How to Get Rid of Self Tanner Smell (For Spray Tans and Fake Tans Too)

woman smell

Sunless tanning has advanced enormously in its technology over the last twenty years, and it is now possible to get a gorgeous, streak-free color using it. It is becoming more and more popular as we understand more about the risks of sun exposure. But for some, the smell is a major turn off.

The after-tan odor is an unfortunate side-effect of the ingredients working their magic on your skin to give you that golden glow.

The best ways on how to get rid of self-tanner smells are exfoliating beforehand and using a citrus shower gel to wash off the tan after it develops will help a lot. You can also find products designed to mask the smell.

Let’s explore where that fake tan smell comes from, and what you can do about it, in more detail.

Why Does Self Tanner Smell?

Before we explore how to get rid of the smell of self-tanner, let’s take a look at why it exists in the first place! Understanding the ‘self-tan stink’ means looking at what actually happens when you apply sunless tanning products.

Long-lasting self-tanners contain an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). It reacts with amino acids in your skin to create a bronzed look that withstands showers and swimming, without causing skin damage like UV rays do.

Whilst the advantages of DHA are clear, the disadvantage is that it is this chemical reaction that sometimes causes an unpleasant smell in self-tanners. If you’ve heard people joking about ‘DHA smell’ in your local salon – this is what they are talking about!

So, whilst the smell of fake tan is a downside of using it, I’m going to give you some tips on how to deal with it.

The smell I’m talking about in this article is the one associated with DHA reacting with your skin. If you are using a temporary fake tan or spray tan (that will wash off completely after a shower) and you don’t like the smell, it’s the product itself.

Many fake tans are enhanced with various scents, so if the one you’re using is particularly unpleasant, there’s nothing you can do except choose a different product to get rid of the smell!

How to Get Rid of Spray Tan Smell

It’s important to note here that because the smell is a result of the DHA reacting with your skin, it will mostly go away once you have showered off the product after letting it develop.

Whilst some people report the smell lingering for up to 72 hours after application, it won’t be there for the whole duration of the tanning effect! If it’s really unbearable for you though, here are some ways to deal with it better.

Exfoliate Before

The first thing you can do is all about skin preparation. If you exfoliate thoroughly before applying fake tan or going for a spray tan, you will remove dead skin cells that the product would otherwise attach onto. This will allow the self-tanner to sink in deeper to your skin and last longer.

The advantage of this is that once the development time has passed, you can clean your skin vigorously in the shower to thoroughly remove the smell, without worrying about removing your tan.

Find a Great-Smelling Shower Gel

About that post-development rinse, choose a shower gel that you love the smell of to wash off the product when it’s ready. I’ve found that lemon and lime scented shower gels are the best at removing the smell.

We Recommend: Avalon Organics Shower Gel

After your shower, apply a scented lotion to your skin. This is not only an essential step for keeping skin hydrated to make your tan look its best; it will also help to cover any remaining smell from the DHA in the self-tanner.

We Recommend: The Honest Company Face & Body Lotion

Sleep it Off

A great way to make the period between applying your self-tanner and having your first shower more bearable is to apply the self-tanner before bed.

This won’t actually make the smell go away, but you can sleep through the smelly development hours and get straight in the shower in the morning.

Use Baby Powder

Another thing you can do is apply a light dusting of baby powder to your skin after applying the fake tan. This is a great idea anyway in areas like the armpits because it helps to keep the color evenly distributed. But the added bonus is that the powder will help to neutralize the smell from the DHA reacting with your skin.

Finally, you could choose either a scented or DHA-free self-tanner, which I’m going to talk about more below.

Fake Tan That Doesn’t Smell

If you’ve been reading this and thinking that it all sounds like too much work, you might want to know if it’s possible to find a self-tan without smell. The good news is, there is, and you have options!

Scented Self-Tanner

Because companies have taken on feedback from their customers about the unpleasant smell that occurs in self-tanner, many have started trying to address the problem by adding scents to their products.

Loreal’s Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Mousse uses coconut water to mask the DHA smell, to great effect. The mousse consistency is also easy to apply and dries quickly onto the skin. You can also shower this one off after just four hours (although leaving it longer will lead to a deeper tan).

Another great option is Coco and Eve’s Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self-Tanner. The product is scented with mango and guava, making you feel like you’re on a tropical island! This product also uses all natural ingredients and has anti-ageing and anti-cellulite properties.

For more information on this check our article – best body washes to use after a spray tan.

DHA-Free Self-Tanner

You can of course avoid the DHA reaction smell altogether by using a self-tanner that doesn’t contain this ingredient. For people with sensitive skin, this might be the only option anyway, as DHA can cause a reaction. Just remember that DHA-free self-tanners are not as long-lasting and will wash off in a shower.

DHA-free self-tanners are a bit hard to find, but one that we love is the Glimmer Goddess Organic Self-Tanner. It uses natural and vegan ingredients and will give your skin a gorgeous glow that builds over 24 hours.

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