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Various home remedies can help fade the color of suntans, tan lines, and self-tans. Tips that may help remove a tan include exfoliation and skin lightening products.

Suntans develop when ultraviolet rays from the sun change the pigment in the skin to produce a darker color. Removing a tan is not straightforward, and it does not happen overnight. However, some methods can help fade a tan more quickly.

Without intervention, a suntan usually starts to fade within a few weeks, and tan lines become less prominent until eventually they are not noticeable. This is because the body sheds dead skin cells and replaces them with new ones. A tan from tanning products also fades over time as the skin renews itself.

This article looks at safe methods that people can use to remove a suntan or self-tan at home. It also discusses methods to avoid that could cause possible skin damage, including lemon juice and skin bleaching creams.

a woman exfoliating to remove a tan Share on Pinterest
Exfoliation may help fade a suntan.

Most methods to get rid of a suntan, whether from a bottle, tanning booth, or the sun, come from recommendations on exfoliating and skin care.

There has not been very much clinical research related to ways to get rid of a tan, but many popular methods are safe and have few side effects.

There are many different skin types and ways to apply products. The best method might vary depending on a person’s skin tone, their preferred products, and the methods they use.

Ways to fade a suntan

People can try the following methods to help remove or fade a tan from the sun or a sunbed:


Gently exfoliating the skin will help remove pigmented dead skin cells from the outer layer of skin. This can reduce the appearance of the tan.

The two main types of exfoliation are chemical and mechanical techniques:

  • Chemical techniques involve chemicals that dissolve dead skin cells, such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids.
  • Mechanical techniques use brushes or sponges to remove dead skin cells.

People with dry, sensitive skin may find that a soft washcloth and chemical exfoliator work best. People with thicker, oily skin may find that stronger chemicals and mechanical methods work best for them.

Regardless of skin type, be sure to exfoliate gently. Overdoing it can turn the skin red and may prompt acne breakouts. People with darker skin tones may find that over-exfoliating can cause dark spots on the skin.

People should be sure to moisturize their skin after exfoliation to prevent over-drying it. Moisturizers containing aloe are a good place to start when it comes to softening skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) offer further advice on how to exfoliate safely.

Skin lightening products

The AAD recommend some ingredients as being effective skin lighteners. These may take several repeat applications to prove most effective, but they can work to fade darker areas of skin.

Look out for products containing the following ingredients:

  • azelaic acid
  • glycolic acid
  • retinoids
  • vitamin C
  • kojic acid

Both drugstores and online stores sell skin lightening products. Remember to check the ingredients before purchase.

How to remove tanning products

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People may be able to remove excess self-tanning product from their skin by taking a shower.

People can try the following methods to help remove self-tanning products from the skin:

Take a shower or bath

If a self-tan becomes streaky or there are lines of color, a shower, bath, or even a quick rinse with soap after applying the product can help even out the skin tone.

People can use a soft, wet washcloth to exfoliate the skin and remove excess product.

Baking soda

Because self-tanner essentially “dyes” the outermost layers of skin, exfoliation methods to remove these outer skin cells are some of the most sure-fire ways to reduce the appearance of a self-tan.

Combining baking soda with just enough water to make a paste is a very effective way to remove excess tan buildup or streaking from the skin. Gently scrub in a circular motion to reduce the appearance of streaking without irritating the skin.

A gentle nail buffer

This solution will only be suitable for callused and tougher areas of the skin, such as the hands and feet. Use a nail buffer to gently buff away any areas of collected tanner that make the hands and feet appear dirty or too orange.

Self-tanner removers

Drugstores also offer products to help remove self-tan. These include soaps, lotions, and exfoliating gloves. People can also choose between types and brands of self-tan removal products online.

Many blogs and social media accounts offer advice on self-tanner removal, but not all of the advice is good. The skin is a delicate organ, so it is important not to apply products to it that are not intended for skin.

The following are some examples of methods to avoid when it comes to tanner removal:

Lemon juice

For many years now, people have used lemon juice as a lightener for their hair and skin. Many blogs suggest using fresh lemons to remove tanner streaks or lighten skin. However, undiluted lemon juice can be very acidic and damaging to the skin.

If a person does want to use lemon juice, they should dilute it in water and rinse off the lemon juice a few minutes after applying it. This reduces the risk of skin irritation.

Skin bleaching products

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In the U.S., skin bleaching products are only available by prescription.

Some people may try to purchase skin bleaching or whitening products online. However, these products are only available in the United States by prescription, and for good reason; they are not for everyone.

Bleaching creams can be irritating to the skin and affect skin pigmentation, so instead of darker streaks, a person has lighter streaks.

A person should never use liquid bleach on their skin, as it can severely burn and damage it.


Model Ashley Graham posted on her social media accounts that she uses the window cleaner Windex to remove streaky self-tan areas. However, this is not safe.

The solution contains strong chemicals not meant for skin, only windows and glass surfaces.

Gentle exfoliation and certain approved skin lightening products can help reduce the appearance of a tan.

A range of home remedies can help even out a self-tan at home. Exfoliating before applying tan may help reduce unevenness or streaking.

Although spending time in the sun has plenty of health benefits, people should always wear sunscreen and limit the amount of time spent outdoors in hot sun to reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging.

If a person is not sure whether an approach to tan removal is safe, they should talk to their dermatologist before trying it.