Fake tans are extremely popular for achieving a gorgeous, sun-kissed glow without exposing your skin to harmful UV rays. However, we all know that dreaded fake tan smell that can linger on your body, clothes and sheets for days.
As unpleasant as it is, that distinctive fake tan odor is caused by a chemical reaction and is not harmful. The good news is there are many effective tips and products to help you get rid of fake tan smell quickly and easily.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain exactly what causes fake tan odor, and provide helpful recommendations for removing fake tan smell from your body, clothes, home and more. Follow these tips and you can enjoy your sunless tan without the unpleasant scent!
What Causes The Fake Tan Smell?
First, it’s important to understand what causes fake tanning products to produce such a distinct scent in the first place.
The active ingredient in most self-tanners and spray tans is called DHA, or dihydroxyacetone. DHA is a sugar that comes from plant sources like sugar beets and sugar cane. It reacts with the amino acids in the dead skin cells on your body’s surface, causing a color change that produces a tanned appearance.
This reaction between DHA and the amino acids on your skin is known as the Maillard reaction. It’s the same process that causes baked goods to brown in the oven. And just like when you’re baking cookies, the Maillard reaction produces a very particular scent.
With self-tanners and spray tans, the scent is often described as smelling like burnt sugar, biscuits or toast, with occasional hints of ammonia. The odor can range from mildly unpleasant to very strong, depending on factors like:
- The concentration of DHA in the product
- How evenly the product is applied
- Your skin’s pH balance
While the smell isn’t dangerous or harmful, it can be quite bothersome. The good news is that there are many ways to prevent and get rid of fake tan odor so you can enjoy your sunless tan.
Tips To Prevent Fake Tan Smell
Before we get into removing fake tan smell, here are some useful tips to prevent the odor in the first place:
1. Choose Low-DHA Formulas
Opt for self-tanning products with lower concentrations of DHA, typically 2-5%. Higher amounts like 10-15% DHA lead to much stronger odors. Gradual self-tanners are a great low-odor option.
2. Exfoliate Before Application
Slough off dead skin with an exfoliating scrub or loofah. This removes excess amino acids and helps the DHA absorb evenly for less smell.
3. Apply a Fragrance-Free Moisturizer
Putting a layer of moisturizer on before self-tanner creates a barrier, leaving less DHA to react with your skin’s amino acids.
4. Use Odor-Blocking Formulas
Look for self-tanners containing odor-suppressing ingredients like cyclodextrin, which traps smelly DHA molecules.
5. Mist Your Skin With Toner
Spritzing skin-balancing toner before applying self-tanner helps normalize pH for less scent.
6. Apply in a Well-Ventilated Space
Open windows or turn on fans to circulate fresh air and prevent built-up fake tan smell.
How To Get Rid of Fake Tan Smell From Your Body
If you’re already dealing with fake tan odor, don’t worry – here are the most effective ways to remove that stubborn fake tan scent from your body:
Gently scrubbing away dead skin cells helps eliminate fake tan smell lingering on your body’s surface. Use a loofah, exfoliating gloves or sugar/salt scrub.
Use a sulphate-based body wash like a salicylic acid cleanser to penetrate deeper and eliminate odors. Avoid moisturizing washes.
Wipes with odor-neutralizing ingredients like charcoal powder or lemon extract easily remove fake tan smell.
Spritz skin-balancing toner over tan areas to normalize pH and neutralize odors.
Mix baking soda with a bit of water to make a spreadable paste, then apply to tan. Let sit 5 minutes before rinsing.
Rub a lemon wedge over tan areas and let sit several minutes before rinsing clean.
Natural citrus oils in spray formulas help overwhelm stubborn fake tan smell.
Swipe an odor-eliminating deodorant likesoap & glory’s No Sweat over tan areas.
Wipe skin with diluted apple cider vinegar to kill bacteria causing bad odor.
Lightly coat tan areas with baking soda, leave on overnight, then rinse off in the morning.
How To Remove Fake Tan Smell From Clothes
That unpleasant fake tan stench can linger in your clothes too. Here’s how to thoroughly remove fake tanner smell from fabrics:
Launder clothes right after wearing them while self-tanning, before smell sets in.
Wash clothes twice, using an extra rinse cycle to remove residual fake tan and odor.
Add an odor-eliminating detergent booster like scented Destain or borax to washing machine.
Soak clothes in vinegar for 30 minutes before washing to breakdown fake tan residue.
Make a paste of water and baking soda, and rub it thoroughly over fabric by hand before washing.
Hang clothes outside so fresh air can help dissipate lingering odors.
Use a handheld fabric steamer to penetrate and eliminate fake tan smells in clothes.
Rub lemon wedges directly over any stubborn fake tan stains/smells before washing.
Oxygen bleach cleaners like OxiClean work well to remove set-in fake tanner smells.
Place clothes in a plastic bag and freeze overnight – this can help destroy odor molecules before washing.
Removing That Fake Tan Scent From Your Home
Unfortunately fake tanner smell can extend beyond just your body and clothes. Use these handy methods to rid your home of any lingering fake tan odors:
Open windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter and bad odors to exit.
Circulate air with ceiling, stand or box fans to dissipate smelly air.
Light fragrant candles in problem rooms to overpower fake tan smell.
Charcoal odor absorbers placed around the home soak up smelly air.
Gently simmer fragrant spices like cinnamon sticks or cloves.
Air purifying units with carbon filters help remove odors.
Bowlsof white vinegar absorb stubborn lingering odors.
Thoroughly wipe down any areas touched by fake tanner with soap and water.
Use a handheld fabric steamer to remove fake tan smells from upholstered furniture, rugs, etc.
Launder any sheets, duvet covers or pillowcases exposed to fake tan smells.
Top Products To Neutralize Fake Tan Odor
In addition to the handy homemade smell removal tips and tricks above, there are also many great commercial products designed specifically to tackle fake tan odor available online and in beauty stores.
Here are some of the best fake tan odor removing products to try:
- Sephora Collection Self-Tanning Cream – Has a pleasant floral scent that masks DHA odor
- St. Tropez Self Tan Remover Mousse – Foaming mousse helps erase fake tan smell
- Tanologist Self-Tan Eraser – Wipes away color and odor in one step
- Bondi Sands Self-Tanning Eraser – Removes fake tan smell with natural ingredients
- Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self-Tan Removing Water – Vegan formula eliminates odor
- Skin So Clean Fresh Press Odor Removing Spray – Citrus scent instantly neutralizes odors
- Tan-Luxe THE WATER Self-Tan Remover – Refreshing, hydrating smell remover
- MineTan So Fresh Self-Tan Removal Mousse – Foam absorbs and eliminates odor
- St. Moriz Advanced Pro-Formula Tan Removing Mitt – Exfoliates and cleans away smell
- Skinny Tan Detox Body Scrub – Buffs and deodorizes skin
The Takeaway: Enjoy Your Self-Tan Smell-Free
While that distinctive biscuity aroma is an unavoidable side effect of the tanning reaction that occurs with DHA self-tanners, having to live with unpleasant fake tan smell doesn’t have to be.
With the smell prevention tips, odor removal tricks and specialized products covered in this guide, you can confidently self-tan and spray tan knowing you have all the tools to keep embarrassing fake tan odor at bay.
Follow these recommendations to troubleshoot what’s causing the smell, rid fake tan odor from your body, clothes and home, and choose low-scent tanning products. With this handy guide, you can now get gorgeously bronzed and keep smelling fresh!