So you find yourself admiring your gorgeous new self-tanner sunless tan in the mirror, taking in your new bronze glow, only to notice that your beautifully highlighted hair is now stained with that very same self-tanner.
Mistakes happen and your hair is not immune to self-tanner stains, and it may cause some panic when you notice it at first. Self-tanner is there to help you achieve that summer glow all year round, but it is definitely not meant to tan your hair.
Applying self-tanner at home can become quite messy, and more tinted self-tanning products have a tendency to stain clothes, nails, and linen around your house. It makes sense then that hair that is not properly protected will become stained as well.
So how do you remove self-tanner from hair? The best way is to immediately wash your hair in warm water. Hang your head over the bathtub or sink and scrub with your normal shampoo. Avoid getting too close to your hairline so that you don’t get water streaks on your face.
Fear not, for there are ways to remove self-tanning stains from your hair, and better yet, avoid your hair from becoming stained altogether.
Prevention Is Best – How To Protect Your Hair From Self-Tanner
It might take you a few stained hair mishaps to realize that prevention is your best option, rather than having to work through removing the self-tanner from your hair after each application.
There are a few ways to prevent any self-tanner from coming into contact with your hair, and if you are really serious about prevention, you can use all these steps at once for the ultimate protection.
- Tie your hair back with clean, dry hands before even starting the application. Place it up in a bun at the top of your head, far away from your neck and face.
Be sure to get every strand tied up so there aren’t any loose pieces hanging down, which could come into contact with the self-tanner and then potentially spread it to the rest of the hair.
- Apply hair conditioner or moisturizer, such as a barrier cream, around your hairline, all the way from the front to the back of your neck.
Do not apply it so thick so that it interferes with the self-tanner on your skin, but enough to prevent the self-tanner from reaching your hair.
- Use a shower cap to cover your hair and the front of your hairline. This is a sure way that the self-tanner will not come into contact with your hair.
It also protects from any splashes, spills or mistakes that might happen when applying the self-tanning product to the rest of your body. Often, instinctively we touch our hair, without thinking, and this is the best way to stop staining your hair if you do so.
Practicing all three of these tips will be the best way to stop the self-tanning product from touching and staining your hair, saving you a heap of stress when parts of your hair turn bronze or orange.
How To Remove Self-Tanner From Hair
There are a few ways to remove self-tanner from your hair, and all can be done at home with relative ease.
It might take you some tries to find out which solution works best with your hair, but with some luck and trial and error, you will find the solution that sorts the problem out.
Fake tan remover
There are fake tan removers available for purchase that help to remove self-tanner from the skin or help to remove streaks and patches from an uneven tan. This is the best self-tan eraser that I’ve found. It is made from one of my absolute favorite self-tanning brands: Bondi Sands.
I’ve found that fake tan removers (including the one from Bondi Sands), work best on self-tanner that has had at least 24 hours to settle into the skin. It doesn’t work as well right after you’ve applied self-tanner. That means that this technique requires patience since you will have to wait at least a day before trying to remove the fake tan.
However, if you have color-treated hair, I’d recommend trying a different method. My concern with bleached or colored hair is that the chemicals in the tan remover would affect your hair color.
This is the same reasoning we use when we buy shampoo that is safe for color-treated hair. If you are set on trying out the tan eraser with colored hair, be sure to do a small patch test first.
Wash your hair
This seems fairly simple, but it can be one of the simplest ways to remove self-tanner from your hair. This is the best method for people with color-treated hair.
Try and hang your head over the bath to wash your hair, as you should not get into a shower four to eight hours after applying self-tanner, as it might affect the way the tan develops on your skin.
Try and only get your hair wet and avoid any water contact with your skin. Use warm water, along with your normal shampoo, to scrub the stain out of your hair.
Use a conditioner after doing this to bring back some moisture to your locks.
Olive oil or coconut oil
Many people swear that heated virgin olive oil works to remove self-tanning stains from hair.
Make sure the olive oil is at a warm temperature, and not too hot that it might burn your hair. Leave it on for a little while to soak it into your hair, and when washed off it should remove the self-tanning stain.
While I haven’t personally used olive oil, I have used coconut oil as a makeup remover in the past, so I would assume that it would work the same as the olive oil method. Plus, coconut oil smells better!
You can try to use a chlorine-based color neutralizer, found at most stores, to remove the staining from blonde hair. It might not remove the stain completely, but it will tone down the orange and bronze tones quite substantially.
This is a safe option for both blondes, redheads, and brunettes since you can choose a product that is specifically formulated for your hair color.
Here are some color neutralizers that I recommend:
For color-treated blonde hair: Paul Mitchell Platinum Blonde Shampoo.
For color-treated brown hair: Joico Color Balance Blue Shampoo.
For color-treated red hair: Redken Color Extend Shampoo.
You will find some products on the market which help to strip permanent color from the hair, and these can be quite successful when removing self-tanning stains from hair as well, but only if you’re okay with removing color from your hair at the same time as removing the self-tanner.
Just remember to do a patch or strand test at first to make sure it doesn’t damage your hair too much and be sure to do a deep condition treatment afterward to ensure your hair gets the moisture it needs to recover properly.
Lemon is commonly used to remove or tone down self-tanning mistakes on the skin. The same can be applied to hair.
Squeeze out some fresh lemon juice onto a cotton pad and apply it to the stains on your hair.
Leave it to soak in for a few minutes and then rinse out completely. If it doesn’t remove the stain completely, it will lighten it and hopefully, it will fade over time.
This method is best for natural blondes (not color-treated hair).
Bicarb, like lemon, is often used to remove self-tanning stains. Make a paste with some bicarb and water and rub it into the stained patches of the hair.
Leave it to soak in for a little while and then wash it off. Rub in some moisturizer to the hair to give it extra hydration after this. Again, I’d recommend this method to natural blondes and wouldn’t recommend this on color-treated hair.
Toothpaste works well to remove stubborn stains, and the same applies to removing stains from your hair.
Rub some toothpaste into the stained strands and leave it to sit for a few minutes. Wash it off and the stain should have faded or been removed completely.
How Does Self-Tanner Stain Hair?
The active ingredient in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA reacts with the top dead layer of the skin to develop a bronzed tan. The DHA can easily be absorbed into hair as hair is quite porous.
This can lead the self-tanning product to darken the hair, and the stains can be made worse if you use a self-tanning product with an added tint or bronzer, which also do stain the hair.
One way to avoid a bronzer or tint from staining your hair is to use a clear self-tanner.
Unlike traditional self-tanners, these clear products do not contain tints or bronzers. There are also some clear self-tanning towelettes that are great to use around the hairline.
You should be able to get a more accurate spread around your hairline and face when using a towelette, instead of a lotion or spray that might spread or spill into the hair, causing stains.
Can you apply self-tanner to your scalp for thinning hair?
This is a good question. If you have dark or medium-dark hair, then you might be able to get away with applying self-tanner on your scalp to reduce the appearance of thinning hair.
Blonde and strawberry-blonde hair won’t have the same result, since the tanner will affect the color of your hair. For people with lighter-hair colors, I’d recommend applying a bronzer than can be easily washed out of your hair, just in case you don’t like the results.
Does self-tanner stain sheets and linen?
Self-tanner definitely has the ability to stain clothes, linen, and sheets. It is so important to remember to wait for your self-tanner to dry completely before putting on clothes or coming into contact with other linens, especially if you are using a self-tanner with an added tint or bronzer.
How do I remove self-tanner from a swimsuit?
Many people choose to tan in a swimsuit, as you aren’t left completely bare but still have most of your skin showing for the application.
The problem with this is that there is a good chance self-tanning product might get onto your bathing suit and stain it.
To remove the stain from the swimsuit, apply a solution of warm water and mild soap or fabric detergent to the stained area. Rub it into the stain using your fingers and leave it to soak in for a few minutes.
Rinse it with cold water once it has soaked in. If you have stained white items, you can use some hydrogen peroxide to remove the stain.
How do I remove self-tanner from jewelry?
You might have forgotten to remove your wedding ring or favorite earrings before self-tanning, and they may become stained.
Removing the stains are fairly easy. Simply fill a small bowl or jug with warm water and some mild dishwashing soap.
Mix it up to create bubbles and use this to wipe off the stains on the jewelry. You can also leave the jewelry to soak in the soapy water for a while and then rinse it off.
Stained hair is a common mishap when it comes to self-tanning at home. Luckily, there are more than enough tricks to prevent self-tanner from staining your hair, and other ways to remove self-tanner stains from your hair if it does happen!