How to Remove Self Tanner

Self tanner and spray on tans aren't always perfect.

Learning how to remove unsightly self-tanner is a must in today's tan-happy day and age. Many times improper application of self tanner can cause the skin to look orange, unnatural or uneven. Skin looks its best when it's glowing, not when it's blotchy or streaky.

Suggestions on How to Remove Self-Tanner

Most of the time, self tanner faux pas are easily solved by removing the product from the skin. If you're a serious at-home tanner, you already know the importance of proper maintenance. Those new to the world of tanning at home, though, will appreciate knowing how easy it is to correct those inevitable sunless tanning errors.


The most common method of tanner removal is exfoliation. Self-tanner is essentially a dye that deposits pigment onto the skin. When the skin is scrubbed, the skin cells slough off, taking with them the self-tanner. Follow these steps to successfully remove self-tanner from the body:

  1. Apply a thin layer of baby oil to the body.
  2. Allow it to soak in for 25-35 minutes.
  3. Immerse yourself in warm bathwater.
  4. Gently exfoliate the skin, using either a sugar scrub (which is less harsh than a salt scrub), a washcloth or a loofah.

Helpful Hints

  • If you find that an at-home scrub doesn't do the trick, search for a local spa that offers a full-body exfoliation treatment. Often, the vigorous nature of a professional treatment is enough to remove all traces of color.
  • Invest in a dry brush. Due to their large size, dry brushes are ideal for full-body exfoliation. They are also soft, yet surprisingly stimulating. Use of a dry brush encourages dead skin cell removal, increased lymph circulation and skin detoxification.

Lemon Wedges

Removing an odd streak of self tanner is easy to do with a slice of lemon. Simply massage the lemon wedge quickly over the area in question. This will usually lift the unwanted color.

Soaking in Water

Soaking the skin in water is one of the most surprisingly effective ways to remove unwanted self tanner. Pool water may also be helpful in removing unwanted self tanner applications. A long swim (or, conversely, a long soak in the tub) is usually enough to speed the natural fading process and eliminate color.

This method works because the skin cells soak up the water and increase in size. As they grow larger, the tan gets lighter until eventually the color fades completely.

Wait It Out

Sunless tans naturally fade with time. While playing the waiting game is never fun, in this case it's quite simply the easiest way to solve the problem. If you plan on staying indoors for a few days, you can take advantage of this method. Additionally, it's the most efficient fix for a blotchy face or neck, usually fading within 24 hours. When you need a quick fix, however, there are commercial tan removal products available that may help.

Removal Products

Several products formulated to remove self-tanner are available. They include the following:

  • St. Tropez Tan Remover: This unique product can quickly and easily remove self-tanning mistakes. It's ideal for the palms, feet and ankles. This product is also available in convenient wipes to help remove tanner from hard to reach places. The products can be purchased from the company's website or other online retailers.
  • ModelCo Tan Remover Exfoliating Body Scrub: This gently exfoliating micro-salt scrub dissolves the self-tan while treating the skin to the pleasant scent of pink grapefruit.
  • California Sunless Corrector Kit: This product features sea salt and a blend of citrus ingredients to naturally help exfoliate the skin and remove all signs of unwanted self tanner on the skin.

Removing Tanner from Difficult Areas of the Body

One of the greatest challenges of removing self tanner from the body is eliminating it from dry areas of the skin where it collects and leaves unsightly orange marks. While removing tanner from these areas can seem impossible, there are several ways to treat the problem on these portions of the skin.

Palms and Soles

If the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet have self tanner on them, use a body hair bleaching product to remove the tanner from the skin. Products such as Sally Hansen's hair bleach kit can easily remove the orange color that tends to build up on these areas.

Ankles, Elbows, Wrists and Knees

Ankles, elbows, wrists and knees all tend to be dry areas, and they don't typically absorb self tanner like the rest of the skin. Many times this means dark orange marks or streaks are left behind. One natural method is to dampen the skin and apply baking soda directly to the affected area and gently scrub until the color is removed. Another option is to use hydrogen peroxide. Place a small amount of hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball and rub onto these areas of the skin until the orange color disappears.

Fingernails and Toenails

Fingernails and toenails are some of the most common areas of the body to have self tanner build up. These are also the most difficult areas to remove self tanner from. A strong nail polish remover can be used to take self tanner off of the nails. However sometimes it is difficult to remove the leftover tanner from underneath the nails and near the cuticles. Soaking fingers in denture cleaner can safely remove the tanner without harming or irritating the skin.

Avoiding Mistakes

No one is perfect, and self-tan application mistakes are very common. There are ways, however, to avoid making the same mistake twice. Here are a few tips to help you achieve the best tan possible:

  1. Keep skin thoroughly moisturized at all times. Dry skin is more susceptible to unevenness.
  2. Get speedy. The best way to ensure a great finish is to apply the self-tanner as quickly and evenly as possible.
  3. Apply the self-tanner at least three to four hours prior to taking a shower or bath. Many people prefer to apply the tanner at night for this reason.
  4. Regular maintenance, including reapplication of tanner as needed, is necessary to keep your skin glowing.

Keeping Skin Healthy

When removing self tanner from the skin it is always important to remember to keep the skin as healthy as possible during this process. Only use one treatment method at a time as to not irritate the skin and always moisturize the skin after treating it with a tan removal product. Doing this will not only ensure that skin looks even and glowing, but will also keep skin healthy as well.

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How to Remove Self Tanner