The warm weather has arrived, so lots of us are giving our winter-worn skin a warm wash of colour. But we don't always get it right, there are some very obvious telltale signs. This is why, alongside your best fake tan, you need to know how to remove fake tan when things go wrong (particularly when you're left with Wotsit hands).
Knowing how to remove fake tan is one of life's most important lessons. You might have had a fully-fledged tanning disaster (we're talking patchy wrists, fluorescent elbows and fingers so multi-tonal that gloves are in order). Or you might simply want to get rid of a four-day-old glow that's looking a little stripy. We've all been there, and we'll all be there again. So the art of fake tan removal is something that everyone should be up to speed on.
Yes, even if you've invested in the formula (even gradual tan can go wrong) and swotted up on all the fake tan tips, chances are you're not going to get it right 100% of the time. But don't worry, you're not alone and it's perfectly easy to rectify.
There are several things you can do to get rid of orange patches in unwanted places. We spoke to Jules Von Hep, fake tan guru, celebrity spray tanner and founder of Isle of Paradise, and Claire Lambert, tanning expert at Skinny Tan, for all the fake tan removal tips and tricks you could possibly ask for.
How to remove fake tan from hands, feet and ankles
Patchy hands and blotchy feet are often the biggest giveaways that your tanning sesh has gone wrong, but before you go reaching for a pair of gloves, know that it's totally possible to rectify—even without a fake tan remover.
In fact, a kitchen cupboard staple could be the answer to your prayers.
Add two tablespoons of baking soda to some water and mix to create a paste. Rub this over your hands or feet, leaving it on for a few minutes to ensure you haven't missed any particularly bad creases. Then wash it off.
Another way to wave goodbye to streakiness is to run a bath and fill it up with bath oil. This will soften the tan. While you're in there, use a remover mitt in circular motions. It will ensure that any stubborn patches are evenly removed. Simple!
How to remove fake tan at home
First things first: "Don't panic scrub," Jules warns. "You'll end up taking the tan off in patches and it’ll become a snowballing effect."
Oil helps to break down the DHA (colour element) in self-tanning fluid. This is a good thing to bear in mind if you've just had a cracking spray tan; don't moisturise your body with anything containing oil afterwards.
Alternatively, make a trip down to your local swimming pool if you don't mind being a bit stripy in public. "The chlorine will break down the tan," explains Jules. "In the showers afterwards, take a pair of exfoliating gloves and work in circular motions. Steam rooms and saunas will soften the tan, too."
If you've missed patches, this can be rectified with fast-acting products. "If you’ve missed a spot, my all time favourite product is the Skinny Tan 1-Day Instant Tan! It is splash proof and you literally just pop it on and it will hide any mistakes in a hurry. This is what I would suggest if you are in a rush," says Claire.
If it's all gone to pot and you need to get rid of your tan straight away, tanning brands now have products specifically developed to break colour down. That way you can remove fake tan quickly.
"If you have a bit more time and would like a permanent fix, you can use the Skinny Tan Miracle Tan Eraser and be really gentle to scrub around the mishap area, then go over with a fresh patch of tan," Claire adds.
How to remove fake tan patches before re-applying
If you're a regular, self-confessed tanning addict who can't go a day slathering on some more glow, then it's actually so important that you are removing your old tan before applying your new one.
Being the clever chap that he is, Jules created Isle of Paradise's Over It, which works best on a three-day-old tan. It also contains glycolic acid to exfoliate skin. Mist your entire body until your skin is saturated, wait five minutes, then jump in the shower and buff it off with a sponge or a flannel.
How to remove fake tan with lemon juice
Vaguely remember hearing something about lemons and brushing it off as an old wives tale? Turns out there's something in it. '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,' Jules explains.
It's also worth investing in an exfoliating mitt that will help to remove tan build-up or mistakes. It's an essential item in the at-home tanning kit.
How to remove fake tan from your face
Removing fake tan from your face is an altogether more delicate process. You've invested in the best eye cream, are religious about applying the best SPF moisturisers, and can't go a week without a restorative face mask – so vigorously scrubbing your skin to try and remove fake tan from it probably isn't the best idea.
Enter: your favourite face peel. Liquid exfoliators are a great way of removing face fake tan and taking care of your skin at the same time. Simply dispense a few drops onto one of the best reusable make-up pads and sweep over freshly cleansed skin. Whether your go-to chemical exfoliator is AHA or BHA, these clever acids remove build-up of old skin cells – and with them, your old fake tan – while improving skin tone and texture. So it's a double win.
How to remove fake tan from clothes
Getting fake tan stains on your favourite, goes-with-everything, white shirt or your super spenny The White Company bedsheets can be an absolute nightmare. You need to try and remove the stain while it is still wet.
Reversing the fabric and running it under cold water will help to loosen the product, but try not to rub it as you could end up smearing it and making it far worse. Instead, mix warm water and some detergent and sponge onto the affected area, repeating until the stain has disappeared.
So there we have it. We've just solved all future fake tan disasters from happening. Well, perhaps not all. There'll always be one...
Fake tan removal essentials:
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Katie Thomas is the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire UK. With over 10 years of experience on women's luxury lifestyle titles, she covers everything from the best beauty looks from the red carpet and stand out trends from the catwalk, to colonic irrigation and to the best mascaras on the market. She started her career on fashion desks across the industry - from The Telegraph to Brides - but found her calling in the Tatler beauty department. From there she moved to Instyle, before joining the Marie Claire digital team in 2018. She’s made it her own personal mission to find the best concealer in the world to cover her tenacious dark circles. She’s obsessed with skincare that makes her skin bouncy and glowy, low-maintenance hair that doesn’t require brushing and a cracking good manicure. Oh and she wears more jewellery than the Queen.
- Shannon LawlorExecutive Beauty Editor