How to remove fake tan: the best products and tips for gentle removal

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Kiran Meeda
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When self tan goes wrong, or you’re ready to strip it all back and start again, there is actually a solution. Stylist explains the hassle-free way to gently and effectively remove tan. 

As lockdown continues, our skin has been going through a lot. Coined as ’lockdown skin’, some of us are experiencing bouts of rosacea, some are noticing more blemishes and some of us have found our skin to be drier than usual. The naturally glowy skin your face and body have may be dwindling from the lack of sunlight, but that’s where fake tan comes in.

Whether you’re looking to add a subtle bronze glow to enhance your skin tone, using drops like Tan Lux’s Self Tan Face Drops, £35, or you want a darker finish like Bali Body’s Ultra Dark Tanning Mousse, £26.95, self tan is an effective way of looking like you’ve been on holiday – when you’ve actually just been at home.

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But, when your tan doesn’t quite turn out how you’d like (lest we forget the orange tan Anne Hathaway’s character Emma had to endure in Bride Wars) or it dries streakier than expected, it can be frustrating. Or if you’re ready for a fresh application, but still have a bit of last week’s tan lingering. Rather than pressing the panic button, though, there is a simple solution. Enter, fake tan remover.

We quizzed St. Tropez’s skin finishing expert, Michaella Bolder to find out her top tips for peeling back fake tan.

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What is fake tan remover?

It’s a specially formulated product, usually in the form of a mousse, liquid spray or oil that works to remove tan. They typically contain a chemical exfoliant called urea, which is also naturally occuring in our skin. 

How do you remove fake tan?

There are three simple steps to follow. “First of all, soak a generous amount of tan remover over the area of tan you want to remove. Then wait between 5 to 10 minutes before getting into a hot bath with essential oils. Once you’re in the bath, scrub your skin with a tan remover mitt to buff and lift away the colour.”

What are the common mistakes people make when trying to remove fake tan?

It’s a surprising fact, but wet skin will actually hinder tan removal. “It will work much better on dry skin and if you leave it to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes,” says Bolder. “A lot of people just use a normal mitt, but ideally you need an exfoliating mitt or loofah to scrub away the remnants.”

Are there any hacks for removing fake tan?

Time of removal: make sure you dedicate time towards the removal process. “Remove tan at night or maybe over the weekend when you have more time,” says Bolder. 

Hydration is key: we moisturise the skin on our face regularly, and the same should apply for our bodies. “Moisturise afterwards to keen skin healthy, hydrated and nourished,” she explains.

Don’t add more tan to old tan: it’s a hard ask for those wanting to perfect their tan, but restraint is important. “Don’t be tempted apply self tan over an area that is gathering and in need of being scrubbed off. It’ll only make it harder to get off when you do,” adds Bolder.

Maintain a glow: to keep your tan uniform across your body, it’s important to to be apply it at the right time. “Apply a new layer of self tan the next day after removing to keep your gorgeous glow.” 

Now equipped with the ideal method, we’ve compiled our edit of the best fake tan removers on the market.

The best fake tan removers:

  • The best nourishing fake tan remover

    Self Tan Remover

    Bali Body Self Tan Remover, £18.95

    Infused with aloe vera, glycerin and rose extract, Bali Body’s tan remover is particularly great at leaving skin glowing and moisturised.

    £18.95, Bali Body

  • The best fake tan remover spray

    Isle of Paradise Self Tan Eraser

    Isle of Paradise Over It Self-Tan Eraser, £17.95

    It’s a vitamin-packed mist that’s enriched with cleansing micellar water and chemical exfoliant glycolic acid to remove as much tan as possible.

    £17.95, Look Fantastic

  • The best luxurious fake tan remover

    Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser

    Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser, £10.04

    As rich foams go, Bondi Sands’ tan remover is up there. Containing soothing aloe vera, it makes for tan removal that’s more luxurious than most.

    £10.04, Look Fantastic

  • The best fake tan remover for sensitive skin

    St. Tropez Tan Remover Prep & Maintain Mousse, £14.50

    Whether your tan is a week old or a day old, St. Tropez’ mousse gently and effectively removes it in minutes. Containing purifying cotton extracts and balancing prebiotics, sensitive skin is left with minimal irritation afterwards.

    £14.50, Feel Unique

  • The best high-strength fake tan remover

    Utan Tan Remover

    Utan Super-Strength Tan Remover, £14.99

    More relevant for those looking to get rid of a tan they’ve had for longer than three days, Utan’s tan remover works to breakdown old tan, whilst soothing skin.

    £14.99, Superdrug

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