How to remove fake tan: 6 tried and tested tricks from the experts

Suzannah Ramsdale
Suzannah Ramsdale

It’s a problem we’ve all faced: how do you remove fake tan?



Whether it’s that one annoying streak on your elbow (that you know you could have exfoliated a whole lot better) or that the shade you thought would give you a sun-soaked glow is just that little bit too far down the Dulux terracotta chart, we’ve all had a fake tan disaster.

We’ve asked St Tropez's tanning guru Jules Heptonstall to give us his top tips on how to remove fake tan. So, whether you’re in the midst of a tan-tastrophe (or a tan-over, as Jules calls it) or simply feel like trading in your high summer tint for a more pared down hue, we’ve got your fake tan removal problems covered. And it's easy...

How to remove fake tan, according to the experts:

1. 'Don’t panic scrub. You’ll end up taking the self tan off in patches and it’ll become a snowballing effect. Use a light body polish mixed with a 50p sized amount of bath or massage oil to encourage an even fade all over. It’s better to repeat this stage a few times all over than do one strong scrub in one place.'

2. 'Run a bath and fill it with a bath oil and soak your skin – the oil will soften the tan. (I find Jo Loves bath oils are the best for this as they’re infused with so many citrus ingredients). Take the St. Tropez Tan Remover Mitt and work in circular motions around your body to encourage the tan to fade.'

3. 'Go swimming. The chlorine will break down the tan. In the showers afterwards, take those exfoliating gloves and work in circular motions. Steam rooms and saunas will soften the tan, too.'

4. 'The Bronze Buffer Sponge is your secret weapon for tan mistakes. Its woven microfibres strip the tan off when the sponge is run over the skin. Be warned, you have to be gentle with this.'

5. ''The old faithful combination of lemons and sugar mixed together will work to an extent but you really need a mitt or glove to get deeper.'

Failing all that, try these fake tan removal heroes...

St Tropez Tan Build-Up Remover Mitt, £5.99
Use on wet skin in circular motions to remove tanning mistakes or fake tan build up. A great exfoliator.

Tan-Go Self Tan Remover Cloth, £12.50
Wet this specially formulated polyamide cloth and scrub away fake tan build-up in the shower. Ideal for pre-tan prep or to remove dodgy fake tan streaks.

ModelCo Tan Remover Exfoliating Body Scrub, £12
This scrub can dissolve fake tan mistakes straight after application or can be handy for getting rid of stubborn old fake tan.

Whitetobrown Sunless Tan Removal Wipes, £12
Use these wipes on the palms of your hands and feet right after tanning to avoid unsightly stains.

Of course, everyone knows that perfect, even fake tanning is, like so many things, all about the preparation. Follow Jules' expert tips below and you'll never have to remove dodgy fake tan again.

1. Always exfoliate before you apply your self-tan. Exfoliating will create an even skin surface, and thus minimise the chance of an uneven tan and streaks. It will also remove any leftover tan from your last application.

2. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise. Always moisturise your hands, elbows, knees and feet before you apply your tan. The moisturiser will act as a blending agent in these areas, and stop the tan from clinging in between your fingers, toes and knuckles – imagine the skin in these areas is like a sponge, it just drinks tan - so less is more. If you’re fair-haired, take a cotton bud and sweep a small amount of moisturiser over your eyebrows and hairline.

3. Always apply with a mitt.
A mitt is to tan what a hairbrush is to hair - essential. The mitt stops your tan from clinging to your palms and also delivers an even application.

4. Post application, remove the tan from anywhere you don’t want it to stay. So wipe your nails, your palms, in between your fingers and your finger nails. Then put a pea-sized amount of moisturiser at the bottom of your palms and rub your wrists together to blend the tan and reduce the appearance of a tanning sleeve.

5. Don’t use cheap tan.
In the world of tanning you get what you pay for. Invest in tanning products with advanced formulations that are infused with other ingredients to balance out the orange and deliver golden. St. Tropez contains an active ingredient called Vegetan Premium, which matches to your individual skin tone to stop that ‘fake tan’ look.

6. The darker your tan, the more tanning ingredients it contains. Darker tans are harder to remove than lighter ones. If you’re nervous, opt for a lighter shade, build your confidence and then move into dark tanning.

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