How to Lighten a Spray Tan

Smiling Girl
LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Spray tans come with some good news and bad. The good news is that you can easily get flawless bronzed skin without exposing your body to sunlight and its UV rays. Your skin will be ready for that vacation, and you’ll be looking good! However, the bad news is that fake tans can sometimes go very wrong, making it look like you got Cheetos dust rubbed all over.

Not a pretty look, right?

These spray tan mishaps can happen to the best of us. We’ve all seen pictures of A-list celebrities appearing a little too tanned or even inching toward the orange territory. It’s a risk we all take when making a spray tan appointment. 

However, there are a few ways you can ensure your tan comes out in the right shade to look natural and blotch-free. In this article, we’ll look at How to Lighten a Spray Tan using household items like lemon juice and baking soda, and some exfoliation.


How to Lighten Spray Tan on Your Body


Did you forget to prep your body for a fake tan (see our tips below), and aren’t satisfied with the results? Sometimes the wrong shade or method of application gets in the way of achieving your perfect, bronzed glow.

Not following the right after-care steps can also result in your tan coming out too dark or streaky. Spray tans can darken overnight.

Don’t let this put you off, though! There are many ways you can DIY a lighter tan using home remedies. Just pick a technique that works for you from the ones mentioned below, and remember to be gentle on your skin. The lightning process might be gradual and require a few tries, but you’ll get there!

P.S. When using new products or ingredients, always do a patch test beforehand to ensure they won’t cause allergies or any other adverse side effects.

1. Scrub it Out in the Shower or Bath

Loofah in Bath

One of the simplest ways of lightening a tan is by taking a nice, long shower and exfoliating fully. You can use a loofa, an exfoliating mitt, or even a special scrub with microbeads. 

As your skin has already undergone treatment with chemical-based products, try to be gentle when exfoliating. Don’t scrub too vigorously, as it can cause inflammation and even make the tan come off in patches.

This will only make your skin look worse!

Lightly exfoliate using slow, circular motions to get rid of the dead skin cells holding your tan. This process will also trigger your skin to start producing new cells and break down the tanned ones to be released as dead cells.

You can wash off these dead cells, and voila! Your overly-dark tan will be lightened instantly.

For the most effective results, exfoliate during your first shower after the spray tan. You will probably need to repeat a few times, based on how much lighter you want the tan to be. But, be sure to give your skin a day or so to rest before the next scrubbing session.

You may want to pay special attention to your hands and feet, which are areas that are particularly difficult to get just right when it comes to spray tanning.

2. Raid Your Pantry

It may sound a tad bit strange, but you can actually use your pantry supplies to lighten your spray tan. 

Lemon juice and baking soda mixed together make the perfect spray tan lightener to DIY quickly and easily. Plus, the application process is super simple and safe for your skin.

How To Use lemon juice to remove fake tan:

  • Scoop out two tablespoons of baking soda into a medium-sized bowl.
  • Pour enough lemon juice over it to turn into a thick paste. Be careful not to make it too runny.
  • Turn on your shower and wet your skin.
  • Gently massage the paste over all the areas where you want to lighten the tan. You can use a loofah, bath sponge or even your hands directly.
  • Leave the paste on for 5-7 minutes, then rinse it off with cold water.
  • Continue the rest of your shower normally.

When the paste is rubbed on the skin, it acts as a chemical exfoliant. The lemon juice ensures the paste is well-absorbed by the skin, so the tan is lightened more effectively.

There is another way you can lighten your tan using lemon juice. Just soak a piece of wet flannel cloth in some lemon juice and microwave it at medium power for 1 minute. Let it cool to room temperature, then rub over the areas that need to be lightened.

The citric acid found in lemon and lime juices works extremely well in breaking down even the most stubborn tans.

3. Grab The Baby Oil

Baby oil can do wonders to soften up your skin and hydrate it gently. But, its benefits don’t stop there. You can also use these properties to lighten your tan! 

The oil works on softening the topmost layer of your skin. Coincidentally, that is where the dark spray tan resides as well. Once the baby oil has made it soft, you can easily remove the tanned layer in the shower.

Simply apply the baby oil generously onto your skin and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes. Then head into the shower and wash off the oil properly. You will instantly notice your tan becoming lighter. You can also replace baby oil with gentle bath oils and do this process while soaking up in your tub.

We should also mention that baby oil can actually help with tanning in the sun.

4. Make a Splash 

The more water your skin is exposed to, the better it is for lightening up your tan. Why not make the most of this opportunity and go for a swim?

The chlorinated swimming pool water will act as a chemical abrasive to break down the tan on your skin, making it a lot lighter. Follow it up with a shower, and you’ll be good to go!

See our article on washing hair after a spray tan for more info on how water interacts with spray tans.

5. Relax in the Sauna

If you’re feeling fancy, head to your nearest sauna and relax under the steam for 30-40 minutes. The heat and humidity come together to soften your skin and loosen the topmost layer. It will release the tanned skin cells, which can then be scrubbed or washed away easily.

6. Try a Hair Removal Cream

Nair Hair Removal Cream

Tanning experts usually advise against using a hair removal cream after your tan as it interrupts color development. But isn’t that exactly what we want? Might as well use it to our advantage!

To lighten your tan to a more natural color ASAP, apply some hair removal cream to the extra dark areas. If you want to lighten the color slightly, wash it off after three to four minutes. On the other hand, if you want to remove the tan completely, go for a six-minute mark.

Use an old towel or cloth to clean off the cream properly, as this process tends to be a little messy.

These tips can also help deal with the spray tan smell.

How to Lighten Spray Tan on Your Face

If you got your face spray tanned too dark, the process to lighten it is slightly different. Dark, tanned patches are more noticeable on your face and more likely to occur too. DHA, an active ingredient found in most spray tanners, reacts with the outer layer of facial skin cells and is quickly absorbed. 

So, there are higher chances of your face turning darker than the rest of your body. Here is how to lighten it safely.

1. Exfoliating Creams

Instead of scrubs with microbeads, go for an exfoliating cream or cleanser to use on your face. Physical exfoliants can cause micro-abrasions and tears on your facial tissues, which will further harm your skin.  

Apply a gentle exfoliating cream and steam your skin to open pores. It will further encourage your skin to release the extra pigmentation and become lighter.

2. Alpha-hydroxy Acids

Facial serums and moisturizers containing alpha-hydroxy acids (such as MedPeel) are highly recommended for naturally hyper-pigmented skin.

Using the same principle, they can also help lighten artificial tans to give your skin a smooth, even skin tone. Incorporate them into your day and night skincare routines for the quickest results.

3. Coconut Oil

If you prefer staying away from acids and exfoliants, coconut oil is a great natural remedy to lightening a spray tan. Just mix 1/4th cup of refined coconut oil with 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda and apply it to your face for 5 minutes.

Wipe it off with a wet washcloth and repeat twice a day for quick and effective results.

Coconut oil is a skin Swiss Army Knife, and can be helpful for tanning.

How Long Does it Take for Spray Tan to Fade?

The average spray tan starts fading naturally about ten days after application. At about seven days, your skin will start to regenerate and renew its topmost layer, breaking down the tan in the process.

However, if you’re stuck with a really dark tan, it can take up to 12 or more days for your skin to return to normal.

Using the tips mentioned above, you can easily lighten your skin within a day or two at max. You can even remove your tan completely by continuing the process for an extra day.

Can you remove fake tan with Windex

No, you definitely should not try to remove a tan using Windex!

You may have found people online suggesting Windex to remove your spray tan. In theory, it works, as Windex will strip off the top layer of your skin and remove your tan completely.

However, its ingredients include chemical solvents and dyes which are not intended to be used on the skin. They can lead to serious damage and inflammation. 

Can Toothpaste remove self-tanner?

Toothpaste can lighten the tan, but it should only be used on the fingers and toes. Use an old toothbrush to rub some paste on small areas and leave it to rest for a couple of minutes. Wash it with warm water for best results. 

 Avoid using toothpaste on any sensitive areas of the body, especially your face, as it can cause burning.

Will a Magic Eraser Remove Spray Tan?

Yes, a magic eraser will remove spray tan. But it will also likely cause major irritation to your skin. It’s designed to get crud off your walls, not spray tan off your skin. Don’t use it for your skin!

Prep Your Skin Before a Spray Tan to Avoid Mishaps

Girl by Art Wall

Nobody wants to look like they got a spray tan, even if they did. It should look natural… just better! The best way to avoid any splotches or drip marks is to prep your skin well before the appointment.

Exfoliate your body using a spray tan exfoliator. Pay extra attention to the driest areas, especially the knees, feet, elbows, and knuckles. It will slough off any dead skin or debris stuck to the surface of your skin.

If you skip this step, chances are the dead skin will shed after your tan, making your spray tan look patchy. It will also fade more quickly.

Be sure to moisturize well after the exfoliation, but do so a day before. Using oil or lotion on the day of your appointment will interfere with the spray and cause uneven tanning.

Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid shaving or waxing at least 24 hours before your appointment. Since hair removal makes your skin sensitive and opens pores, you will need to give it time to calm down to prevent any irritation after the tan.

Final Thoughts

Spray tans are a great way to achieve that beautiful, summer glow. But a tanning fail can make it look terrible and blotchy. All is not lost, though, and the fear of a bad tanning job shouldn’t keep you from giving it a try.

If things go bad, just use the tips mentioned above, and you’ll be rocking a gorgeous tan in no time!

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).