Apparently, You Can Use Baking Soda to Even Out Tan Lines, and I Am Speechless

Photo: Getty Images/Sofie Delauw
Tan lines can be intense. Every single summer, my first outing into the sun inevitably gives me a very uneven tan that lingers until way past Labor Day, despite the fact that I'm wearing copious amounts of SPF. There was the time in Florida where I didn't properly rub in my spray sunscreen, and wound up with permanently streaky legs, and last year in Tulum, the line of my shorts were etched into my legs until the first snow. Ugh.

The thing is, while I'm not a fan of having uneven tan lines, I don't want to get even more sun exposure to even things out. (Y'know, because of sun damage and such.) So to solve the whole even-out-your-summer-glow dilemma, I looked to the pros for some tips that don't involve more lying out in the sun. Happily they had plenty of tips for how to smooth things over.

Keep scrolling for the dermatologist-approved ways to even out tan lines, minus the sun exposure.

Spray tan: An easy answer is to just get a spray tan from the pros. "Spray-on tans done by a professional are one option that can cover the entire body," says Sheel Desai Solomon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in North Carolina. "Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a color additive that, when it comes in contact with dead skin cells on your skin's surface, temporarily darkens the skin. It's been approved by the FDA for this specific use." Make sure to check out the place you're going for your spray tan ahead of time, and ask them to do a spot test so that you can make sure you like how the tan will develop before going all-in.

Use baking soda: Along with being the star ingredient for all sorts of cleaning hacks, apparently baking soda can help with an uneven tan, too. "Baking soda is highly effective when it comes to toning down your tan," says Dr. Solomon. "Put some baking soda in a glass of water and stir until you make a paste-like mixture. Apply the paste on the tanned areas of your skin and remove after 15 minutes. After a couple of days, your tan lines should be barely visible." Um, magic.

Try a self-tanner: I'm really grateful that self-tanner was invented, and have been a proponent since the Jergens Natural Glow Moisturizer ($10) days. Alyson Hogg, founder of brand Vita Liberata, says that using one of these products is the perfect way to even out tan lines without exposing yourself to harmful rays. "To best even out, use a tanning mitt and apply product such as  Body Blur Sunless Glow ($45) to the areas that need bronzing," she says. "Even after the product is washed off, a sun-kissed, natural tan will develop which will last up to seven days."

Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate: You can kind of, sort of exfoliate some of that uneven tan away. "You can scrub your skin and carefully exfoliate the parts where the tan lines are most visible," says Dr. Solomon. "It'll also speed up the process of lightening tanned areas of your skin." Also, be sure to moisturize after scrubbing so your skin doesn't dry out. She recommends products packed with vitamin E.

After those tan lines are handled, be sure to swipe on one of these pro mineral-based sunscreens to stay fully protected. And here's your guide to what all sunscreen ingredients actually are. 

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