Best fake tan removers: Effective scrubs and wash-off treatments that really work

·8-min read
 (Bali Body)
(Bali Body)

Whether you have been lathering it for years or are just dipping your toe into faux radiance, fake tan fiascos are par for the course.

The process can turn chaotic very quickly, so being able to remove it in an instant is one of the most important lessons you can learn in the beauty rule book.

No matter the quality of the tanning product, after a while, it becomes streaky, flaky and turns a once fresh-from-the-beach level of faux glow to a tell-tale patchy mess. In these moments, it’s helpful to keep some tan remover on hand.

While in time gone by, tan could only be buffed away by abrasive scrubs and exfoliators, our favourite fake-it-till-you-make-it labels have crafted innovative formulations that melt away their products with ease - no manual labour necessary. Special mention also goes to Rose and Caramel for the most seamless removal process we’ve come across - all you need to do is soak in a bath for 20 minutes.

These products also work as erasers to fix any application atrocities. They will give you a fresh start and a blank canvas ready for your holiday or to start the process all over again. If you’ve decided to forgo a mitt, dreaded orange hands can be solved by these safeguards and for those too dark areas where product has built up - we’re talking elbows, knees and ankles - use a cotton pad to minimise the mishaps.

Look out for compositions that include glycolic acid - a gentle AHA exfoliant that naturally causes the main ingredient in false tans DHA to lift away from the skin. There’s also an old wives tale about the efficacy of lemon juice, apply to a bowl of warm water and soak for 30-60 minutes.

We’ve consulted St. Moriz in house tanning expert, Jordan Cook to share her tips and tricks for removing tan...

She explains, “Gone are the days where we make our skin red raw from scrubbing horrendously just trying to remove old tan! Exfoliating gloves will be your best friend and work so well with tan removers and exfoliators.”

For removing tan from different body areas

“We all have different areas that tan seems to cling to more than others, but typical stubborn areas are hands, feet and knees. There are many ‘tricks’ we’ve all tried over the years like the lemon / tooth paste trick. However, nothing has ever worked as well as my newfound secret! Since the pandemic we all have a handy bottle of hand sanitizer in our bags, simply pop a small amount on a damp flannel and rub it over the areas you cannot seem to shift, I promise it will glide right off.”

For removing stubborn tan from your back

“A long hot soak in the bath and a couple of pumps of our Professional Self Tan Remover Foam (£4.99, lookfantastic), enjoy and let it soak into your skin making it far softer and easier to remove. If you’ve not yet invested in a body brush, now is the time. Its not just amazing at increasing your circulation but it’s also perfect for getting off any unwanted tan. Also, huge bonus if you can get your other half to do this for you - did someone say body massage/ tan removal?!”

For removing tan from your bed sheets

“If you’re really struggling to get them off, I would suggest doing pre-soak before they go in the washing machine with some stain remover (Pink Stuff Oxi is super cheap and works great). Followed by a super-hot wash, put it on 60 degrees and then watch those bedding sheets GLEAM!”

For removing tan from clothing

“If it’s an accidental spillage, soak it immediately in stain remover and put it the washing machine straight away. If it’s tan that has come off your skin from a night out and rubbed on to your clothes, then same principle – long, hot soak and wash. The longer you leave it, the longer it will take to come out. So the trick is, act fast!”

For a speedier and easier tan removal, shop our edit of the best quick-fix treatments below.

Rose & Caramel Purity Tan Removing Bubble Bath 500ml & Exfoliating Gloves

Forget the abrasive scrubs of time gone by, Rose & Caramel is changing the fake tan removal game. All it requires is a bath. Yup it’s that effortless. Pour the bubble bath formulation under the tap as it runs then soak up the suds for 20 minutes (book and a glass of wine optional). With the included mitts, buff your skin and marvel at the way the faux layer melts away. It’s almost unbelievable.

Buy now £22.99, FeelUnique

Tanologist Tan Eraser & Primer

Don’t be fooled by Tanologist’s low price tag, we swear by this tanning brand for its realistic glow but also for this supercharged formula that erases and primes your skin for the next application. Using a combination of our favourite skin-boosting ingredients include AHA wonder glycolic acid, it creates a foam that when applied, gently exfoliates without feeling harsh. It leaves your skin looking and feeling fresh, soft and smooth. You can also apply on the face and the product is vegan and cruelty-free.

Buy now £12.99, Superdrug

Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser

Aussie label Bali Body is offering you the chance to start your false tan routine from fresh in just five minutes. Ideal if you make a mistake – or worse yet, are left with orange hands – you can fix lack of mitt mishaps quickly and easily. Just apply on the skin for the allotted time, followed by a warm shower. While it takes away the tan, it also packs the skin with much welcomed moisturising ingredients.

Buy now £11.24, lookfantastic

Tan-Luxe Glyco Water Tan Remover & Primer

While it may resemble water in its crystal clear appearance, this formula packs a serious punch in its fake tan removing properties. Think of it as an eraser for your makeup bag as well as a cleanser and primer so you can create the ultimate blank canvas. The formula has been infused with vitamin C and glycolic acid that work to exfoliate and brighten, giving your skin a fresh-faced radiance. Apply with a mitt, leave on for five minutes and then wash off.

Buy now £24.00, Cult Beauty

St. Moriz Advanced Glycolic Peel Tan Remover

Leave your skin refreshed with this remover from St Moriz that breaks down self-tan remnants. Not only does it melt away the product with glycolic acid, salicylic acid and walnut shell grains, but does so without stripping or drying out the skin as the formula is rich in hydrating ingredients. There’s also attention paid to the fragrance that is surprisingly pleasant and not that biscuity aroma that you may expect from a fake tan label.

Buy now £7.99, Boots

St. Tropez Tan Remover Prep & Maintain Mousse

Minimise fake tan fiascos with this mousse from legendary fake tan label St Tropez. The remover makes it easier than ever to eliminate build and prep skin for some real tanning action or a fresh coat of the famous formula. Apply the foam generously on your body and leave for five minutes. It contains a combination of detoxifying cotton extract and probiotics to clean and prime.

Michaella Bolder, St.Tropez Ambassador and Tanning Expert recommends using the St.Tropez Tan Removing Mitt. She explains, “the reason for the Mitt as opposed to exfoliating gloves is that the Tan Removing Mitt has grains that go five different ways. So actually the success of removing your tan using a Tan Removing Mitt is huge! I’ve tried it so many times with gloves and I find that the Mitt gives completely different results. The five grains work to really buff and lighten the tan superfast, whilst softening the appearance of dry skin, leaving the body perfectly prepped and gently exfoliating the body from top to toe.

“When you jump in the shower I make sure my Tan Removing Mitt is lovely and wet and then you will want to always scrub in circular motions or up and down, the same way you would apply your tan. Follow with your regular shower crème or shower gel, and you will see that you have already removed some of the pigment and taken your tan up a tone. Follow with moisturiser and repeat this process the until you achieve your desired results.”

Buy now £13.05, FeelUnique

Bondi Sands Coconut & Sea Salt Body Scrub

If you’re sceptical about the about the efficacy of the products on this list and prefer some good old fashioned scrubbing, another Australian import Bondi Sands has you covered with this deliciously scented product that tackles stubborn self tan. It contains a combination of naturally-derived exfoliants like sea salt and sand directly from Oz as well as coconut husk and walnut shell. While more abrasive than the other treatments on this list, the product didn’t feel too harsh or irritating and left skin feeling silky smooth after. Plus, due to the light colour granules, it doesn’t leave a crime scene in the shower.

Buy now £9.74, lookfantastic

Sienna X Eraser Self Tan Remover and Mitt

Complete with a mitt, this combo set from Sienna X should be applied all over your body for the ultimate tan detox. It has been crafted with aloe vera and willow bark to gently exfoliate but soothe skin as you go. Use as a targeted treatment with a cotton pad for any minor mistakes or create a clean canvas by incorporating into your shower routine.

Buy now £19.99, lookfantastic

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