Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist) on 22nd Sep 2020

Wondering How To Deal With A Sun Tan? Check Out Effective Ways  

How To Deal With A Sun Tan

We love everything about summers right from having a blast at the beach to flaunting sun-kissed pictures except that stubborn tan, which is painful to get rid of.

Prolonged exposure causes aggressive skin tanning, which can remain on our skin for a long time, and without proper care and treatment, it can have adverse effects making our skin dull, lifeless, and darker than usual. If left unchecked can even aid in the premature aging of our skin! 

Why do we tan in the sun?

Within the given solar range of wavelength, we access two types of Ultraviolet rays:- UV A and UV B. UV A causes the production of skin darkening pigment called Melanin by triggering the underlying Melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) in the skin as these rays have the ability to penetrate deeper into the skin.

On the other hand, UV B causes surface layers of the skin to become inflamed and irritated, resulting in sunburn.

Tanning is the necessary biochemical reaction of our skin to shield itself against the sunlight's adverse impacts.

It is a kind of defensive mechanism through which melanin is formed by our melanocytes that, in effect, provides a protective barrier against UV radiation by rendering our skin darker. 

Why is over tanning not good for the skin?

Tanning is a sign of DNA damage and unhealthy skin, resulting in darker, uneven skin tone, dark spots, and general dullness. Chronic exposure to the sun without adequate protection can also accelerate aging changes in your skin.

Scientists have also found a link between tanning and skin cancer. Over time, too much exposure in the UV rays can lead to skin cancer.

According to the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) 

Tanning is the process whereby skin colour is darkened or ‘tanned’. A tan, whether from time spent on a beach, on a sunbed, or through incidental exposure, is harmful and dangerous. Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning lamps and, if you have one, it means the DNA within your skin has been damaged. The cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging (including wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots), as well as skin cancer.

Our genes and skin color determine the level of tan. People with very dark colored skin, which secretes a significantly high amount of melanin, are barely sensitive to UV radiation.

In contrast, people with very light skin color (low levels of melanin) are highly sensitive.

Scientists believe that melanin production provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of 2 to 4, which is way lesser than the minimal level, adequate to provide protection against UV rays i.e., SPF 15.

Areas prone to tanning are not only limited to the face but can happen on all the body parts which are exposed to the sun rays such as hands, arms, feet, neck, legs, back, etc. 

How to remove tan effectively?

It is an ancient belief that sun tanning is irreversible. But it's now reversible as there are several OTC products, ingredients, and clinical treatments available to get rid of tanned skin effectively.

Any approach to treating suntan involves exfoliation and sloughing off the superficial dead skin layer damaged due to prolonged UV exposure and flushing out the excess amount of accumulated melanin. 

However, one needs to understand that treating tanned skin is a matter of time and patience. Profusely tanned skin can take between three to six months to cure and restore it closer to its original skin state.

The right approach to solving any skin-related issue is analyzing your skin type and concern, understanding the science behind the ingredients and choosing the proper treatment or products accordingly.

Here’s the list of some effective and highly researched treatments and remedies for treating a tan. 

1. Exfoliation

Gently exfoliating your topmost layer of the skin with a suitable homemade or over-the-counter scrub is one of the traditional and well-known practices to treat mild skin tanning cases (if you have sensitive skin or acne-prone skin, you might just want to stay clear from these tempting rub and remove tan method).

It helps in removing the dead skin layer of the skin, resulting in smooth and brighter skin. Although, nowadays, people prefer chemical exfoliation over physical exfoliation.

Chemical exfoliation is much more effective and safe for the skin than physical exfoliation. It will take time to show results, but your skin will not be damaged. 

2% Salicylic Acid and 10% Lactic Acid are excellent chemical exfoliants.  

2. Chemical peels

Chemical peels containing acids can be very intimidating to people and may sound scary. But the truth is, chemical peels are actually a massive boon to skincare! They are really efficient in fading out mild to moderate cases of suntan in no time.

They aid in the quicker exfoliation of the surface layers of dark and tanned skin. They peel off the dead and damaged skin layer effectively and reveal the fresh, soft, and luminous skin underneath.

They’re scientifically proven to help wash off the unwanted melanin in our skin and boost our skin’s natural regeneration process. 

Some of the common acids used in chemical peels are:

  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Salicylic acid
  • Citric acid

3. Skin Lightening Agents

There are many chemical ingredients that are claimed to have powerful lightening effects on our skin by removing hyperpigmentation. Some of the most popular skin lightening ingredients are:

  • Vitamin C: It is a widely popular ingredient for its antioxidant and anti-pigmentary effects. It works as a potent skin lightener by suppressing the excessive melanin production by inhibiting Tyrosinase (melanin-producing enzyme) process, which helps in fading out pigmentation.
  • Kojic Acid: Kojic acid is widely used in Asian skincare products to improve skin clarity by reducing pigmentation. It works by inhibiting the L-Tyrosinase enzyme required for the production of melanin. It is a scientifically proven secret skin lightener that effectively fades away dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and stubborn post-breakout marks leaving a clear, brighter, and radiant skin. 
  • Niacinamide: It is a form of Vitamin B3 which provides a wide range of benefits. Studies suggest that topical usage of a 10% niacinamide serum can lighten dark spots and treat hyperpigmentation by blocking the transfer of melanocytes (pigment-forming cells) and altering the melanin pathway skin’s surface.
  • Paper Mulberry: This plant species is known to have potent skin lightening effects by inhibiting tyrosinase activity comparable to hydroquinone. It also protects the skin from environmental aggressors. 

4. Laser toning

It is one of the most effective treatments for tan removal. It is a two-phased laser treatment that is performed in conjunction with a carbon emulsion application. The first phase blasts the carbon mask and clears the pores.

The second phase then induces collagen production by removing the damaged layers and boosting the skin's regenerative capability.

These laser beams penetrate deeper into the skin and selectively break the melanin pigment deposits, thus solving tanned and darker skin issues. 

5. Microdermabrasions

These are also a type of exfoliating treatments that have a targeted action in removing tanned and pigmented skin layers effectively.

They enhance the natural skin renewal process and assist in restructuring the collagen production in the skin.

They help in improving the overall texture and appearance of the skin and make you tan spots barely noticeable. 

Minimalist expert's advice

 While undergoing any of the above treatments, our skin is likely to get more prone to photodamage. Therefore applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen is non-negotiable.

Home remedies to remove tan

There are some tried and tested home remedies containing natural ingredients that are known to be helpful in treating mild cases of sun tanning.

However, they don’t have a scientifically proven efficacy and may not work for everyone. Also, these remedies are not as quick and effective as OTC products and treatments and work gradually on the skin.  

Minimalist expert's advice 

Don't just jump to try every DIY (we all get pumped up after watching those DIY mask videos)! Natural food ingredients contain a high concentration of allergens, and it can make your skin sensitive over longer run if not immediate redness. We recommend doing a patch test (again, we think its food what harm it can do? Remember, its food for your body but not for your skin). Also, stay away from the essential oil and other natural allergens.

These ingredients can be used in the form of masks, face packs, or face washes. They don’t actually make your skin significantly fairer, but it definitely helps enhance the tone and brightness of the skin. 

  • Aloe Vera: Aloe vera has long been used in skincare because of its numerous benefits. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that help in soothing the skin down in case of a sun burning. There is some evidence that says aloe vera can limit excess melanin production in the skin and in turn, fade pigmentation. It is due to the multiple benefits that it is used in almost every single skincare product out there. 
  • Lemon juice and honey: Lemon juice is a well-known bleaching agent which helps in lightening the skin tone, while honey is a natural hydrator which helps in making our skin hydrated, plump and dewy-looking. Mix both of these ingredients in adequate quantities and apply a thick layer on the skin and leave it on for a few minutes and then wash it off. This magical duo helps fade superficial sun tan naturally.

Good to Know

Lemon juice should always be used with caution and applied in a diluted form on the skin. It is known to make your skin more sensitive to sun rays; therefore, sunscreen should be used while stepping out in the sun. 

  • Bengal gram and turmeric face pack: It is an age-old remedy that has been in practice since our grandmother’s times. Turmeric has traditionally been used in India as a skin lightener, and scientifically proven to inhibit melanogenesis in the skin. Some studies have shown that turmeric helps in shielding the skin against photodamage. Gram flour is a natural exfoliator that rejuvenates and refreshes the skin. Take 1tbsp of gram flour, 1tsp of turmeric and to it mix some curd and lemon juice to make a thicker paste-like consistency. Apply it evenly on the face and leave for 30 minutes and then wash off with cold water. 
  • Papaya and honey: This incredible combo can be your de-tan secret as papaya contains proteolytic papain enzyme, which is helpful in skin lightening. It also helps in replenishing your skin. At the same time, honey provides hydration to the skin. Crush an adequate amount of papaya and mix 2tbsp of honey to it. Apply it on the skin evenly and leave on for 20 minutes and then wash it off with cold water. 
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a widely popular skin lightening agent. It contains phytochemicals that are scientifically proven to be helpful in battling against the adverse effects caused by the sun. It efficiently lightens the suntan and pigmentation on the skin caused by harmful UV rays. Smash 1-2 tomatoes and add 1tsp of lemon juice to it. Mix them well to make a thick paste and then apply it generously on the skin. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse off with cold water.

Some other natural ingredients which can help in the de-tanning process are:

  • Orange juice and yoghurt
  • Coconut water
  • Rosewater
  • Oatmeal and buttermilk
  • Ice cubes

Prevention and protection tips

Although suntan is unavoidable, there are some protective measures that we can implement in our day to day routine to prevent it from worsening over time, such as: 

  • The basic prevention is the repeated application of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or above. This holds to account even when you’re indoors or in shady areas. And it should be applied every three hours.
  • If possible, avoid or minimize being outdoors when the sun is at its highest.
  • Cover all the exposed areas of the skin with protective clothing while stepping out in the sun.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking sufficient amounts of water in summers to prevent your skin from drying out.
  • Maintain your skin clean and free from dead cells by exfoliating it every once in a week.
  • Avoid using tanning beds or sun lamps.


If you have a suntan, all these ingredients can truly help you in restoring back your original skin tone. However, one should understand that every skin is unique, and so is its response to a treatment or ingredient. What works on your skin may not work that effectively on others; therefore, it is advised first to take a small assessment of your skin and then choose the products and treatments accordingly.

Treating tanned skin is a very tedious and time-consuming process, and one should deal with it with patience and persistence.

All these methods require several sessions of the treatment or application to show their ideal potential results.

If your tan has not become manageable with these products and treatments due to any underlying cause, consider visiting a dermatologist before the condition worsens.