out of the bath and while your skin is still damp, get scrubbing. "Use either an exfoliating scrub or a tan removal product to begin removing your tan," Jodi suggests. "I recommend either the tanGO tan removal cloth or glove for a softer option on the skin."
There is no quick fix to this situation, although there are a couple of natural remedies you can run with. "Try applying lemon or lime juice, as the acidity of the juice will help to remove the colour from the skin," Heidi says. "You can also mix up a paste combining baking soda and water, apply the paste to your skin, and when it has dried, remove it with a wet face cloth."
"If your tan should grab onto your nails or cuticles, nail polish remover should alleviate this problem," Jodi confirms. "If you’re having weekly spray tans, I would recommend wearing nail polish to avoid this happening.
When you end up with heavy tanning on wrists or ankles, you need to gently and accurately remove it without leaving large patches where you have taken it off. "The best solution to this problem is to use a gentle removal glove like the tanGO removal glove , which is gentle enough to rub away any errors or flaws in your patchy tan," Jodi says.
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