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, pick out a deep product when in fact we need fake tan for pale skin then 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 (opens in new tab), 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.

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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


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 anyone wanting to know how to get fake tan off hands and other smaller areas.

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


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 (opens in new tab)


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 (opens in new tab)

how to remove fake tan

SHOP NOW: So Eco Body Buffer, £5, Look Fantastic (opens in new tab)


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 (opens in new tab)

how to remove fake tan

SHOP NOW: Paula's Choice Skin Smoothing Retinol Body Treatment, £33, Cult Beauty (opens in new tab)


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 (opens in new tab)

how to remove fake tan

SHOP NOW: Isle of Paradise Over it Magic Self-Tan Eraser, £17.95, Look Fantastic (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Time for a streak-free life!

Aleesha is a digital shopping writer at woman&home—so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows what the best buys are at any moment. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. A year on the w&h news team gained her invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first—as well as an AOP awards nomination.