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Removing Fake Tan from your Body

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 4 Oct 2015 | comments*Discuss
Fake Tan Stains Tanning Solution Stains

We’ve all been there – your carefully applied fake tan has somehow streaked resulting in embarrassing stripes across your body. Or you forgot to wash your hands thoroughly and now have strangely orange palms or feet. Worse, you have applied too much and are now bright orange all over! What should you do?

Don’t Panic!

If the problem is on your skin, remember that most fake tans fade of their own accord after a few days so resist the urge to scrub your skin raw now – you will do far more damage to yourself than a few day’s embarrassment being a funny colour! In fact, the gentlest and kindest way to deal with it is to allow your outermost layer of ‘tanned skin’ to slough off naturally. Cover up with appropriate clothing and try to counter any comments or curious looks with as sense of humour and maybe even a wry admission. Most people will be sympathetic – many will have probably been there themselves! – and they will appreciate your honesty.

With regards to fake tan stains on clothing, prevention is really better than cure. Most tanning products will advise you of a time period to wait before getting dressed but you should always wait a minimum of at least 15 minutes after application before putting your clothes back on. To be on the safe side, it is also best to get dressed in old clothes – rather than that beautiful, new, pristine white summer frock! Also make sure that you are not standing, sitting or leaning on any fabrics, such as cream carpets, white bed sheets or delicate upholstery – for a period of time after application.

If it Must Come Off…

Obviously, there may be situations where you simply cannot afford to wait and let nature takes its course – for example, if you have a wedding or important job interview to attend. So here are a few suggestions for different areas of the body:

Face and Neck
First, remember that fake tan is least effective on the face and within 24 hours, the tan will have already toned down in colour so if at all possible, try to leave it alone and counter with some judicious use of make-up. If you are desperate, try massaging baking soda into your damp skin (e.g. in the shower), using small, gentle circles. This has an exfoliating action which will remove any dead skin that is ready to be sloughed off. This treatment will help greatly with any “blotchiness” that comes from fake tanning products. If the colour is even but simply unnatural, moisten a cotton pad with alcohol-free toner or a liquid make-up remover and wipe it gently over your face and neck. Alternatively, find a product containing Apha- or Beta-Hydroxy Acid solution and apply before bedtime – you should see an improvement in the morning.

Hands and Feet
For orange palms and soles, body hair bleach can be very effective. Apply to the stained areas, leave for about 10 minutes and then rinse off thoroughly. If other, more sensitive, areas are stained such as wrists, knees and ankles, try the Apha- or Beta-Hydroxy Acid solution. Ordinary hydrogen peroxide (such as from your First Aid kit) can also work, although make sure that it is no older than 6 months old because otherwise, it will be ineffective. While it may not work immediately, it should help to lighten the tan more quickly if you keep applying it daily to restricted areas.

Note that hydrogen peroxide is a very powerful chemical and can harm the skin through free radical damage – therefore, it should NEVER be applied to large areas of the body. Remember to always test a small area of skin first when using any chemical as they can cause severe irritation. In addition, never use different products at the same time (eg. hydrogen peroxide and body hair bleach) on the same area of skin.

Fingernails and Toenails
Again, body hair bleach can work well on stained toenails and cuticles. For fingernails, try soaking them in a bowl of denture cleaner.

An area that often has to endure constant shaving and deodorising, it is no surprise that the skin around the underarms can look strange and absorb fake tans badly, causing a ring to form around the underarm. It is best to gently exfoliate the area using a scrubbing cloth.

Knees and Elbows
Again, exfoliation with a scrubbing cloth is a good solution and you can do it quite vigorously with something like a sisal scrubbing cloth. However, never rub your skin red.

Torso, Legs and Arms
These parts of the body need more gentle treatment so it is best to coat yourself in baby oil, followed by a long bath during which you can exfoliate very gently with a cotton washcloth. Daily soaking in a bathtub will also help reduce all-over “orangeness”. Swimming will also help to tone down the colour.

Remember to keep your skin moisturised at all times and to always be as gentle as possible. Raw, red skin is no more attractive than orange skin!

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