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Article: How to get rid of a suntan

How to get rid of sun tan. Home and professional treatments.

How to get rid of a suntan

While many people flock to beaches and tanning beds, some of us want to minimize the effects of the sun on our skin. If you have a tan and want to get rid of it, we'll show you how.

Quick links:


Lemon juice


Tan removal products

Aloe vera

Potato and cucumber

Chemical peel


Laser treatment

Let's learn about the best ways to remove sun tan together.

Why get rid of suntan?

Although many people love that bronzed, sun-kissed glow, there are reasons why others want to get rid of tanned skin:

  • Health risks. Excessive sun exposure and tanning can increase the risk of skin cancer, including the potentially deadly melanoma. It also accelerates skin aging, causing wrinkles and age spots.
  • Uneven tone. A tan can often lead to an uneven skin tone, with some areas appearing darker or splotchy compared to others.
  • Professional appearance. In certain professions or settings, a tanned appearance may be perceived as unprofessional or inappropriate.
  • Reversing damage. After prolonged sun exposure, some may wish to remove a tan and allow their skin to recover and regenerate, reducing the risk of further damage.


Exfoliation helps slough off dead skin cells and complements other skin treatments by allowing them to better penetrate and work their magic. Look for gentle scrubs containing lactic acid or glycolic acid, which are alpha hydroxy acids that can help loosen and shed dead skin cells.

Exfoliation products with gentle scrubbing agents help eliminate pigmented, dead cells from the skin's surface. This visibly reduces the appearance of a tan and promotes a more even skin tone. For a DIY option, try mixing sugar or finely ground oats with 2-3 teaspoons of yogurt and gently massage the skin in circular motions. Avoid harsh scrubbing, especially on sensitive areas.

Microdermabrasion is a professional treatment that helps remove the outer layer of dead skin cells through a controlled exfoliation process. With a custom applicator featuring an abrasive tip equipped with suction action, skin damage from tanning can be cleared away to reveal fresher skin underneath. The session lasts around an hour and is painless. Anesthesia is not required for the procedure. Your skin might appear tighter and pinkish after the treatment, but that is temporary.

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is one of the most popular and effective natural ingredients for fading a tan and brightening skin tone. It contains citric acid, which is a mild alpha hydroxy acid that helps break down dead skin cells. The vitamin C in lemon juice also inhibits the production of melanin, gradually diminishing dark spots and pigmentation.

Simply squeeze some fresh lemon juice and apply it directly to the tanned areas using a cotton ball. Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing with cool water. The tingling sensation is normal. You can also make a lemon juice and honey face mask by mixing 2 to 3 teaspoons of each and leaving it on for 20 minutes.

Start slowly, doing a small area test patch first if you have sensitive skin. Lemon can cause photosensitivity, so avoid direct sun exposure after use. With regular application every few days, you should see a noticeably more even, brighter complexion in 4 to 6 weeks as the tan fades. 


While yogurt alone cannot drastically lighten skin, its exfoliating lactic acid combined with probiotics and vitamin content can assist in gently fading a tan over time as dead skin cells slough off.

Apply a thin layer of plain, unsweetened yogurt to your face and other tanned areas. Let it dry for 15-20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water using gentle circular motions. The lactic acid will have worked to loosen and slough off dull, tanned surface cells.

You can also make a brightening face mask by mixing 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and a pinch of turmeric powder. Leave this paste on for 20-30 minutes before rinsing. The combination provides extra exfoliation and skin tone evening effects.

Using a yogurt treatment one or two times per week consistently can diminish sun tan and reveal brighter, more even-toned skin over 4-6 weeks.

Tan removal products

Tan removal products contain lightening compounds and chemical ingredients that combat tan and enhance skin-lightening effects. Choose products with these key ingredients:

  • Licorice extract contains liquiritin and glabridin flavonoids capable of removing a tan and alleviating UVB damage.
  • Kojic acid, extracted from fermented mushrooms, prevents melanin production with deep penetration.
  • Vitamin C inhibits the tyrosinase enzyme that triggers melanin production, reducing tanning effects.
  • Niacinamide, a vitamin B3 derivative, removes tan and lightens skin by lowering the number of melanocytes on the surface to prevent excess melanin.

Tan removal products have melanin-lightening ingredients to eliminate the tanned look on your skin’s upper layer. Tan removal creams, serums, or lotions penetrate deep skin layers and inhibit enzymatic activities that promote excess melanin production, which causes a tanned appearance.

Woman in a SwimZip swimwear by the pool—How to get rid of sun tan.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel is another natural ingredient that can help in removing suntan. It contains mucilaginous polysaccharides that help reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage. Aloe vera also has antioxidants such as vitamins C and E that inhibit excess melanin production, which is responsible for tanned skin.

Extract fresh gel directly from an aloe leaf if possible, or buy some quality aloe vera gel from the store. Gently rub or massage the cool gel onto any tanned areas of skin using circular motions. Let it absorb for 30 minutes before rinsing with cold water.

You can also make a brightening face mask by mixing 2 tablespoons of fresh aloe gel with 1 teaspoon of honey and lemon. Apply this soothing paste and leave it on for 15 minutes before washing off.

With regular application every few days, aloe vera can gradually fade tan and sun spots while deeply hydrating and calming sun-exposed skin. It's a gentle yet effective natural remedy for restoring a more even, radiant complexion over 4-6 weeks of consistent use.

Potato and cucumber

Potatoes contain natural bleaching agents such as catecholase enzymes and mild acids that break down and lighten pigmentation. The starch in potatoes also has gentle exfoliating properties.

To use, grate a raw potato and extract the juice—or blend the potato gratings into a smooth paste. Apply this potato juice or paste directly to tanned areas and allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing with cool water. You can do this 2 or 3 times per week.

Cucumbers are incredibly hydrating and also contain vitamin C which inhibits melanin production. The mild astringent properties help tighten pores and brighten skin as well.

Simply rub fresh, chilled cucumber slices over tanned skin in circular motions and allow the juice to absorb. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off with cool water. This can be done daily.

Both potatoes and cucumbers provide nourishing effects while lightening sun tan and dark spots. Their gentle nature makes them great natural options. Changes will become noticeable over 4-6 weeks when used consistently as part of your skincare routine. 

Chemical peel

Chemical peels take a more aggressive approach to skin treatment. Because you’re intentionally damaging your skin, you should consult your dermatologist before using these. 

With a chemical peel, you’re attacking the outer layer of skin with acid or some other agent, which kills it and allows it to slough off. This allows new, fresher skin to surface. They may produce side effects, such as skin irritation, discoloration, or infection.

Chemical peels remove the outer, sun-damaged layers of skin where excess melanin has accumulated. They utilize potent ingredients such as phenol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid, or lactic acid. Based on their strength, chemical peels are categorized as:

  • Deep chemical peels
  • Medium-depth chemical peels
  • Superficial or light chemical peels

Note: the deeper peels provide more dramatic results but also pose higher risks.


In Cryotherapy sun tan and sun spots are removed by freezing the affected skin cells using a liquid nitrogen solution. This gentle procedure is virtually painless and takes only a few minutes per session to achieve visibly brighter, sun tan-free skin.

During the treatment, the dermatologist applies the liquid nitrogen solution to the tanned areas using a cotton swab or a spray device. The extremely cold temperature causes the pigmented skin cells to freeze and eventually peel off, revealing lighter, more even-toned skin beneath.

Note: while cryotherapy is generally safe when performed by a trained professional, it may cause temporary side effects such as redness, swelling, or blistering. These side effects typically subside within a few days to a week following the treatment.

Laser treatment

Laser treatments remove sun tan by targeting and breaking down the excess melanin pigment in the skin. There are two types of laser treatments:

  1. Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment. An IPL laser delivers intense pulses of broad-spectrum light to target tanned areas of skin. This light energy heats and breaks down excess melanin, helping to reduce discoloration caused by tanning. A single IPL session typically lasts around 30 minutes and causes little to no discomfort. How many treatments you will need may vary based on your tan severity and skin type.
  2. Laser toning. During this procedure, your dermatologist uses a laser device that emits high-intensity light. This light converts to heat energy when applied to the skin, targeting and breaking apart accumulated melanin pigment responsible for the tan. The laser beams penetrate deep into the skin layers to eliminate excess melanin without damaging surrounding tissues. The precision of the laser enables safe and effective tan removal.

How to get rid of a tan on brown skin

If you have a medium to dark complexion, fading a sun tan may require a slightly different approach. Brown skin naturally has more melanin, which provides some built-in protection against harmful UV radiation. But, this doesn't mean you're immune to sun damage or tanning.

Here are a few secrets to help you get your glow back after too much fun in the sun:

  • Gently exfoliate 1 or 2 times weekly
  • Try aloe vera gel, potato juice, yogurt, or papaya to calm and lighten
  • Use products with niacinamide, kojic acid, or licorice extract
  • Consider professional peels or microdermabrasion for stubborn tan

How to get rid of a sun tan on your face

The face is often the first place to show signs of sun damage and uneven pigmentation. The delicate skin in this area is particularly prone to tanning, dark spots, and premature aging from UV exposure.

To fade facial sun tan and restore your radiant complexion, give these tips a try:

  • Whip up a mask using natural lighteners like yogurt, fresh tomato juice, or lemon juice
  • Gently massage in aloe vera gel or cucumber slices to soothe and calm inflammation
  • Opt for serums or creams containing vitamin C, licorice extract, or niacinamide to brighten
  • Exfoliate weekly with a gentle scrub or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) to slough off pigmented cells
  • Book a session with your dermatologist for a chemical peel, IPL treatment, or microdermabrasion

Pro tip: the best way to prevent a facial sun tan, or any sun tan for that matter, is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Limit your time in direct sunlight, especially during peak sun hours. Wear UPF-rated clothing, sun hats, and sunglasses for extra protection.

Skin types and tanning

When you get too much sun exposure, your body revs up melanin production to try and shield the deeper layers of skin from sun damage.

But sometimes UV rays can overwhelm your skin's defenses. A nasty sunburn can develop into sun poisoning, which causes inflammation, redness, and peeling. Repeated sunburns increase your risk of developing wrinkles, age spots, rough leathery skin, and even skin cancer.

Your natural skin tone plays a huge role in how easily you tan or burn. Those with fairer skin color don't have as much protective melanin, so they burn more quickly. Darker-skinned people tend to tan more readily. But no matter your complexion, too much sun isn't good for anyone's skin.

People with pale white to light brown skin generally fall into the "lighter skin tone" category and are more susceptible to burning. Those with darker brown to tan skin have built-in sun protection from higher melanin levels. And people with ebony skin tones have some of the highest levels of melanin and abundant natural sun protection.

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Woman in SwimZip swim pants enjoys sun—How to get rid of sun tan.

Tan removal FAQ

How do I remove 100% of a tan?

It is difficult to remove a tan completely, as UV exposure triggers melanin synthesis in the skin's deeper layers. Consistent use of exfoliants, skin lightening products with vitamin C or Kojic acid, and professional treatments such as chemical peels or laser therapy can significantly fade tan over time for brighter, more even skin.

Can an old sun tan be removed?

Old sun tan can be removed, but it may take longer than recent tanning. Regularly exfoliating to remove dead skin layers, using skincare products with lightening ingredients, and opting for professional treatments can help fade even the most stubborn tan. Be patient and diligent in your skincare routine for the best results.

Can a tan last years?

While a tan itself doesn't last years, the skin damage caused by UV radiation can have long-lasting effects. Repeated sun exposure can lead to premature aging, uneven pigmentation, and a higher risk of skin cancer.

How can I remove a sun tan quickly?

For quick sun tan removal, exfoliate with a scrub or alpha hydroxy acid to shed pigmented surface cells and apply natural lightening agents. For more immediate results, consider professional treatments that can remove the top layers of tanned skin.

Does warm water remove a tan?

Warm water alone won't remove tan, but it can help soften the skin and open up pores, making it easier for lightening ingredients to penetrate.  Don’t use water that's too hot, as this can strip the skin of its natural oils and lead to dryness and irritation.

How can I remove dark circles from my face?

While dark circles aren't necessarily caused by sun exposure, UV damage can worsen their appearance. To address dark circles, use an eye cream containing brightening ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide, or licorice extract. Gently dab the product around the eye to stimulate circulation. 

Do people with uneven skin tones tan differently?

People with an uneven skin tone may tan differently. Areas of the skin with more pigmentation (such as dark patches or freckles) may darken more quickly in the sun than lighter areas. This can make existing unevenness more noticeable. 

Protect your skin with SPF and use products that target uneven pigmentation to get a more uniform complexion.

Are tanning beds safe?

Tanning beds are not safe. They emit harmful UV radiation that can damage the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and eye problems. Tanning beds can also worsen dry skin, and cause sunburns and sun poisoning. For a safer alternative, consider using self-tanning products or bronzers to achieve a sun-kissed look without the health risks.

Further reading

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Heat rash vs sun poisoning

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What is a sun rash?

What does SPF 50 mean?

Best swimsuits

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