Melanin plays a role in how our skin naturally protects itself from UV damage. As skin is exposed to the sun, it naturally darkens as a response. But once the tan fades, skin begins lightening back to its natural color.
How long does a tan last?
The lifespan of a tan depends on a few factors, including the type of tan, your skin type, and how frequently your skin regenerates. Suntans typically last for 7-10 days before the outer layer of the skin begins to exfoliate naturally. Spray tans can start to fade in as little as 1 day without proper care, but can last up to 10 days with proper care.
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Why won’t my tan go away?
When the cells become damaged with pigment, discoloration that doesn’t fade occurs, leading to a tan that doesn’t fade. In fact, it tends to stay dark unless you choose to have this hyperpigmentation treated professionally.
There is an array of discoloration-busting treatments available, but in order to diminish hyperpigmentation, it’s best to avoid it in the first place by shielding skin from damaging UV rays. Once you find a regimen that works for you—one that includes sunscreen, of course—stick with it to prevent discoloration from returning.
Craving a sun-kissed glow sans the damage? High-tech self-tanners make creating a believable bronze at home easier than ever. Dolce Glow, the tanning brand approved by the Kardashians, JLo, Miley Cyrus and more, is now available to consumers online. For a streak-free bronze, we recommend the Lusso Mousse ($51). To keep your glow intact year round, add Des Nuda Self-Tanning Lotion ($50) to cart, too.
How to fade a tan at home
While significantly fading hyperpigmentation is only possible with help from in-office treatments and actives, at-home remedies can help fade a darker appearance with continued use. Exfoliating—both chemically and physically—sloughs off the outermost layer of dead skin and can result in a brighter look over time when coupled with the right actives. However, exfoliation also makes skin more susceptible to sun damage, so be sure to follow up with a layer of sun protection.
Skin-brightening ingredients such as vitamin C and retinol—glycolic and azelaic acid also help to fade dark spots—work to add overall radiance to the skin by further exfoliating the skin and encouraging the formation of new, non-damaged skin cells. Not sure where to start? Find the proper ingredients for your skin concerns here, or shop like a doctor with this dark spot–fading guide.
How to fade self-tanner
If you’ve been left with more streaks than you can count after an at-home tanning session, don’t panic. Tan-removal products—we’re partial to Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser ($24)—are specifically formulated to help fade self-tanner and erase visible mistakes via a gentle formula.
To avoid future mistakes, opt for user-friendly formulas such as St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Vitamins Bronzing Water Mist ($42), a spray-and-blend option that’s as easy as they come, or Luna Bronze Eclipse Tanning Mousse ($36) a velvety option that’s equal parts hydrating and bronzing for a believable finish with zero dry patches in sight.