Find out how to remove fake tan in a flash with some top tips from the tanning experts.
If you've accidentally turned yourself orange, streaks have appeared or your faux tan is fading fast and you need to reapply, you're probably frantically researching 'how to remove fake tan.' The good news is, you've come to the right place.
It doesn't matter if you've got the best fake tan (opens in new tab) on the market, mistakes can happen. "The main area time and time again where it seems to sink in and stain heaviest is the palms of the hands," says James Harknett, a tanning expert and the nicknamed 'Tom Ford of tan'. "There have been so many hacks over the years that state it can be removed including using lemon juice, vinegar and household products. And any of these mentioned products do help speed up the loss of the stained skin cells." So, if you haven't prepped, your tan has gone a bit wrong or you just want to know how to remove fake tan, take a look at these expert-approved tips for getting back to your normal colour, quickly.
How to remove fake tan quickly: 10 expert-approved tips
1. Use an exfoliating mitt
Lather up a hydrating shower gel with an exfoliating mitt and gently rub all over the skin to slough off dead skin cells. This will help to remove the top layers of tan and speed up cell regeneration.
"I swear by an exfoliating mitt," says Claire Lambert (opens in new tab), Skinny Tan's resident tanning expert. "They're absolutely fantastic." Don't be tempted to scrub your skin until it's raw though. If you have a really stubborn tan, it will take a few days for the skin cells to flake off naturally and scrubbing too hard will just damage your skin.
Slip this exfoliating mitt on your hand and lather up a hydrating shower gel. Rub across the whole body in gentle, circular motions and you'll start to loosen dead skin cells and remove your tan. It'll smooth any little lumps and bumps you have too!
2. Use a tan removal product
Products specifically designed to remove fake tan are now hitting the shelves and they're proving to be industry game changers. With gentle exfoliating ingredients, tan removers encourage exfoliation and create a blank canvas ready for application.
Tanning expert Claire Lambert swears by them, "Skinny Tan’s Miracle Tan Eraser is fantastic. Unlike other exfoliators, Miracle Tan Eraser features a unique combination of physical (natural gentle pumice) and chemical exfoliation (salicylic acid) with added moisturising skin smoothing ingredients (glycerin and urea)." The result takes tan off leaving skin smooth, even and moisturised.
When you need to remove your tan, slather on this creamy scrub and leave it on the skin for 5 minutes. Then buff with an exfoliating mitt. It'll leave skin primed and free from tan.
3. Go for a steam
Combine a spa visit (opens in new tab) with getting rid of your tan by going for a steam. Steam does a fantastic job of cleansing the skin and can help remove your fake tan. If you're not keen on venturing out into the public, turn up the temperature of your shower and this will mimic the steam room without the need to leave the house.
Another benefit of steaming is the effect it has on the skin, "Steam will help leave your skin super soft," explains Claire Lambert. "Use these methods alongside an exfoliating product for the best results!"
4. Head to the swimming pool
Chlorine found in pool water will speed up the fading process of your fake tan but it won't wash it away completely. This method works by drying out the skin and the drier the skin, the faster your tan flakes off.
"One of the best methods of fake tan removal is swimming," says tan expert Claire Lambert. "The chlorine in the pool will help to break down and fade the fake tan." Just remember to not go swimming immediately after applying your tan - wait until you've washed off the guide colour.
5. Use a body scrub
An effective body scrub does wonders for removing dead skin cells and fading a fake tan, fast. Opt for products with a mix of chemical and physical exfoliators for a double whammy.
Tanning specialist James Harknett (opens in new tab) is an advocate of scrubs but doesn't recommend anything too abrasive, "To speed up the removal of tan from any unwanted areas like hands and heels, exfoliate daily with a scrub but, don't use anything too harsh."
6. Try apple cider vinegar
There's many benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (opens in new tab). ACV is a natural option that contains acetic acid and malic acid (an acid very similar to alpha hydroxy acids found in skincare products.) This means it does a grand job of exfoliating the skin and thus, removing fake tan.
"Although it’s not the nicest smelling hack, the acidity in the vinegar can help to dissolve any fake tan patches," says Lambert. "Simply apply to a cotton pad and massage over the areas of tan you want to fix, leave for a few minutes and wash away."
7. Use lemon juice
The natural fruit acids found in lemon juice are a great way to exfoliate the skin and remove fake tan quickly. "This is a fab hack to remove any build up or patches of fake tan," says Claire Lambert. "Take a lemon, slice it in half and literally massage the fresh lemon onto the area for a couple minutes to reveal a faded result."
It's worth nothing that anyone with sensitive or cracked skin should probably avoid this method as lemon juice is harsh and can cause irritation.
8. Try baking soda
Creating a paste with baking soda and water then applying this to the skin as a makeshift scrub can encourage cell turnover and accelerate the fading of your fake tan. "Simply mix the baking soda with either water, lemon juice or coconut oil to form a paste. Apply directly to your skin, let it oxygenate to help prepare your skin for exfoliating off the tan with a mitt," suggests Skinny Tan's resident guru Claire Lambert.
Similarly to lemon juice, those with sensitive skin should probably opt for another method as baking soda can be a skin irritant and isn't designed to be used on the body.
9. Use toothpaste
It might come as a surprise but applying toothpaste to the skin can be an effective method of removing fake tan.
"Simply apply a whitening toothpaste directly to the skin where needed, and the sodium bicarbonate will help to remove any fake tan mistakes in around ten minutes," explains Claire Lambert. "Just wash it off with a cloth or give it a helping hand with an exfoliating mitt."
10. Don't use a magic eraser
The most controversial of fake tan removal ideas has to be the magic cleaning eraser. The principle behind this method is that if a magic eraser can clean stains from household items, it can remove fake tan from skin too. But we're actively advising against it for safety reasons.
Both of our tanning experts were in agreement that this method is a very bad idea. "Using a magic eraser is definitely not a good idea," says James Harknett. "I wouldn’t recommend using magic cleaning erasers on the skin as it can cause irritations and even burns," agreed tan specialist Claire Lambert. So, steer clear of this one and opt for a scrub or mitt instead.
How to fix a patchy fake tan
Rectifying a patchy tan is relatively easy to do. After your tan has developed, just fill in any areas you've missed. "If you use a white cream or tanning water, it’s easy to miss an area and have a little patch," says tan expert James Harknett. "If after showering you notice a patch, just fill it in. A few small dabs of tan on the end of your mitt should help even out the colour."
In general, you can avoid a patchy tan by nailing the skin prep beforehand. For places like elbows and ankles James suggests, "adding a little moisturiser before applying your tan." As this will stop the tan from adhering too much.
Can you put fake tan over fake tan?
Yes, when fake tan starts to fade you can apply a new layer of tan to bring your skin right back to bronzed. The best way to do this and avoid going patchy in the process is sloughing off dead skin cells beforehand.
"I always suggest to my clients to do a gentle exfoliation about 3-4 days after your initial application to remove any naturally shedding skin cells to give a fresh, smooth canvas ready to apply a tan top up," suggests tanning expert Claire Lambert.
"I also recommend moisturising every day with a gradual tanner too. The great thing about Skinny Tan's products is that they’re perfect for layering to deepen your result, fix mistakes or just prolong the life of your glow – why waste all that effort if you can keep it going for longer!"
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Emma North is a Senior Beauty Writer who works for digital titles including woman&home, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Chat and GoodtoKnow. Emma’s career in beauty journalism began with internships at publications including Vogue, Elle, The Telegraph and Glamour while she undertook a degree in journalism. She was then taken under the wing of Funmi Fetto, Contributing Beauty Editor at Vogue where Emma assisted with Funmi’s debut beauty book, Palette
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