The way to bronzed limbs is paved with all sorts of misdemeanours, ready to befall us just before a night out, a big date or pre-beach holiday. Before you reach for the bottle (of self-tan, not wine), read our need-to-know tips on how to nail that faux glow.

Streaky legs, patchy elbows, random dots and orange palms – we’ve all been there. To beat all of these fake-tan fails, we’ve gathered some of the leading tanning experts along with some of our own tried-and-tested advice, to help you avoid and conquer…

Your tan has gone patchy

The best way to avoid an uneven tan is to keep your skin in as good condition as you can, with regular exfoliation and moisturising. However, if you’re struggling to keep up with the maintenance, ensure you exfoliate about three days before you plan to tan. This will remove any dead skin cells and ensure your skin is a smooth canvas for application.

Exfoliation is also important to keep your tan fading evenly. After tanning, use a gentle exfoliator every two to three days to make sure the colour doesn’t stick more in some areas than others. For this exfoliation, avoid a salt or oatmeal scrub as this can be too harsh – try a formula with natural exfoliating ingredients, such as Rituals Body Scrub.

Prevent your tan adhering too much to ‘problem areas’. Tan expert Jules Von Hep advises extra moisturising immediately prior to tanning on ‘hands, elbows, knees and feet, as well as your nails’. For those with fair hair, Jules has an extra tip: ‘add a light layer to your hairline and eyebrows to stop them from absorbing tan and changing colour’. Another good tip is to not apply product directly onto these problem areas, but rather use what’s left on your mitt to sweep over once you’ve finished tanning.

Patches and streaks can also be caused by not using enough product. Generally the guide is about one pump per limb, but don’t be afraid to use more. Using more product won’t make the colour darker, it will merely ensure an even and thorough application.

You’ve got brown dots on your legs

It’s happened to all of us: those unsightly brown dots on your legs where the tan has settled itself into your pores. How to avoid it? This is usually due to one of two things. First of all, hair removal. You should ideally shave a day in advance, or wax one to two days in advance, depending on how long your skin takes to settle.

If you still find it’s an issue, or you couldn’t plan in advance and absolutely had to shave your legs that same day, Jules has another great tip to shrink your pores: ‘blast your skin with cold water’ he advises, ‘it will reduce the chance of them getting blocked’.

You don’t have time to tan

If you need a quick bronzing hit, a instant tan or fast-developing formulas give quick colour pay-off. Or why not tan while you catch up on your beauty sleep? A recent rise in tanning innovations has seen several hybrid tanning and skincare treatments that are designed to develop overnight, so you wake up with both a subtle colour and glowing skin.

When speeding up the development and drying process, help appears in the most unlikely form: your hairdryer. If you’re really pushed for time, tanning expert James Harknett says ‘use your hairdryer on a warm setting to speed up the developing process – it will activate the DHA faster so you’ll get the same colour in less time.’

Tan-Luxe founder Marc Elrick also advises using your hairdryer ‘to blast cool air over your tan to help it dry’. He also suggests lightly dusting on some powder before getting dressed, to soak up excess moisture and keep your skin from sweating off your tan as it develops.

Fix those errors

If you do find a little extra product has clung to a dry patch of skin, a quick fix is to use an acid-based toner or treatment – Pixi Glow Tonic and Alpha-H Liquid Gold both contain glycolic acid, making them the perfect choice. Use it to dampen a cotton pad or an earbud, depending on the area size, and rub across the area you want to lighten. The acid has exfoliating properties that will help to remove the top layer of colour, meaning your error will become a lot less noticeable.

Using a mitt will save you from any orange hand disasters, but if you do get any fake tan on your palms, use a scrub and gently rub between your palms, then rub off using a make-up wipe. The last thing you want to do is use water, as getting any other part of your skin wet could cause the tan you’ve just applied to wash off or go streaky..

Make your tan last

Making your tan last, and last well, comes down to maintenance. Be sure to keep your skin well-moisturised, as this will ensure your tan fades evenly and doesn’t cling on long to drier areas of your skin. Every two days, use a gentle exfoliator to slough away dead skin and prevent your tan from fading unevenly. It’s also advisable to keep away from body washes and lotions containing oil, as oil-based products will cause your colour to fade faster. For a simple way to multitask your tan maintenance, use a gradual tanning moisturiser to keep skin hydrated and refresh your colour at the same time.


The next time you’re ready to self-tan, keep these tips close to hand and you can’t go wrong. Need some inspiration? Check out our favourite products for the job below.

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