A question we get on occasion is “how do I get rid of my tan?”  It was a curious question.

To start, I had to really think of some good reasons why someone would want to get rid of a tan. Goths might not like the healthy glow of a tan, nor would vampires for that matter, or I suppose lovecraftian fishfolk. Folks who were trying to impress other Irish folk, probably, would also not appreciate the bronzing effect of the sun. I suppose going on a fishing trip when you told your boss you contracted the Ebola virus would be another reason. Gamers may want to preserve that never-leave-mom’s-basement look. Of course, people want to get rid of tan lines, which look silly. Perhaps some people just like the lighter skin tones in their color spectrum. Whatever your reasons are, if you have a tan to get rid of, read on.

I’ve talked to dermatologists and researched well; to get rid of a tan, you’ll need to stay patient, stay away from dangerous skin dyes and other ill-advised shortcuts, and focus on prevention in the future. It is also important to keep your goals realistic – completely avoiding the sun or always dousing on the sunscreen can lead to a deficiency in vitamin D. Read on to learn how to get rid of a tan safely. An easy way to do all of those would be to move to Minnesota and live there all winter long.

About Sunscreen

There are three things you can do to avoid that golden tan, which mainly involve prevention of UV rays hitting your skin in the first place:

A) cover up

B) avoid the 10am – 4pm sun

C) wear sunscreen

If you don’t know how to cover up – or how not to go outside – I can’t help you, but I am a sunscreen expert (I burn easy). Even if you’re naturally dark, you’ll need a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Be generous with your application; for an average-sized person, it should take about 4oz – think shot glass (I burn easy and drink). It is best to apply at least ten minutes before heading outside. If you’re like me and you sweat easily, use a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium. Lastly, if you’re going to be outside for an extended period, reapply every 2-3 hours. You can get Banana Boat SPF 50 family size sunscreen at Amazon.

Best Ways to Get Rid of a Tan

To get rid of a tan, preventing future exposure is key.

As I mentioned earlier (left sidebar) there are three ways to do this. First, you can avoid the sun when it’s doing its worst – between 10am and 4pm. Secondly, you can wear tight knit, sun- protective clothing, as well as a hat and sunglasses. Lastly, you can wear sunscreen. As a light-skinned fellow, I only need around 10 minutes of sun daily to get my vitamin D requirements, and then I employ one or all of these safety measures to keep from burning (I wish I could tan).

Invest in some good, lightweight, long-sleeved shirts for summer. It is best if they have collars. This step, alone, will alleviate the need to cake as much of your body with sunscreen.

Exfoliating is a great way to get rid of a tan, or at least speed up the process.

To get rid of a tan, you need dead skin cells to slough (shed) more quickly, and basically this is what exfoliating is. You can use a loofah or exfoliating brush before or during a shower to rub away dead skin cells. Use exfoliating, granular/abrasive cleansers to help take away the dead layers of skin. In a sense, being thorough with your towel after bathing is exfoliating. If you want to get rid of tan lines, focus on the lines to blend sooner. Whether you have a fake tan or a legit beach tan, exfoliating will speed up how fast you get rid of it.

Using an exfoliating lotion can also help get rid of a tan more quickly.

These lotions contain AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids) or BHA (beta-hydroxy acids), which, again, speed up the rate at which dead skin cells are shed. One thing to be mindful of is that exfoliating can leave skin dry and brittle, especially if you are using more than one method to exfoliate. Purchasing one that is designed for dry skin can help prevent this. Whichever product you choose, observe your skin’s reaction, as people tend to have different reactions to different products depending on skin type and health. You can find Paula’s Choice exfoliating solution at Amazon.

Getting rid of a tan with a lemon is an age-old remedy.

Before showering, slice the lemon in half, rub the areas that you want to become paler for 1-2 minutes, and then finish your shower as you normally would. The citric acid in the lemon helps to break down partially dead skin cells, revealing your lighter side beneath. It may take a week of treatments, but this method has the benefit of leaving skin soft and lemony fresh. It is important to rinse the lemon off before going outside, unless you want to deepen that tan.

The best way to get rid of a tan is to just be patient and let it fade away.

If you cover up, use sunscreen, and avoid the sun from 10am to 4pm, your tan will fade and your tone will be back to “normal” in a matter of months. A sunless tan will fade in as little as a week. Your skin, or integumentary system, is the largest organ in the human body, and you should treat it kindly. Avoid harsh chemicals and easy solutions. If time doesn’t fade your tan, visit the doctor, as this could be a sign of Addison’s disease, severe skin damage, or a dermatological disorder.

Get Rid of a Tan Products

Makeup with Sun Protection.

If you want to get rid of a tan that is mostly on your face, and you’re a female (or emo, goth, or whatever), start wearing cosmetics that fight the sun. These foundations come in creams and powders, and they generally have an SPF of 15. My wife is a redhead and uses Almay Nearly Naked Makeup SPF 15, and it has worked well at protecting her sensitive skin.


Sun-protective clothing is expensive, and normal clothes offer at best a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 5. SunGuard is a product that you can add to your wash to give your clothes a UPF of 30 for up to twenty washings. This product has the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Approval, so you know it works. It leaves no odor and produces no irritation. If you want to get rid of a tan, you may want to try SunGuard.

Khushi Calming Body Scrub.

Most of the time, I make an effort to steer people towards organic products free of harsh chemicals. This product scored a perfect “0” with the EWG (Environmental Working Group), which studies the chemicals in everyday products. This product exfoliates well, and the essential oil of ylang ylang gives it a wonderful fragrance.

Badger SPF 30 Sunscreen.

If you have a tan to get rid of, you’ll need sunscreen. Here is another product that scored a “0” with the Environmental Working Group. It is certified organic, and it must work, as the FDA is a stickler with sunscreen SPF ratings. It is water resistant, but you’ll want to reapply often if you’re in and out of the water.

Not only will this reduce your chances of tanning, but it will prevent the dreaded sunburn with all of its peeling and itchiness.

How Much Vitamin D Do We Need From the Sun?

Here we have a great controversy in medicine that I, an English teacher, cannot answer. Western doctors zealously scream, “Wear sunscreen all the time! No exceptions!” If you have a tan to get rid of, you should do just that; however, some research is being done that contradicts our complete avoidance of the sun. We acquire vitamin D from the sun, after all, and a deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and insomnia. The human race evolved on a sunny planet (sorry creationists), and it does seem a bit strange that we would be nearly allergic to the sun god. According to some doctors – whom I believe – a light-skinned individual like myself should be getting about ten minutes of exposure daily. If you live in the northern states, you won’t get vitamin D from the sun during the winter. I take vitamin D supplements, eat fish, and drink fortified milk during these dreary times, though vitamin D from the sun is best. Use some common sense here – you shouldn’t completely avoid the sun, nor should you subject yourself to vanities like tanning or absurdities like burning.

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About the Author

Julianne Ragland

Julianne Ragland