How to Un-Botch a Fake Tan in 60 Seconds

From Windex to ketchup to chlorinated jacuzzis, here’s how to go from Oompa Loompa to Uma Thurman in a minute.

How to Un-Botch a Fake Tan in 60 Seconds

There are a few things one should never do in the last few minutes before leaving the house. The first is apply liquid liner—you will manage to smudge it under an eyelid. Call it Mercier’s law. The second is guzzle the last inch of your cappuccino before running out the door—beware the curse of the white shirt. And the third, and perhaps most capricious of them all, is the last-minute bathtub spray tan.

It seems innocent enough, right? Just a quick misting before tugging on your outfit, giving you an instant I-woke-up-poolside-like-this glow?

Fast-forward an hour or two, and your face is about three Pantones darker than your neck, your back has more spots than a Sophia Webster sandal, and your palms have turned a delightful shade of default-emoji. And to top it off, the Sharpie-esque indelibility of the stuff means you’re stuck like this for at least two days. Joy.

Wish we could moral-of-the-story it here and say we learned our lesson the first time, but we have had our fair share of botched fake tans. And with summer just a month away, we’re already fighting the urge to slather ourselves in St. Tropez. So we decided to turn it over to the experts—we’re talking the people who give the Victoria’s Secret Angels their runway glows and celebrities the DHA treatment pre-red carpet.

Here’s how to un-botch a fake tan.


When You Spot the

Dreaded Arm Stripe

“Always have Neutrogena makeup removal wipes and St.Tropez self-tan remover handy,” says Jimmy Coco, the man behind Ariana Grande and Victoria Beckham’s year-round vitamin D ish. “Pump the self-tan remover onto a makeup wipe, and rub over the darker area. This will remove the topical bronzer and soften the appearance of the darker areas. Or, you can rub some ketchup (thats right, ketchup!) on the area to help remove the mishap.”


When You’ve Missed a Spot

(Or Seven)

“For a few small areas, a spot touch-up would be most efficient, and the tool to use depends on the size of the areas,” says Katie Quinn, who has tanned and toned the Victoria’s Secret Angels. “For larger areas, use your hands to blend self-tanner into the pale spots, and blend the borders into the tanned skin as best you can. For small spots caused by water drops, use a Q-Tip or cotton ball to transfer product on, while blending the borders into the tanned skin. If youre in a big hurry and you dont have time for the attention to detail that self-tanner can require, bronzing powder can be a great temporary quick fix!”


How to Avoid

Telltale Tangerine Palms

“Make sure when you are choosing your self-tanner, you pick up an applicator mitt,” says Fiona Locke, who has bronzed the likes of Kim Kardashian, Olivia Wilde, and Chrissy Teigen. “This is a must-have. Also, try and choose a self-tanner that has a tint or guide color as you are applying product. This will help you to see any areas you may have missed.”


Body Makeup for

Emergency Touch-Ups 

JIMMY COCO: “You can always try body makeup to go over an imperfection. I recommend Victorias Secret Bronze Spray or MAC Liquid Foundation Body Makeup.”

KATIE QUINN: “My favorite makeup fix for missed spots is bronzing powder, and if you have a seriously dramatic spot to fill in (a super pale spot against super tanned skin), dont be afraid to moisten your makeup brush or Q-Tip before dipping it into your bronzer. I feel this helps the bronzer stay on and produces a richer color. Brush a little bronzer around the spot, too, to keep the undertones consistent.”


Weird Tricks for

a Quick Fix

JIMMY COCO: “Soak in a hot, chlorinated jacuzzi. This will break the self-tan down and help you to exfoliate it off.”

KATIE QUINN: “The best fixer-upper that I have found is Windex! I keep a container filled with Windex-soaked cotton balls in my makeup kit. Just swipe a little over a self-tanner stain within two hours of application, and itll remove the stain completely!”


How to Avoid

Brown Streaks on Your Clothes

JIMMY COCO: “Krylon Fixers Spray or Model In A Bottle Setting Sprays help avoid any bronzer transfer onto white clothing.”


Holy Grails & Cautionary Tales

KATIE QUINN: “I once had a high-profile client fall asleep with the back of her hand on her face right before a HUGE event. The spray tan transferred while she slept, and her hand ended up really dark in one big smudge. A combination of Windex and a warm wash cloth helped remove some of the smudge, and then a little body makeup did the rest. But now, when she spray-tans before bedtime, she sleeps with loose socks over her hands!”

FIONA LOCKE: “I got a call from a bride getting married the next day. She went hiking a few days before her wedding and picked up the worst tan line I had ever seen. A big X across her back. Luckily I was able to give her a custom tan to cover up the lines by first filling in the tan line using a small makeup sponge, then applying a light tan all over her back.”

JIMMY COCO: “Dog licks on a fresh spray tan is not cute (although it sounds cute). If your dog licks your ankles or legs after you have just applied a spray tan, you will most certainly need to apply more self-tan to the affected areas. Apply self-tanner to a Q-Tip and fill in the areas. After your first shower, apply a light layer of spray or tinted self-tanning lotion to both legs and ankles again to mask any imperfections. I recommend Victorias Secret tinted lotion.”


Next Time,

Prep Like It’s the SATs 

JIMMY COCO: “Pre-tan prep is key to self-tanning success. You must exfoliate with a loofa sponge and hot water first. Avoid soaps because if you choose the wrong one, you could be in for a real disaster. Dove soap before a spray tan is a big no-no! After you’ve showered, dry off and use your towel as a second exfoliating treatment. Once completely dry, begin applying lotion to dry-skin areas (heels, knuckles, knees, elbows, etc). DHA, the active ingredient, works best on dry skin.”

FIONA LOCKE: “Gently exfoliate, spending a little more time on the parts of your body that feel dry. Shave or wax 24 hours in advance. I recommend you apply a light layer of lotion to excessively dry areas like your feet, hands, elbows, and knees. After tanning, remove excess product from your nails, edges of your heel, and palms with a damp cloth.”

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