Getting outside in the sun on a warm day is magical. You get to experience the great outdoors in all its glory, put on the most beautiful outfits, and of course, hit the beach with your loved ones.
But sometimes you stay out in the sun a little longer than you figured. Maybe you get more color than you realized. Maybe you used the wrong outdoor tanning lotion.
And now you’ve got a deep tan that you don’t want, or maybe you’ve got a splotchy sun tan on just one side.
In this article, I’ll explain how to remove a suntan as best you can, and give several tips to nourish the skin to restore it.
Removing a Sun Tan
There are no simple home remedies to get rid of a sun tan. Yes, you can find a ton of “natural home remedies” online (and I discuss a few of them below), but the reality is that they don’t work.
This is because a real suntan (as opposed to a spray tan or sunless tan) is caused by exposure to the sun, which blasts you with UVA and UVB rays. UV rays impact multiple layers of skin, and UVB rays in particular travel all the way down into the dermis — the middle of the skin.
Melanocytes, located at the very bottom layer of the epidermis, are stimulated to produce melanin in the presence of UV light. They will change color to a darker brown color, as shown by those brown dots on the bottom of the epidermis below.
This process is designed to protect the skin against harmful UV light, and is what occurs when you tan.
By comparison, DHA fake tans are located on the stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of skin. That’s why you can remove a fake tan, but not a real one.
There are no simple home remedies to get rid of a sun tan. Yes, you can find a ton of “natural home remedies” online (and I discuss a few them below), but the reality is that they don’t work.
A suntan is the darkening of exposed skin when you’ve been out in the sun for too long. UV radiation from the sun makes your skin produce extra melanin to protect itself from damage. This causes your skin to darken and tan.
This process really can’t really be reversed with the use of home remedies or commercial remedies, and that is a good thing!
The darkening of the melanocytes that causes a suntan is a safety measure that protects you from skin damage. If it was rapidly undone, your body would be more vulnerable to skin cancer.
So What Now?
If a suntan can’t easily be removed, should you just stop reading and hit the back button? Just go hide for a week and wait for the tan to fade?
If you used any tanning products like tanning oils, lotions, bronzers, etc. during the time you got your excessively-dark tan, you can probably remove those products. By removing those products, you will lessen the overall depth of your tan, and therefore reduce the amount of color on your skin.
You can’t remove the suntan that occurred from UV exposure, but you can likely remove the bronzers, self-tanning additives, etc.
How to Remove a Sun Tan
The most basic routine to follow for removing a suntan is:
- Using SPF
- Keeping Skin Covered
Dark skin turns a deep brown due to suntan, and lighter skin usually turns red. Either way, no one likes uneven skin tones! So how do you remove a suntan?
To tackle a natural sun tan, you can try a couple of natural products or perhaps some toxic unregulated bleaching agents of South Asian origin (I wouldn’t). To remove any excess bronzers, self-tanners, tanning oils, etc., you can use several products easily available on Amazon.
Natural ingredients are easy to find and cheaper to buy. But some don’t want to go through the hassle of mixing and sourcing ingredients.
For us, we’ve listed a few products easily found on Amazon.
However, the longer you have stayed in the sun and the deeper your tan is, the longer it will take to fade.
Your skin renews its cells every few weeks, so the tan will eventually lighten and go away. So forcing the tan to go away will only make your skin feel rawer than it’s already feeling!
How To Remove Tan From Face
Tans on the face and neck are even more difficult to remove, as your face is the most exposed part of your body. Use a high-quality moisturizer and face wash that is hydrating for the skin.
The good news is that the face is a relatively small area, and you can often use lighter shades of foundation, concealer, primer, etc. to balance out your skin tone.
You can’t remove a natural tan from your face, but you can certainly cover it.
How To Remove Tan From Hands and Feet
The hands are also unusual body parts, as there are far fewer melanocytes on the palms (and soles of the feet) than there are elsewhere on the body. Even those with the darkest of skin have light palms and feet. This means that the hands usually don’t tan too much unless you’re using accelerators, bronzers, or lotions that include DHA.
These products can stain the hands and make them look weird. The biggest giveaway of a fake tan is the hands!
See our guide to learn how to remove fake tan from the hands and feet.
How To Remove Tan With Natural Ingredients
Let’s look at what we can do with natural products.
The first line of attack for removing a suntan is to exfoliate.
You can use an exfoliating loofah brush, exfoliating scrub, or any reasonably gentle method you choose. Exfoliating the skin helps remove dead skin cells.
Cells exposed to self-tanners, tanning oils, and the like will brush away. And some recently-tanned cells will drop off as well.
Just keep in mind that exfoliated skin is a bit more fragile, and you should use extra sunscreen the following day.
Moisturizing your skin will keep it healthy and supple. It won’t necessarily get rid of tan from the skin, but it will help keep the tone of the skin even, and help the skin rejuvenate naturally.
3. Apply Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera is well known as a treatment for sunburn. If you’ve had a sunburn, you’ve almost certainly used this stuff before! The cooling aloe gel soothes pain and helps reduce skin redness.
But there’s also some (admittedly weak) evidence that aloe can slow the darkening of the melanocytes, and at least somewhat reduce the darkening of the skin from sun exposure.
4. Lemon Juice and Honey
Lemon does a pretty good job removing DHA from the skin, so any self-tanners, bronzers, and the like may be reduced with lemon. However, it’s unlikely to do anything to the melanocytes.
Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice two a bowl, then add 2-3 teaspoons of honey. Mix it into a paste. Apply the paste on the affected area for half an hour and then wash it off with cool water.
5. Turmeric and Gram Flour
There is a bit of evidence that turmeric, in paste form, will help lighten skin. Cool.
Just beware that turmeric may not just lighten the skin, it may discolor the skin as well. Start using it on an inconspicuous part of the body.
Turmeric is a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine and is known for its healing properties. Gram flour is a long-kept South-East Asian secret for skin exfoliation. Mix a big tablespoon of gram flour with a teaspoon of turmeric, and add milk till it thins into a paste. Apply it and wash it off when it dries.
6. Use Sunscreen
Now that you’ve done what you can to remove or reduce suntan naturally and clear off any bronzers or DHA, it’s time to protect yourself from further darkening and sun damage. Choose a good mineral-based sunscreen, broad-spectrum, to protect your skin from getting darker.
Check the UV Index Forecast, and if it’s going to be over 3 while you’re outside for any significant amount of time, you should be putting on sunscreen.
You should also wear more covering clothes in order to get further sun protection. You might even want to grab a stylish parasol.
7. Take Shelter From the Sun
Another way you can protect yourself from getting suntanned is by covering up. Use a parasol, sit under a pavilion, whatever. Fabric can be a great barrier between your skin and the scorching sun, even if it’s not specific UPF-fabric. This way, not only will you avoid a suntan, but you’ll also avoid being sunburnt!
You can also pick up a cute, cool sunhat to give you a good few inches worth of insta-shelter. When it comes to your face and upper body, a large sunhat does wonders to protect you from sun damage.
Removing Suntan With Suntan Removal Products
Sometimes it’s easier to tackle the problem with off-the-shelf products. Virtually all of these products are primarily designed to attack accelerator lotions, bronzers, DHA, fake-tans, etc. They’re not going to take the melanin out of the skin, but they will reduce the effects of the excessively dark tanning oils.
This will help even out the skin, lessen the overall level of tan, and make things better.
Let’s look at a few options.
1. Biotique Papaya Revitalizing Tan-Removal Scrub
Reduce your tan by using a good scrub in the shower. This exfoliator will dig deep, but can’t work magic. Take a handful of this amazing Ayurvedic goodness and gently rub it in circular motions. This organic scrub can be used on the face, but some people find that it’s too rough for the.
And the best part is that it’s really pretty cheap!
- Contains natural brightening ingredients like papaya
- Contains naturally cooling ingredients
- Great for dry skin
- Gently cleanses
- Quantity: 75g; Item Form: Foam; Package...
- Gentle refining action uncovers skin's...
- Skin Type: All Skin Types. Target...
2. Nature’s Essence Lacto Tan Clear
Made from milk protein and honey to restore the skin’s suppleness and moisture, this tan removal cream contains organic ingredients (milk and honey) to remove unwanted suntan on the face and body.
This cream is designed to lighten skin and soften a tan. It won’t likely do much, but you may find it’s worth trying.
- Contains milk and honey
- Safe to use on the body and face
- Contains organic ingredients
- Makes skin brighter
- Remove the epidermal sun tan
- Milk proteins and Vit-E enriched special...
- Matt Effect is ideal for hot climates
- Helps enhance after facial glow
3. ModelCo Tan Remover Exfoliating Soap
Those looking for a powerful solution to get rid of DHA, bronzers, and tanning oils should try this amazing suntan removal soap by ModelCo.
It helps to remove tanning treatments when lathered and scrubbed onto the skin. It even works to remove tan chemicals, DHA, etc. in stubborn areas like in between fingers and toes, thanks to the natural pumice it contains. It leaves your skin polished, smooth and hydrated.
As I’ve mentioned above, this exfoliating soap won’t really do much to a true sun tan, but does a great job with any skin treatments.
- Contains moisturizing goat milk
- Contains vegan ingredients
- Great for daily use
- Shows instant results!
- WORKS INSTANTLY: Powerful, new self...
- EXFOLIATES SKIN: A sunless primer,...
- 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEED: If you...
- REMOVE IT ALL: The Self Tan Eraser...
- YOUR SECRET WEAPON: The Tanning Soap...
4. VLCC Anti Tan Facial Kit
This anti-tan facial kit by VLCC is designed to soften skin that has been dried out because of excess sun exposure and excess tanning chemicals. The kit comes with an assortment of 5 packets: oatmeal scrub, melawhite gel, melawhite powder, pistachio cream, and a sunblock sample.
The cream may lighten skin somewhat, but it will likely be patchy and
- Quick to use
- Leaves skin radiant
- Shows quick results
- This treatment will reduce the effect of...
- It Lightens Blemishes, Removes Dead...
- Calms Down Irritation On Skin & Forms A...
- Use one sachet of each product and a few...
Though most of us love the look of tanned skin, sometimes it doesn’t land the right way! It’s too dark on one half of the skin, or uneven. Maybe you used too much tanning lotion, too many bronzers, and too many tanning accelerators.
You may not be able to do much against the melanin changing the color of your skin unless you’re literally planning to remove the top layers of your skin (which would be bad).
You’ll just need to wait that out, exfoliate, and maybe apply some aloe.
But if you’ve been using any tanning chemicals to make you tan faster, you can combat those.
Once you’ve done what you can, stay out of the sun as much as possible and use sunblock to protect your skin from sun damage. Your tan will even out and fade away over the next couple of days.