Help! My Self-Tanner Turned My Legs Green!

You bought a self-tanner last year and you didn’t use it all. So, you go to the cupboard this spring and pull it out to use it. You spread it on and…EEK! It looks green. What is going on and are you going to turn green?

Self-tanners contain DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which reacts with the amino acids in the dead layer of your skin to turn you a temporary bronzed color. The base of many of these tanners is green to prevent your tan from looking too orange. Once the self-tanner is exposed to oxygen or to too much heat, the guide color turns green. As a general rule, once a self-tanner is opened it has a shelf life of six months. So, that tanner you bought last year? It might not be good anymore.

But is that always the case? Maybe not. I decided to put it to the test with my Vita Liberata tanner from last summer. I opened the mousse and spread it onto my mitt. It still looked brown, but maybe with a hint of green. I then applied it up my leg. Yep…a definite greenish hue. I finished my whole leg and let it develop overnight. I woke up in the morning and looked at my leg, anxious to see if a Shrek-like appendage would appear. Nope. A perfectly bronzed leg.

I was lucky, though. There have been plenty of complaints from people using last year’s self-tanner that they turned green. If you pump it out and see more green than brown, throw it out. There are enough photos of unhappy green gams on the internet for me to tell you it isn’t worth it.

My advice is to test an inconspicuous spot with your old tanner before attempting to use it all over. When it comes to your face, I would just buy a new face tanner. You might be able to get away with a little green on your legs, but your face is another matter entirely.

If you’re thinking that you just don’t use self-tanner enough to keep buying a new one each year, consider one without the guide color. Vita Liberata offers Invisi, a colorless self-tanner that promises absolutely no transfer and, since it has no guide color, won’t turn green. St. Tropez has a version, as well. Called Purity, their face version is my go-to for tanning my face.

I like to build a tan by applying one from one company and then follow with an application of a different brand’s self-tanner the following day. This gives a multi-dimensional tan that is hard to achieve with one product. Whatever you decide to do, make sure to store your self-tanner in a cool place to keep it stable for as long as possible.

Happy bronzing!


  • The latest from Angela
I have been a beauty junkie for what seems like forever, but before I did anything about it, I went to law school. (Yes, my life is a little like the reverse of Legally Blonde.) Then, I worked as a prosecutor in Sonoma County after which I moved to the DC area with my husband in ’97. I served as Majority Counsel to the Senate Banking Committee followed by a year-long stint at a lobbying firm. You get the picture. It was then that I decided to act on my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Finding my favorite beauty products proved to be impossible without stepping foot in a mall–the horror. So, I decided to bring my favorites to Alexandria. A few trips to New York and a flight to France and Bellacara was born in March 2000.

Located in historic Old Town Alexandria, for more than 17 years Bellacara has been Northern Virginia's preeminent boutique for high end cosmetic, skincare and haircare products. At Bellacara you will find premiere beauty products that have been carefully edited by the store’s owner, Angela Sitilides, who personally tests all the products sold in store. The boutique carries only the best product lines – Kiehl’s, Jouer, Dr. Dennis Gross, Christophe Robin, Moroccan Oil, Bumble & Bumble, Fresh, Molton Brown, Skinceuticals, Smashbox, Stila, Mario Badescu, Clarins, Dermalogica, Kevyn Aucoin, Kai, Child, St. Tropez, Smith and Cult, and many more.

1000 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


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