How to remove fake tan: Seven easy solutions and natural remedies

A woman with tanned legs sitting on a box.
(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Fake tan is all well and good when we've just applied it and we're left with a radiant and glowing delicate bronze.

However, after we've left the colour on for a while and it's past its prime, it can start to fade away leaving tell-tale patches and causing skin to dry out. So it's important to know how to remove fake tan.

The knowledge also comes in helpful if we happen to choose a random tanning bottle off the shelf that just doesn't work for our skin or if we overestimate the hue of our natural skin tone and end up being left slightly more orange than we first intended.

So the good news that it is in fact easier and quicker than you might think to fix a DIY fake tan gone wrong.

Here's everything you need to know on how to remove fake tan...

How to remove fake tan

With a combination of everyday household items and cheap and easily-available shop-bought products, you'll be able to rid yourself of your new unwanted tinge faster than you can say Donald Trump.

How to remove fake tan naturally

If you have relatively sensitive skin and aren't one to reach the exfoliator, or if you're just struggling to get to the shops right now, there are a few bits and pieces that most of us have lying about the house that will do the job.

Tanning expert James Read, who has tended to the golden glows of Hollywood actresses on Oscar night and supermodels who are about to set foot on Fashion Week's biggest catwalks, has revealed his top tips on how to remove fake tan naturally.

A photo posted by on

Not that the tan whizz has to use these tricks too often, as he's pretty much guaranteed to achieve an even finish every time - but he keeps these tricks up his sleeve in case of emergency!

Lemon juice

Lemons starting to go past their prime after you insisted you would make that still-nonexistent lemon cake? Use them up on this fake tan removal trick.

  1. Squeeze a little lemon and lime juice on to a clean fake tan mitt.
  2. Add a little water then microwave for about 2 minutes.
  3. Leave to cool slightly, then rub over the affected area.

"The warmth activates the alpha hydroxy acids in the tan causing it to fade," says James.

If you don't have fresh lemons, try using limes instead or even some citrus from a bottle.

High Angle View Of lemon Slices On Blue Background used to illustrate how to remove fake tan

Toothpaste

This is something that we all have in the house (at least we sincerely hope so...)

While it would take a long while to use it to get rid of fake tan from all over your body - and leave your skin pretty parched in the wake of it - a little toothpaste can be useful for those pesky stains that plague our fingers and toes.

James says, "a little toothpaste works really well to remove stubborn fake tan stains on fingers and toes".

Sweat

No household items needed for this one - except maybe a towel.

James advises to "sit in the steam room for 20 minutes, then grab a damp towel and rub all over the skin.

"This will remove all trace of that streaky fake tan," he explains.

However with gyms across the country closed at the moment and a lack of luxurious steam room in most of our humble houses, it's one tip we may need to amend.

Try getting your shower cubicle really steamy to emulate the effect or if you're brave your even sweat it out with a HIIT workout and see if that works.

Products to remove fake tan

Sometimes our fake tan mishaps are so bad that we have to resort to targeted products.

Use a bath oil

Run a bath and chuck in a good dollop of bath oil. The oils will help to break down the colour agent in the fake tan so that you can more easily remove it.

We love this Espa bath oil collection that contains six different gorgeous-smelling oils to pick from depending on how you're feeling.

how to remove fake tan

SHOP NOW: ESPA Bath Oil Collection, £30, Look Fantastic

Exfoliate

Grab an exfoliating glove and softly rub a scrub into the overly-tanned areas. Opt for a natural exfoliator rather than one that uses beads as that will be too harsh on the skin (not to mention the environment).

Sanctuary Spa's Salt Scrub uses Dead Sea Salts to delicately buff away skin cells and leave the body soft and nourished. Use with a glove for an extra boost!

Sanctuary Spa's Salt Scrub

SHOP NOW: Sanctuary Spa Classic Salt Scrub, £13.50, Look Fantastic

how to remove fake tan

SHOP NOW: So Eco Body Buffer, £5, Look Fantastic

Moisturise

With so much aggravation to the skin, afterwards make sure to moisturise to keep skin hydrated and healthy.

Even better, opt for a lotion containing AHAs, vitamin A or retinol to help increase skin cell turnover, which will encourage the colour of your fake tan to break up.

We love CeraVe's SA Smoothing Cream which uses Salicylic and Lactic Acid to exfoliate dead skin cells, and Paula's Choice Retinol Body Treatment that rejuvenates the skin and even targets wrinkles.

CeraVe's SA Smoothing Cream

SHOP NOW: CeraVe's SA Smoothing Cream, £18, Look Fantastic

how to remove fake tan

SHOP NOW: Paula's Choice Skin Smoothing Retinol Body Treatment, £33, Cult Beauty

Erase

For those who made a real mess of things, tan companies have come to the rescue with targeted treatments to remove fake tan.

Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser

SHOP NOW: Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser, £14.99, Boots

how to remove fake tan

SHOP NOW: Isle of Paradise Over it Magic Self-Tan Eraser, £17.95, Look Fantastic

Use a wash-off fake tan

To avoid getting into a pickle in the first place, opt for a wash-off fake tan so that all you have to do is jump in the shower and you're back to normal!

wash-off fake tan

SHOP NOW: James Read Body Foundation Wash Off Tan, £12, Look Fantastic

Time for a streak-free life!

Aleesha Badkar
Aleesha Badkar

Aleesha is digital shopping writer at woman&home - so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows all the best places to splash your cash. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 after graduating from University of Leeds in 2014 with a BA in English and Spanish (which took her to Madrid for a fun Rioja and tapas-packed year). Aleesha has worked for woman&home since 2019, when she joined the team as their digital news writer. A year on the news team gained her quick and reactive writing skills and a love for breaking stories, invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first, an AOP awards nomination and the nickname ‘crazy watch lady’ after she became so obsessed with the royals that she followed breaking news alerts on her Apple Watch.


Before joining the woman&home team, Aleesha wrote for their sister site GoodtoKnow, where she covered celebrity news, health advice and where to snap up the cheapest lifestyle buys. With a background in beauty, Aleesha has also written for Stylist and Women’s Health where she developed an understanding into what makes a stellar product and which brands are worth paying attention to. She never leaves the house without a slick of lip balm and a good slathering of SPF, cannot live without an eyelash curler by her side and is always on the hunt for new lipsticks to add to her ‘Lipstick of the Day’ Instagram story highlight (and color-coordinated collection).

But it’s not just beauty buys Aleesha can help you with. Social media savviness, strong PR relationships and a need to stay in the know mean she’s all about the latest fashions, clever gadgets and reliable lifestyle buys too. She loves indulging in an interior craze (with a bedroom drowned in prints, plants and pink), is a regular visitor to the Missoma and Edge of Ember 'New In' pages and can’t resist the allure of a kitchen gadget—just ask her three coffee machines.

When she’s not playing around with new products and testing anything she can get her hands on, Aleesha spends most of her time with her head in a current bestseller, catching up on the latest Netflix craze with her sister, trying out new recipes, drinking wine with her bestie and (in non-COVID times) has been known to be a bit of a jetsetter amongst her friendship group. Oh and she makes the most of her Disney+ subscription by watching the Marvel films on repeat (definitely not just for Chris Evans...).

Follow her latest shopping & lifestyle advice, beauty insights and social antics on Instagram at @aleeshabadkar.


Twitter: @aleeshabadkar

LinkedIn: aleesha-badkar

Email: aleesha.badkar@futurenet.com