How to get fake tanner off - 8 ways to remove fake tan
A golden glow is a summer essential, and with more people opting for the safer way to get that tan, there’s inevitably going to be more tanning errors!
It happens. You apply a little bit too much in one area of your body, or maybe you forgot your tanning mitt and have ended up with Oompa Loompa hands.
Sometimes though, you just want to avoid that patchy period where the tan is fading.
Thankfully there are plenty of ways to correct any errors or remove the fake tanner completely. In this article we’re going to tell you 8 of the best tried and tested ways to get fake tanner off, without spending money on overpriced tan eraser products!
Why would I want to get fake tanner off?
There are a few reasons why you might want to remove fake tanner. Sometimes it’s due to errors, but other times it just can’t be helped and the tan goes patchy when it fades. Sometimes it’s down to your skin, or even the product itself. Below is a list of a few of the reasons people might want to get rid of their fake tan.
Even with extremely careful application, a DIY tan can still finish with a slightly uneven or streaky appearance. This can be more common in products that don’t have a colour guide on them.
The colour guide is a dye which washes off in the shower and is just there to let you see exactly where you’re applying the tan.
When tanners don’t have this colour guide, it’s difficult to see where you’re applying the tan and so it’s harder to get that even application.
The colour isn’t right for you
There can be two reasons for this. Firstly, it’s because you haven’t picked the right tone for your skin colour. Most fake tanners are sold in light, medium and dark, and it can be tricky for beginners to choose the right tone for their skin.
Don't know which shade of tanner is right for your skin tone? We explain in this article, how you can use a simple table to choose the correct tanner for your skin tone.
The second can be down to the shade of the tanner. Different brands use different base colours (Olive, brown etc.) and shades. For some people, certain shades just don’t match with their skin tone. The best thing to do before trying a new tanner is to try a bit on your leg before committing to the whole body.
Blotchy hands, elbows, knees & ankles
Fake tan basically dyes your dead skin cells. So, in areas where you have more dead skin cells, the colour can come through more strongly.
This means on your elbows, knees, and ankles you can have a greater build-up of tanner. This is why most instructions on tanners will tell you to exfoliate these areas beforehand. We've already written an in-depth guide on how to apply fake tanner which explains the importance of exfoliation and how to do it properly.
It's also very easy to get a blotchy tan on your hands. This is often because too much is put on your hands. It can also be because people try to apply the fake tan without a tanning mitt.
If you are looking to get fake tanner only off your hands, then we recommend you read this article - How to remove fake tanner from hands.
The tan is wearing off
Most of our outer skin cells shed every 5-10 days. The only problem is they don’t shed evenly. This means that, after around 7 days, some parts of your tan will have become lighter due to skin shedding but other parts have remained intact.
Rather than desperately clinging onto your patchy tan, it is a much better idea to just exfoliate the rest of the skin off and get rid of any tanner that’s left over.
8 ways to remove fake tanner
1) Exfoliate with a body scrub
One of the most common, and least harmful ways to get fake tanner off is to use an exfoliator. The best time to do it is in the bath or shower and you can just apply the exfoliator to a washcloth or exfoliation mitt. Make sure to scrub your skin in circular motions whilst paying extra attention to the rough bits of your body like the elbows, knees and feet which tend to soak up extra colour from the tanner.
To avoid irritating your skin, make sure you don’t press too hard. A gentle application of the exfoliator is enough to remove your fake tan.
You can also use an exfoliator when doing any of the other tips below!
2) Lemon Juice
Lemon Juice isn’t recommended if you want to remove tan on a very large area. This is mainly because of the sheer amount of lemon juice required to remove a full body’s worth of tan!
But if you have a small blemish that needs to be removed then this is perfect for you. Just make sure you test this on a small patch of skin beforehand to ensure it doesn’t irritate your skin.
Simply squeeze some lemon juice on a clean tanning mitt or cotton pad. Then add a little bit of water and microwave it for about two minutes. You can also add some sugar to the mix to help make it more effective.
Leave it to cool slightly and then lightly rub the cloth over the affected area. It’s important to warm the pad beforehand as it activates the hydroxy acids in the tan which help it fade quicker.
Vinegar is great at lightening your tan because of the acid in the vinegar which takes away the colour of the tan and helps to dissolve it. This is best for lightening dark patches rather than removing a whole tan. The best way to do this is to get any vinegar, apply it onto a cotton ball, and lightly dab the dark area of your skin with the vinegar. Leave it to sit for around ten minutes before washing it off with warm water.
4) Baking Soda
This method is best used for larger patches of skin. You can make a baking soda scrub by mixing 2 tablespoons of baking soda with a little bit of water (or coconut oil) to form a paste.
Rub your paste over the area you want to lighten and leave it for 5-10 minutes before washing off with warm water.
A user on Reddit has claimed that you can “Super charge” the paste by adding a small amount of washing up liquid which is supposed to be perfect for cleaning nails and hands. The best ratio to have is around 1:1 of washing up liquid to baking soda.
If you decide to use washing up liquid, only use it on your hands and make sure to thoroughly moisturise afterwards as it can dry your skin.
Below is a great example of someone making the baking soda paste!
5) Baby Oil
Baby oil is best used for large areas or even the full body. Usually, it’s best to use it with an exfoliator scrub or mitt as the baby oil alone won’t do much.
Before exfoliating, heavily soak your skin in baby oil (And lots of it), rub it in and leave it for around half an hour. Then, gently exfoliate in the shower or bath whilst rinsing off the oil.
The baby oil will not only help loosen the dead skin cells before exfoliation, but it will leave your skin nice and smooth!
Below is a useful video on how to use baby oil (and exfoliator) to remove fake tan.
This one may seem surprising. But sweat is a great way of cheaply dislodging the fake tan on your skin. If you want to fade a full body tan then go to the gym and get your sweat on, alternatively you can go to the steam room if you’re looking for a more relaxing way of getting rid of that tan.
After your sweat session, take a shower and lightly scrub your body with an exfoliation mitt making sure to scrub in circular motions to get rid of the last remnants of sweaty tan.
7) Using a washing up sponge
Ok so this one’s a little bit “off-piste”, but a woman from Edinburgh went viral after tweeting about her “hack” to get rid of fake tan easily. She says that you can use a washing up sponge (with a handle as pictured in the linked article), put a tan remover in the container and lightly squeeze the sponge onto your skin whilst making circular movements.
We haven’t tried this one so don’t take our word for it, but we liked the idea anyway!
This method is ideal for getting in between those fingers and toes. Simply rub some teeth whitening toothpaste in between your fingers or toes before leaving it to penetrate for 20 minutes. Once 20 minutes has passed, wash the toothpaste off with warm water. It should do a good job of erasing those lighter stains.
So, there you have it. Eight ways to get fake tanner off without breaking the bank. Some are better for smaller stains, but some can be used for a full-body clean up too.
The bottom line
There are plenty of ways to remove fake tan. It's just about choosing the right way for the right scenario. If you have a full body disaster and want to remove an entire tan, then bathing in baby oil is one of the best ways. However if you only have a small patch you want to lighten or remove, then lemon juice can be much more effective.
One of the most common errors made is by having an uneven tan on your hands. If you want to get rid of fake tan from your hands then read this article, it's more in-depth for the hand area.
The bottom line is, if you regularly want to get rid of your fake tan, there could be a problem.
If the user wants to erase their fake tan, it's usually because they didn't apply it correctly, or the tanner they use isn't right for them.
There are hundreds of different skin types and most products are a one-size-fits-all product. So it's impossible to choose the right self-tanner for you.
If you're wondering how different skin types require different ingredients, then take our skin quiz and receive a free, personalised tanning booklet containing the ingredients that your skin needs for a longer lasting tan.