How to fade or even out a real tan.
April 29, 2006 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I tan super easily, I spent the afternoon in the sun. Now I have a farmer tan. I need to wear a sleeveless dress next weekend - how do I even out the tan lines in a safe way?

For reference purposes, I have medium olive-tan skin to begin with (I'm Indian, relatively light skinned for an Indian girl though, I guess), and I tan super easily. Today I was outside for 2.5 hours in direct sunlight and didn't put on any sunscreen (oops, bad idea) and now I am very tan on my forearms, but pale on my upper arms and shoulders (not to mention my chest now has a v-neck tan - argh!). Any suggestions on how to fix this?
posted by echo0720 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking as a red-head, all I can say is that I'm envious. I've never had a sun tan in my life and I don't ever expect to have one. If I spent 2.5 hours in direct sunlight I'd spend the night in agony from the sun burn and peel for a week, and then notice weeks later a slight increase in the number of freckles.

Frankly, I doubt there's anything you can do, except to be prepared to make jokes about it if someone is rude enough to mention it. You might want to prepare some sort of humorous dismissal, for instance a comment about how it's the result of working in a nuclear reactor.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:34 PM on April 29, 2006

Um, this sounds dumb, but shouldn't you just apply high-SPF sunscreen only to your face, throat, and forearms and go lie in the sun?
posted by nicwolff at 1:49 PM on April 29, 2006

Applying self-tanner to the lighter areas will definitely darken them up. Self-tanner contains an ingredient that stimulates your skins own melanin production, so it should develop towards the same color as the rest of your tan. Avoid products that contain "bronzers" if you're worried about turning orange. Apply some regular lotion or vaseline to the dark side of your tan lines; that way if any self-tanner goes over into the dark area, it will get diluted down by the moisturizer and not develop as well. If you're really desperate and willing to throw some cash at this, you could go to a tanning salon that does spray-on tans, and have them airbrush tan the areas you want darkened.

And like nicwolff said, additional time out in the sun should also help to blend out your tan lines.
posted by junkbox at 1:54 PM on April 29, 2006

Seconding nicwolff's suggestion. I'm a southern Euromutt, and once was out in the sun (shirt on) two days before...crap, I can't recall what event. At any rate, I got up on the roof with high-spf lotion on my arms and neck, and let the rest of me catch up.
posted by notsnot at 1:56 PM on April 29, 2006

Self-tanner doesn't actually have anything to do with melanin production. It creates a sort of stain on your skin, which is why they can get so crazy streaky and weird-looking unless applied perfectly, and also why, if you have a bottle for a while and a little bit of the cream gets gunked around the cap it will turn dark and orangey-browny. It's made for pale white folks, and likely won't look too terribly natural on Indian skin. It certainly won't match your actual tan.

The best thing to do is just to put on your swimsuit and pull down the straps (or go topless) and spend another few hours in the sun. Applying sunscreen to the pre-tanned areas is not strictly necessary, but it won't hurt. Your skin should even itself out in time for the weekend.
posted by cilantro at 2:21 PM on April 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I tried to even out tan lines by putting sunscreen on only my pre-tanned parts and ended up with a stupid looking inch-wide white line on my back. If you try to apply sunscreen to only the tanned parts, be very careful to stay inside the lines!
posted by dmo at 3:14 PM on April 29, 2006

Here's what you could do if you think (as I tend to) that additional sun damage to your skin should be a last resort: get one of those build-a-tan or tanning body lotions that they sell nowadays, and try just one application of it on your upper arms. If it looks fakey, one application should fade before the big day and you can just do the real tanning thing. If it doesn't look too fakey, build it up a little more until you're closer to even. It might not look perfect, but again if you prefer imperfect to sun damage it's probably the way to go.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:15 PM on April 29, 2006

you're both wrong. most self-tanner contains dihydroxyacetone that (as you can also read from the link):

"DHA reacts chemically with the amino acid groups, which are part of the protein containing keratin layer on the skin surface. Various amino acids react differently to DHA, producing different tones of coloration from yellow to brown. The resulting pigments are called melanoidins. These are similar in coloration to melanin, the natural substance in the deeper skin layers which brown or "tan", from exposure to UV rays."

bronzer/pigment/"stain" is there to 1) guide the application, 2) give an immediate result if needed.
posted by kcm at 6:23 PM on April 29, 2006

Evening out a tan will take too long, and the border lines will always be visible.

The solution is simple makeup. Darken the light areas and blend over the edges just as you would on your face.
posted by KRS at 7:38 AM on April 30, 2006

Don't try to apply sun lotion to the tan areas and then "even it out". Trust me, from personal experience it doesn't work, as dmo said. You cannot match tan lines perfectly, as they tend not to have a perfect line. Either go ahead and brave the comments, or go to a tanning salon that does spray-on tans (hand spray, not one of those spray booths). The hand spray person will be able to blend across the tan lines.
posted by Joh at 4:30 PM on April 30, 2006

If you put on makeup, it will probably rub off all over your dress... Try one of the gradual self-tanners - apply once a day all over, a second time each day to the non-tan part of your body. You may still see a border, but please, please don't try makeup.
posted by KAS at 8:30 AM on May 1, 2006

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