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How to Fix a Bad Fake Tan

Got a lemon of a self-tanner on your hands? It turns out an actual lemon (as in, from the grocery store) can help. Read on for that and other self tanner correction tips we got from the best bronzing experts out there--and never walk outside looking like an Oompa Loompa ever again!
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After what feels like a winter of Game of Thrones proportions, we can finally ditch the tights! The only problem? Not everyone's keen to show off her pasty gams to the world. Enter self tanner.

But not all formulas are created equal--in fact, some are created downright streaky (check out our recent review of the latest self tanners here). So what should you do if you've got a lemon of a self-tanner on your hands? As it turns out, an actual lemon (as in, from the grocery store) can help.

Read on for that and other self tanner correction tips we got from the best bronzing experts out there--and never walk outside looking like an Oompa Loompa ever again!

Lotsa Lemons:

Got lemons? Make lemonade out of your streaky self-tanner situation, stat. Sinead Norenius, the founder of Beautisol, told us, “To remove a tan, use lemon and baking soda--mix them up together and just let it sit on the skin for a few minutes." It will strip the tan color out of the skin easily. Bonus? Cheap and natural.

Use a Mitt: If you’ve messed up your application and need to remove it quickly, the easiest, fastest method is to slough it off with a specialty mitt. (Insert tan "Mitt" Romney joke here.)

Jennifer Savine, expert tanner with Vani-T, likes the Tan Eraser Sunless Tan Removal Mitt. “The viscose mitt is double-sided for easy access to hard-to-reach places,” she explained. Soften the skin in the shower or bath first and dampen the mitt, squeezing out excess water. Turn off the water and, using reasonable pressure, rub the skin in a rapid vertical direction. “You will see folds of dead skin (and fake tan) roll away,” Savine said. Yuck, but also--yay!

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Soak It: Alyson Hogg, founder of Irish organic self tan brand Vita Liberata, suggested soaking in a bath to remove self-tanner pigment. “It’s the kindest way to loosen the top most layer of dead cells,” she told us. She noted that organic sugar scrubs will also help the process along, as will products with lactic acid, AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), which help with exfoliation and cell turnover. We like Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish and Tone Fruit Peel Body Wash.

Dry Brushing:

In case you haven't figured it out by now, exfoliation is the best way to get rid of a bad self tan. Another method of exfoliation to try? Dry-brushing, which sounds just slightly horrifying (watch Bridget Jones demonstrate it above). This one is definitely for when you need some heavy-duty removal.

Basically you use a body brush (like this one), in the tub or shower without turning the water on, followed by baby oil, and finally, a scrub on top of that. “Applying baby oil to the skin works well before exfoliation. Allow the oil to settle for about 10 minutes,” Sophie Evans, St. Tropez Skin Finishing Expert, explained. “It’s highly hydrating and on initial contact, it will cause the skin’s surface cells to expand slightly. Follow with a thorough exfoliation [using a scrub on top of the oil] to remove the excess tan.” Then you can rinse it all off in the water. (Please--be gentle with yourself through this process--and we definitely wouldn't recommend it for your face.)

Chemical Reactions:

Bliss49 Educator Laura Ann Conroy maintains that some chemicals work well to remove tanner from the face and hands. “For a fading tan, I recommend acetone [an ingredient commonly found in nail polish remover], which is best for use on the hands or small areas," she told us. "A gentle glycolic peel like Bliss's That's Incredi-Peel also does wonders to exfoliate and lighten the skin. While it's typically used on the face, you can also use them on your body." Try these fixes on small areas of your skin first to be sure you don't have any unpleasant reactions.

Other Commercial Products:

Not a DIY kind of girl? Marla Malcolm Beck, the co-founder of Bluemercury, has some product recommendations to help ensure that after you apply self-tanner, your hands remain a shade found in nature. Try St. Tropez Tan Remover, which is a gentle lotion to remove unsightly stains from your palms after applying self-tan. (Caveat: You ideally should use it within four hours of self tanning.) M-61 Power Cleanse, a gentle glycolic acid exfoliant, is also an option--it contains vitamin B5 which hydrates and soothes irritation.