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.

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.