7 home remedies to quickly remove self-tanner, from lemon juice and baking soda to sugar scrubs

7 home remedies to quickly remove self-tanner, from lemon juice and baking soda to sugar scrubs
You probably have something in your kitchen cabinets that'll help you remove that self-tanner easily without having to buy anything at the store.Kanawa_Studio / Getty Images
  • Self-tanners help you get a tanned look without sun damage, but they might leave streaks or spots.
  • Home remedies include baking soda mixed with baby oil or lemon juice, vinegar, and body scrubs.

Self-tanning products offer a great way to get a safe summer glow and keep it going all year long, but they do involve a bit of a learning curve.

It's common to notice some streak marks or dark spots as your self-tanner dries. And if you end up with patchy orange skin, or hands much darker than the rest of you, you may not feel much like venturing out in public to pick up some self-tanner remover.

But here's the good news: You might already have everything you need to lighten an orange or streaky tan, on your kitchen shelves or in your bathroom cabinet.

Read on for seven tips to fix self-tanner streaks or dark patches and help your self-tan fade a little faster.

1. Lemon juice and baking soda

You can make a natural, acidic exfoliant by mixing lemon juice, which contains citric acid, and baking soda in a one-to-one ratio until they form a paste.


Here's what to do:

1. Start with a quarter cup of each ingredient.

2. Combine in a small bowl and mix until combined.

3. Add more lemon juice and baking soda, in equal amounts, as needed.

4. Apply this paste to your skin with your hands or a cotton ball, then rinse it off with warm water, says Dr. Anna Chacon, dermatologist at MyPsoriasisTeam.


This combination of citric acid and baking soda can lighten up and smooth out smaller self-tanning mishaps. Your hands, for example, may end up darker than the rest of your body after applying self-tanner. Lightly scrubbing some of the paste between your palms can help even out the coloring on your hands.

Important: While lemon juice is a common household remedy for cleaning, preserving fruit, and relieving sore throats, using citric acid on your skin can cause increase your skin's sensitivity. It's best to use it sparingly and stop if you experience any inflammation or irritation.

2. Baby oil and baking soda

If lemon juice proves too harsh for your skin, you can mix baby oil and baking soda to create a gentler paste.

Baby oil can help even out a full body self-tan or help it fade more naturally, if some areas stay a little darker than others.

Here's what to do:


1. Combine a quarter cup of baby oil with a quarter cup of baking soda until the mixture forms a paste.

2. Add more of each ingredient as needed, in equal amounts.

3. Apply the mixture generously and let it soak into your skin for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Rinse it off in the shower or bath.

Quick tip: Baby oil is a safe solution for most people, so you might start with this method if you have more sensitive skin. But if you don't have baby oil, you can also try olive or coconut oil — both of which offer research-backed benefits for your skin.


3. White vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Dabbing or lightly rubbing vinegar on your skin with a cotton ball can help correct small areas of discoloration from self-tanner.

Just be gentle when rubbing vinegar onto your skin — both white and apple cider vinegar can cause irritation and dry out your skin. Only leave the vinegar on for a minute or two before rinsing it off.

If you have sensitive skin, try diluting vinegars with a little water before applying them. Chacon also recommends applying a moisturizer after using vinegar on your skin to help combat dryness.

Note: You may want to skip this method if you only want to lighten your self-tan, not remove it completely. Vinegar can remove color a little too well, so you may end up with next to no tan at all if you're not careful.

4. Hop in the shower and exfoliate

If you notice some streaks or dark spots on your skin, a hot shower can help smooth out streaks and give your self-tan a more natural appearance.


The combination of hot water and steam can help lighten any dark spots, tone down your overall tan, and soften your skin. Exfoliating with your favorite body scrub can also help smooth out streaks and lessen any discoloration.

Try these exfoliation tips:

  • Gently exfoliating any dark spots every two or three days can help your self-tan fade more evenly.
  • If you don't have any exfoliants on hand, you can try gently buffing the problem areas with a washcloth.
  • Avoid scrubbing too hard or too often — exfoliants can damage your skin barrier, so overusing them can potentially cause skin sensitivity, irritation, and dryness, says Dr. Mamina Turegano, dermatopathologist and co-founder of Skintap.com.

Note: Oil-based body scrubs can also help break down dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient in many self-tanners, but these scrubs may remove more of your tan — or even get rid of it entirely.

5. Mix sugar with olive or coconut oil

Fresh out of body scrub? You can try making your own with just a few ingredients. Both olive oil and coconut oil are extremely moisturizing, and by mixing them with sugar, you can make a homemade skin-softening exfoliant in just a few minutes.

Here's what to do:


1. Combine a half cup of olive or coconut oil with a quarter cup of sugar and mix until smooth.

2. Add an optional teaspoon or two of vitamin E oil to the mixture if you want to give your skin an added layer of protection

3. Add 10 or so drops of your favorite essential oils to boost your scrub with a relaxing or energizing fragrance.

Sugar scrubs help remove dead skin cells from your epidermis, the layer of skin where that absorbs self-tanner, Chacon says.

Just use them sparingly — like any other exfoliant, sugar scrubs can cause skin irritation if used more than two or three times a week.


6. Hair removal cream

Hair removal creams such as Nair or Veet can help lighten or remove your spray tan. Just keep in mind they may also remove some of your hair along with it.

Here's what to do:

1. Apply hair removal cream to target areas to lighten or smooth out streaks.

2. Start with a pea-sized amount for streaks and a quarter-sized amount to lighten a full self-tan. Add more as needed, in small amounts

3. Leave the cream on for no more than half the recommended time listed on the bottle, then gently wash or wipe it off.


4. Keep in mind the longer you leave the cream on, the greater the chance you'll remove your hair, as well.

Note: Since hair removal creams involve chemical exfoliation, they can cause irritation if you have sensitive skin.

7. Bronzer

If you don't have time to scrub your suddenly orange skin, you can try dusting on some bronzer to tone it down.

This temporary fix can help color correct your tan until you have time to try a more labor-intensive solution.

Insider's takeaway

If your self-tan didn't come out quite as you hoped, try not to panic — a number of household items can help lighten an orange or streaky tan, if you don't want to wait it out.


Just keep in mind that using items not meant for skin can cause dryness and irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin. Make sure you rinse these remedies off completely and use a moisturizing lotion to avoid drying, Chacon says.