I totally get why everyone loves having that bronzed, sun-kissed look. Spray tanning is such a quick and simple way to get a perfect tan without having to bake in the sun all day long. (Which BTW, is terrible for your skin.)
But let’s be real, sometimes things don’t always turn out perfectly and our faux tans can start to look a little streaky.
Getting sweaty right after your application, skipping crucial prep steps, or even just receiving an uneven application can all make a spray tan look a bit botched. If your spray tan is giving you unwelcomed flashbacks to your early 2000’s Mystic Tan days then you’re probably better off removing it and applying at-home self tanner instead.
There are a ton of easy and practical tips that can help you get rid of an unwanted orange-tinted tan quickly and safely. Plus, since the #SilbSquad knows I don’t gatekeep my best beauty and skincare tips, I’m going to share my go-to products for a flawless spray tan removal.
PRO TIP: Always do a patch test before using any new products or ingredients on your skin! Just like swatching a new makeup shade, you don’t want to go all in without seeing a sample of your results first.
How to Remove Spray Tan
Let’s first address the elephant in the room…. What self tanning product did you use? Did you go through the correct preparation process? How about your application process? What was your method of maintenance?
If you are thinking “umm, I think I did”, I created a fool-proof guide that walks you step by step through how to apply self tanner. Check it out and get the confidence you deserve when applying spray tans. But since you’re already beyond that step, here’s exactly how to remove any unwanted tones, blotches, and unevenness that might have come from your first try at a self tan.
DIY with Lemon Juice (or Baby Oil) and Baking Soda
Yes — it actually can be this easy! If you are in crisis mode and wouldn’t dare step out of the house with an uneven tan, this might be your best bet.
Start by mixing lemon juice or baby oil with baking soda. If you have more sensitive skin, I would opt for the baby oil and baking soda mix. While the baking soda acts as a natural exfoliant, the baby oil or lemon juice will help extract the pigments evenly.
Just mix the two into a paste and apply to smaller areas with a cotton ball in circular motions. This is a great way to achieve an all-over body treatment even days after your unfortunate application.
Make sure to leave your concoction on your skin for at least 10 minutes before buffing away. Keep in mind that when you mix lemon juice and baking soda you will find every crack and cut you’ve got, so this might sting!
DIY with Toothpaste
Yeah, this was pretty surprising to me too. But, if you already have some lying around, it will definitely do the trick.
On self-tanned spots that tend to come out naturally darker like your palms, knees, and elbows, rub a dab of whitening toothpaste on the area and let it sit and do the work for 5 minutes before wiping it off. This method works best on small areas or spots that look uneven – you don’t want to cover large areas of your body with toothpaste.
DIY with Hair Removal Cream
Like toothpaste, lathering some hair removal cream and letting it sit for 5-10 minutes will dissolve discoloration on the surface of your skin. If you just want to lighten the tone in certain areas, 5 minutes is all you need. For complete removal, let the cream sit for at least 10 minutes before wiping away.
Just keep in mind that some hair removal creams can be harsh on the skin. So if you suffer with sensitive skin or chronic dry skin, I recommend considering another method on this list first!
DIY with a Hot Bath or Sauna
This tip might be my favorite because it calls for some major relaxation time. Take a dip in a swimming pool and let the chlorine speed up your self tanner fading process. Next, take a lukewarm bath or hop in a hot tub or sauna, which will steam your spray tanned skin, open your pores, and bring those pigments closer to the surface of your skin. These are all much invasive methods of removal.
And since you are already at the spa, whether IRL or in your bathtub with your favorite Hotel Lobby Candle, treat yourself to an extremely moisturizing massage. This will slough off dead skin where you have excess spray tan build up. Plus, a massage? Yes, please!
Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate… Gently
One of the best ways to remove leftover tan is by physically scrubbing it away. A good exfoliating product is like a nail buffer for your skin. Think about it this way: if you didn’t file or buff your nails, how well would your manicure turn out?
There are a TON of exfoliants on the market and I feel like I’ve basically tried them all at this point. If you are curious to know what exfoliating does to the top layer of your skin check out my in-depth guide here.
Use a Spray Tan Remover
The amount of anxiety I’ve gotten from a botched spot of spray tan is admittedly embarrassing, but when you mess up in a *highly* noticeable area, it sucks.
This is where one of my biggest spray tan removal hacks comes in. While you might think you don’t need it, I always recommend keeping a bottle of spray tan remover at home. Sure, you might not reach for it until you have a slip up, but it’s so nice to have on hand.
Regardless of the reason you need to even out your tan or remove it all together – we’ve all been there and that’s why there are plenty of spray tan removal products. Here are a few of my go-to’s:
7 Best Spray Tan Removers
St. Tropez Tan Remover Prep and Maintain
St. Tropez makes one of my favorite self tanners, so it’s no surprise that I also love the brand’s tan remover. This spray tan solution is a lightweight mousse that’s gentle enough for sensitive skin. It’s one of the fastest-working tan removal products on the market. And can I just point out that for under $20 you can prep and prime your skin for your next spray tan application…. which will now be blotch free, right?
All you need to do is apply the foam generously and massage it into your skin for 5 minutes. Then, just shower it off and send your uneven tan right down the drain.
Paradise Over It Magic Self-Tan Eraser
Another highly-rated tan remover making waves in the industry right now is the Isle of Paradise Over It Magic Self-Tan Eraser. It’s made with avocado, coconut, and chia seed oils, all of which promote healthy and hydrated skin. But what makes this tan remover work is the glycolic acid, which will exfoliate your tan and support the rejuvenation of new, tan-free skin cells.
Tan Build Up Remover Mitt
An exfoliating mitt is no exception in the self-tanning game, it’s an absolute must! Even when you aren’t routinely applying a spray tan, having a mitt will put you on the right track to glowy and smooth skin.
Using a mitt will gently remove the dry skin that soaked up more color than the rest of your body. Just apply a small amount of your favorite body wash and most importantly, rub in a circular motion.
Also note that there is a big difference between a tanning mitt (velvet soft) and an exfoliating mitt. St. Tropez has this exfoliating mitt for under $10 – an absolute steal in my book.
Dr. Lancer The Method: Polish
This physical exfoliator is one of the best scrubs that will help you remove your spray tan. Key ingredients include pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes, as well as magnesium, sodium and quartz crystals for a gritty exfoliation process.
It will also remove any dead skin adding to the uneven look of your current situation, and it’s perfect for polishing your skin for your next spray tan session!
PRO TIP: Allow a minimum of 24 hours after you remove your spray tan before applying a new application. This gives your skin time to naturally restore its neutral pH levels.
Nécessaire Body Exfoliator
Even my husband Matt approves of this one! Made with charcoal, it is gentle enough that using it with an exfoliating glove won’t irritate your skin.
If you plan on trying out any of the tips or products I am mentioning here, it will benefit you to start with a good exfoliator to remove dead skin cells. Not only will you get an overall even tone, but you’ll also prime your skin so that the products you use will penetrate deeper (and look better in the long-run).
SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
If skin-care is important to you, then you should already know that the products you put on your body are not exactly formulated for your face. This product is great to use on your face if you’re trying to remove leftover spray tan hues.
When it comes down to choosing which exfoliating product to help even out and remove a spray tan on your face, consider reading my guides on physical vs chemical exfoliants and the difference between AHAs and BHAs.
BIODERMA Micellar Water
This might be a no-brainer but I have to make it clear how much this product is my ride or die. The solution is amazing at breaking down a spray tan and getting rid of it in a flash. It’s the perfect go-to for removing spray tan from your hands or face.
Simply soak a cotton pad and watch the spray tan come off like nail polish remover. The fact that it is just as effortless as it is to remove my mascara is a big win. Not to mention, it’s a water-based product so it’s free from oil, alcohol and parabens.
Okay, there you have it! Say goodbye to your streaky spray tan, and get back to your even-toned vacation ready self. Read more of my skincare posts HERE.