How to Remove Self-Tanning Lotion

by Sarah Vrba ; Updated September 28, 2017

The dream tan comes in just the perfect golden shade, leaves no streaks and gives your skin a luminous glow. However, self-tanning lotions can be unforgiving -- many products can produce an unexpectedly dark or orange shade or leave behind uneven patches. However, you can reclaim an even skin tone with at-home remedies that fix the mistakes of your tan in a can.

Expert Exfoliation

The first step to getting rid of an unwanted tan is a thorough, yet gentle, exfoliation. Opt for a mild body polish and a shower mitt with tiny, rough fibers that can massage away the product without damaging the skin. Wet your skin lightly in the shower and apply a quarter-sized amount of polish to the mitt. Move your hand in gentle, wide circles to rub off the tan dye and encourage an even exfoliation. Be careful to work the polish from top to bottom and look for any hidden discolored areas.

Alternatively, make your own home scrub by mixing 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice with a few teaspoons of baking powder. Work the mixture over your dampened skin just as you would with a store-bought scrub. Lemon has natural acids that help lift off the tan and leave your skin extra smooth and soft. Promptly rinse off in the shower after exfoliating.


  • Avoid scrubbing harshly in an attempt to quickly remove the tan, which can damage your skin or leave behind uneven streaks.

Soothing Soak

A bad self-tanning experience can lead to good things, like a relaxing soak in the tub. Run a hot bath and add a couple hefty tablespoons of soothing bath oil to the water. Soak in the bath for at least 20 minutes, but ideally 30 minutes, to allow the softening oils to get into the skin and break down that stubborn tan color.

Follow up the bath with another rinse in the shower. Wash off with a loofah to help remove any leftover oils or tanning product. Repeat this process every day while you still have any leftover tan for a very gentle, soothing way to even out your skin tone.


  • Apply a soothing baby lotion to your skin after exfoliating or soaking in the tub. Moisture encourages cell turnover and begins to break up the product. For particularly stubborn areas, apply a lotion with alpha-hydroxy acids, which help the exfoliation along.

Go Pro

If expediency is your main concern, and you can't wait through a few hot baths to get that color off your skin, then consider purchasing a professional tan remover. These compounds contain special acids and extremely mild bleaches that can fade the color within a day or so without damaging sensitive skin. Keep in mind that removal products work best within the first 4 hours after applying the self-tanning lotion; waiting too long and you might require a bit more buffing to see results.

Use the product following manufacturer instructions, which generally includes wetting the skin and applying it in even, gentle circles before rinsing it off. Be sure to read up on what each product is formulated to do: Some come in wipes designed for hands and feet, while others are made for the whole body.


  • Always test new products on a small patch of skin before applying all over your body to avoid bad allergic reactions.

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About the Author

Sarah Vrba has been a writer and editor since 2006. She has contributed to "Seed," "AND Magazine," Care2 Causes and "202 Magazine," among other outlets, focusing on fashion, pop culture, style and identity. Vrba holds an M.A. in history with an emphasis on gender and fashion in the 19th century.