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Want to Know How to Remove Self-Tanner? Here Are 8 Products That’ll Do the Trick

Fun in the sun, without a patchy orange hue. ☀️

tan woman in orange dress shading her eyes from sun

We all want sun-kissed skin to show off at the beach, but as we all (should) know by now, traditional tanning is terrible for your skin and overall health. If you'd rather skip on the harmful UV rays, you can create a faux glow with a self-tanning product.

When they first hit the market, self-tanning products were nothing but a streaky, orange mess to deal with. Self-tanning products today have come a long way, but they're not without their faults. Whether you choose to go the DIY route or head to the spray tan salon, figuring out how to remove self-tanner can still quite a challenge, even for a self-proclaimed beauty expert.

Here's some good news: You no longer have to wait until your spray tan fades in order to get rid of it. With a combination of products and techniques, self-tanners can be removed easier than ever. I spoke to Veronique Munro, founder of Infinity Sun Spray Tan Equipment, for some expert tips on how to wipe away all of your discolored woes.

Here's how to remove self-tanner to clean up any mishaps during your next fake-tanning session:

How to Remove Self-Tanner

  • Moisten the Skin: We know how a lot of people feel about the word “moist,” but it’s an essential step for removing self-tanner. According to Munro, “It’s a good idea to moisten the skin cells through either a shower or bath for at least 20 minutes.”
  • Exfoliate: After dampening your skin, Munro suggests using an exfoliating mitt with a few drops of body wash to gently slough away dry skin and the remains of an old sunless application. Though you can try to use any body wash you'd like, we recommend grabbing one that's specially formulated for removing fake tans (which we'll get to in just a second!)
  • Exfoliate (again!): Thought you were done exfoliating? Think again. Munro suggests using a non-abrasive exfoliant the morning after you exfoliate the first time, promising that this step will “dissolve skin cells at the end of their lifecycle and the remaining self-tanner, leaving an even layer of healthy young skin cells.” This step is essential if you’re applying a fresh coat of spray tan after removing your old one or if there are simply extra stubborn tan remnants.

The Best Self-Tanner Removers

What to Consider

DIY vs. Professional Fake Tan

First off, it’s important to consider what type of fake tan you have on. If it’s a professional treatment, contact the tanning salon you went to in order to see what works best to remove their spray tan formula, as they’re usually more intense and pigmented than the ones you apply at home. If you opted for a DIY fake-tan moment, then most of the products on this list are safe for you to use, but I recommend always doing a patch test before applying it to your entire body to ensure you’re not allergic to the fake tan remover.

How Much Fake Tanner Needs to Be Removed?

Another aspect to take into consideration is how much fake tanner you're trying to remove. If you want to remove the entirety of your spray tan, then look for a more intensive formula that will strip it away. Pro tip: Formulas with exfoliating benefits are a major plus. If you're just looking to even out patches or remove fake-tanning products off your hands, just about any product on this list will do for those minor situations, regardless of its formula or texture — it all just depends on what you prefer to use.

Also, if you have a ton of fake tan that won't seem to budge, Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, New York City-based celebrity cosmetic dermatologist, author of The Pro-Aging Playbook, and creator of The Pro-Aging Podcast, advises trying a clay mask for some more assistance. "A clay mask will help to draw the pigment out of the skin and is ideal for larger areas," he says. As for those smaller spots you're trying to tackle, Frank suggests grabbing some warm lemon juice and applying it to the area. "Lemon juice mixed with a tsp of baking soda and a few drops of body oil is best for areas that are rough like elbows, palms, and ankles," he adds.

Gauge Your Expectations

You should also know while these products are incredibly effective, none of these products will give you magic eraser-like results in one use, especially if you went quite a few shades darker than your natural skin tone. Though most of them can easily lift and remove fake tans from gradual tanning lotions and minimal amounts of spray tan in one swing, more intense spray tans and professional faux tans may take a few washes before it all comes off, and that's OK! Just be patient, and make sure you don't over-exfoliate your body, which can cause issues like redness, irritation, and inflammation.

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    Best Mousse
    St. Tropez Prep & Maintain Tan Remover Mousse
    St. Tropez amazon.com

    If you're a fan of rich lathers, then this mousse should be at the top of your list. Our beauty editor recommends this foamy formula for its lightweight feel on your skin and fast-acting formula, which works in just five minutes. It's also a great primer to use before you apply a fresh new coat of self-tanner, thanks to purifying cotton extract and rebalancing probiotics infused into this tan remover.

    More: The 15 Best Self-Tanners for a Bronzed Glow Without the Sun

    Best Mist
    Isle of Paradise Over it Magic Self-Tan Eraser
    Isle of Paradise sephora.com

    Mousses are pretty messy, and it's hard to get your hands in hard-to-reach areas like the middle of your back, so make things a little easier for yourself with this mister. This glycolic acid-filled mist will seep into your skin to instantly exfoliate unwanted tanner and other pore-clogging impurities in your skin for a smooth, even, and most importantly, color-free look and feel.

    But don't expect dry skin after using this micellar water-tan remover hybrid: It also has hydrating properties from skin-quenching avocado, chia seed, and coconut oils for a nourished, hydrated glow even after you rinse it off in the shower.

    Best for Sensitive Skin
    Australian Glow Tan Removal Mousse
    Australian Glow ulta.com

    While we still recommend patch testing any product you put on your skin before slathering it all over your body, sensitive skin types may be comforted in the fact that this tan-removing mousse is gentler than other formulas. It ditches the harsher exfoliating ingredients for hydrating aloe vera, coconut water, antioxidant vitamin E, and vitamin C-rich Kakadu plum. 

    Plus, there's no need for excessive scrubbing with this formula: Simply lather it on, let it sit for five minutes, and gently massage it off in the shower with your go-to loofah or exfoliating mitt and watch as your former faux tan washes down the shower drain.

    3-in-1 Formula
    TAN-LUXE Glyco Water Self-Tan Eraser
    TAN-LUXE sephora.com

    This self-tanner remover doesn’t just remove self-tanner — it also cleanses and primes your skin for gunk-free pores (bye-bye body acne) and a smooth, fresh base for your next self-tanning session. The cleansing powers of this “glyco-water” comes from vitamin C and glycolic acid, two active ingredients with the sole purpose of exfoliating and brightening your skin.

    Raspberry seed oil and aloe vera both work overtime to comfort and hydrate your skin, so the harsh formula won’t leave your body over-stripped, but sensitive skin types may want to avoid this one.

    Cheapest Option
    Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser
    Bondi Sands amazon.com

    When you're on a budget, every penny counts. So if you're looking for the cheapest option that actually works, then this is your best bet. Yes, it may be just a hair cheaper than the other options on this list, but for full transparency, there are not many trustworthy self-tanner removers on the market, let alone any under $10.

    This foaming cleanser takes a mere five minutes to activate and works perfectly with your in-shower exfoliating tool of choice to scrub and wash away any unwanted self-tanner from every part of your body. 

    Since it's formulated with hydrating glycerin, this cleansing foam won't leave your skin feeling tight or dry like other cleansers.

    Best for Face
    Tanologist Tan Eraser + Primer
    Tanologist ulta.com

    While all of the products on this list are great to use on your body, your face requires something a little gentler. Enter: This mild formula from Tanologist, which works to erase unwanted fake tanner from head to toe while priming your skin for your next self-tanning situation.

    This formula uses a teeny amount of glycolic acid (about 3%) to lift and remove all of your old fake-tanning mistakes while hydrating aloe vera, brightening vitamin C-filled pink grapefruit, antioxidant-filled goji berry, and tone-evening juniper work hand-in-hand to replenish and nurture your skin, no matter where you put this foaming cleanser. 

    Just simply apply it, let it sit for 5 minutes, and rinse off while buffing away with your go-to scrubber for a color-free, even skin tone.

    Best Body Scrub
    Tree Hut Coconut Lime Shea Sugar Scrub
    Tree Hut ulta.com

    As Munro noted earlier, if you notice there are still a few stubborn spots the morning after you've removed most of your fake tan, you can buff them away with an exfoliant. This one is our favorite because it uses sugar crystals instead of harsh salt, which doesn't sting your skin and dissolves as you scrub away.

    It also contains antioxidant-rich lime extract to brighten your skin and hydrating ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and Tree Hut's proprietary six-oil blend of avocado, macadamia, sweet orange, sweet almond, evening primrose, and safflower oils.

    If you want to learn more about why we love this delectable scrub, head over to our beauty editor's full review of it.

    Best Scrubbing Mitt
    St. Tropez Tan Build Up Remover Mitt
    St. Tropez sephora.com

    If you have stubborn spots or just a lot of self-tanner to remove, then grabbing an exfoliating tool into the mix will make the stripping process much easier. Sure, you could grab any exfoliating mitt or puff, but this one was specially made for scrubbing away fake tans — plus, it’s only $6.50, so it’s totally worth it.

    This mitt is made out of a four-way mesh material that’s gentle on skin but tough on self-tanner and dry patches, leaving your complexion feeling smooth and looking radiant after every use. It’s also pretty durable and will last for a handful of uses, which is also a plus.

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