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How To Get Rid Of Self Tanner Smell

How To Get Rid Of Self Tanner Smell

Self-tanners make us glow even during the darkest months. But, boy oh boy, can they kick up a stink! As any seasoned faux-tanner will know, fake tans are regularly on-the-nose, leaving a yeasty, musty smell for a day or two following application. And, while some self-tanners have pleasant masking fragrances, these often fade out long before that underlying biscuity odour disappears…

So, what are you meant to do then if you want to get your self-tan on while avoiding a telltale pong? Well, for starters, you can check out this easy-to-follow guide! 

From product selection to prep, these are the simple steps you can take to get rid of that spray tan smell – plus some preventative measures worth employing. But first, the question on everyone’s lips. Why exactly ARE some self-tans so darn whiffy? 


Why the Smell?

You might’ve heard of dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. The self-tanning active responsible for your gorgeous glow, DHA is also the cause of that not-so-gorgeous biscuit or dirty sock smell that typically accompanies a fake tan. 

The change in colour and scent comes about as the result of a chemical reaction, called the Maillard reaction, that occurs when the DHA in your self-tanner reacts with the amino acids of your skin’s surface. And herein lies the problem. 

Since the smell comes from the chemical reaction while the DHA develops, smelling a bottle of self-tanner before use won’t indicate the degree of impending pong. It’s a matter of personal body chemistry, which means that people will all experience differing degrees of DHA-induced smelliness!

How to Avoid Self Tanner Smell in the First Place

However, you can definitely save yourself some hassle (and stink) by being proactive before using a self-tanner! Start by choosing a formula with a fragrance, or neutral scent, that will harmonise with your skin type and tone. Since the spray tan smell comes from a chemical reaction, minimising the smell really can be as simple as finding the right product.

While scented products won’t work a miracle, they can help cloak the smell of DHA for a few hours. Then, once the fragrance has gone, you can bridge the remaining gap with a bath or shower.

It’s also always a good idea to slough off dead skin cells with an exfoliant before self-tanning. True, this won’t directly prevent the smell. However, it allows your self-tanner to penetrate more deeply into the surface of your skin instead of clinging to dead skin cells. Which means? When you shower after tanning you won’t have to worry about scrubbing off your glowing tan – you can be a bit more vigorous and achieve a deeper, smell-reducing clean!


Can’t I Just Choose a Self Tanner Without DHA?

Yes! If you have especially sensitive skin, a DHA allergy, or want a more low-key colour, DHA-free self-tanners can do the trick. However, you’ll have limited self-tanning products to choose from. And you might also notice that your glow doesn’t last as long, or reach the same depth of colour. (Partly, this depends on your body’s chemistry and how receptive you are to tanning products or bronzers.)

Since the odour links directly with the chemical and your body’s reaction, another option is to try products with lower DHA levels. Or – and this one’s our pick – you could opt for a product with naturally sourced DHA! 

Not only does natural DHA provide a gorgeous natural-looking glow, it also has a gentler long-term impact on your skin. That’s why it’s the hero of our Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam and, of course, our Bronzing Face Drops. Also bursting with hydrating hyaluronic acid, these gradual facial tanning drops smell of mangoes, and will leave your skin soft, sun-kissed and radiant all week long.



Tips for Getting Rid of Self Tanner Smell

Still wondering how to get rid of that self-tanner smell? Well, there’s no magic formula, but there are some steps you can take to limit its potency in the 72-hour post-tanning window when DHA works its charms.

  • Showering. Once your self-tanner has developed, a nice cool shower in your favourite fruit or flower-scented body wash will help wash away the smell. Hot tip: Citrus seems to be extra effective at combating the self-tan or spray tan smell! 

Just be sure to wait at least four hours before showering after self-tanning, and avoid any exfoliants. (Otherwise, you’ll just scrub away your new sun-kissed glow!)

  • Odor neutralisers or perfumes. If you’re in a rush or don’t have the opportunity to shower, a little perfume, cream, or body butter goes a long way. Choose a scent that harmonises with the scent of the tanner for best results. 

  • Use baby powder. After applying your sunless tanning product, dust a little baby powder on your skin to help absorb and limit odour. Putting baby powder on your elbows, armpits and other areas prone to creasing also gives you a more consistent shade – so get sprinkling!

Prolonging the Life of Your Self Tan

Fact: Your skin is a self-improvement powerhouse, constantly reinventing itself by shedding millions of dead skin cells every day. (Tony Robbins would be proud!) As a result, most self-tanners last about one full week. That said, there are steps you can take to prolong your glow. 



We mention this because, in an attempt to limit the spray tan smell in the first few days, many people inevitably shorten their faux glow’s lifespan. Add in exercise and regular beauty routines, and your tan could be in trouble! To help keep your glow going, here are a few tips for working out with a self tan – especially during those epic summer sweat sessions.

Self Tanning Takeaways

Truth be told, the self-tanning smell you’re rocking might not be as bad as you think! Unless you’re in an enclosed space with other people, chances are nobody will really notice. But we totally get it, and agree that walking around smelling like dirty socks or biscuits shouldn’t be a compromise of tanning! Thankfully, the tips above should go a long way towards getting rid of the self-tanner smell you love to hate. 

Hungry for more? Make sure you check out our blog for more beauty resources and inspiration.


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Edited by: Vidhya


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