Does Self Tanner Expire?

If you were wondering if self-tanners expire, my answer is yes.

I know from experience when I used a self-tanner for an upcoming event hoping for that perfect tan.

To my horror, the next morning I had streaks and uneven color, a clear sign of the tanner’s expiration.

Thank goodness it was just a practice run.

Let’s dig deeper to learn why you should always find out if your self-tanner is expired so you don’t have a failed tan like I did!

Plus, learn some tips on how to apply self-tanner and how to fix it if something goes wrong.

Does self tanner go bad?

Does Self-Tanner Expire?

When it comes to self-tanning products, a common question arises: Does self-tanner expire? The answer is yes.

Self-tanners, like most cosmetic products, have a limited shelf life.

Typically, the shelf life of a self-tanner is around 12-18 months after opening. This duration can vary based on the brand and the composition of the product.

The main ingredient in most self-tanners is Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Over time, DHA can lose its effectiveness, leading to less satisfactory results.

As the product ages, you might notice:

  • The color becomes patchy or streaky
  • A decrease in the overall quality of the tan
  • Potential skin irritation or allergic reactions

It’s Not Just About The Tan

It’s important to note that the shelf life of a self-tanner is not just about its effectiveness but also about its safety.

Using an expired product can lead to skin issues, including irritation and uneven coloring.

To avoid these problems, always check the expiration date on the product before use.

In addition to the expiration date, the way you store your self-tanner can also affect its shelf life.

Keeping the self-tanner in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight can help maintain its effectiveness for a longer period.

The Science Behind Self-Tanner Expiration

The key to understanding self-tanner expiration lies in its primary active ingredient, Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells located in the stratum corneum, the top layer of the skin.

This interaction causes a color change, giving the skin a tanned appearance. However, over time, DHA can undergo degradation, affecting its ability to provide an even and natural-looking tan.

As self-tanners age, several changes can occur:

  • DHA Degradation: The efficacy of DHA diminishes over time. This degradation can lead to a less intense tan or an uneven application.
  • Consistency Alteration: The consistency of the product may change. For instance, lotions may become either too thick or too runny, and mousses might lose their fluffy texture.
  • Color Changes: The color of the product itself might alter. It may become darker, lighter, or even take on a greenish hue, indicating that the DHA is no longer effective.

These changes in DHA and the overall product consistency directly impact the quality of the tan achieved.

It’s important to understand that while expired self-tanners may not necessarily harm the skin, they are less likely to provide the desired bronzing effect and can lead to patchy or streaky results.

How to Identify Expired Self-Tanner

Recognizing when a self-tanner has expired is key to ensuring optimal results and skin safety. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Color Change: If the product has changed color significantly from when it was first purchased, it’s a clear sign of expiration.
  • Altered Consistency: A noticeable change in the consistency, such as lumpiness or separation of ingredients, indicates that the product may no longer be effective.
  • Unusual Smell: A change in the product’s smell, especially an unpleasant one, can also be a sign of expiration.

In addition to these signs, performing a patch test is a reliable method to check the efficacy of an expired self-tanner. Apply a small amount of the product to a discreet area of your skin and wait for the color to develop.

If the tan appears uneven, streaky, or of an unusual color, it’s best to discard the product.

What to do about expired self tanner

The Risks of Using Expired Self-Tanner

Using an expired self-tanner can pose several risks to your skin, which is why it’s crucial to be aware of these potential issues:

  • Skin Irritation and Allergic Reactions: The breakdown of ingredients in expired self-tanners, especially Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), can lead to skin irritation or allergic reactions. This can manifest as redness, itching, or rashes.
  • Uneven or Patchy Tanning Results: As the active ingredients degrade, the tanner is less likely to provide an even color, resulting in patchy or streaky tans that are far from the desired natural-looking glow.

Preserving Your Self-Tanner

To extend the shelf life of your self-tanner and ensure its effectiveness, consider the following tips:

  • Store in a Cool, Dry Place: Exposure to heat and humidity can accelerate the degradation of the tanning formula.
  • Keep the Lid Tightly Sealed: This prevents the entry of air and bacteria, which can spoil the product.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Sun exposure can alter the composition of the self-tanner, affecting its performance.

Alternatives To Self-Tanning

If you’re looking for alternatives to self-tanning products, there are several options available, each with its own set of benefits and risks:

  • Bronzers:
    • Benefits: Provide an instant tan that can be washed off. Ideal for temporary use and easy to apply.
    • Risks: Can come off on clothes and require reapplication.
  • Spray Tans:
    • Benefits: Offer a professional, even tan that lasts longer than most self-tanning products.
    • Risks: Can be costly and require visits to a salon.
  • Tanning Beds:
    • Benefits: Provide a long-lasting tan.
    • Risks: Exposure to UV rays increases the risk of skin cancer and premature aging.

How to use self tanner

Step-by-Step Guide to Using Self-Tanner

Achieving a perfect, sun-kissed glow with a self-tanner involves a few crucial steps.

Here’s a guide to ensure you get the best results:

  1. Preparation:
    • Exfoliate your skin to remove dead skin cells.
    • Shave areas you will applying self tanner.
    • Moisturize dry areas like elbows, knees, and ankles to prevent them from absorbing too much product.
  2. Application:
    • Use a tanning mitt or gloves to avoid staining your hands.
    • Apply the self-tanner in sections, using circular motions for even distribution.
  3. Aftercare:
    • Allow the product to dry completely before dressing.
    • Avoid showering or swimming for at least 6-8 hours to let the tan develop fully.

Self Tan Video Instructions

I liked Penn Smith’s video describing her self-tanning routine.

How To Remove Self-Tanner With Lemon Juice

Removing self-tanner with lemon juice is a popular home remedy due to the natural acidic properties of lemon, which can help to lighten and break down the color of the tan.

  • Soak cotton balls or a soft cloth in the lemon juice.
  • Gently rub the soaked cotton balls or cloth over the areas where you want to remove the self-tanner.
  • Focus on areas with streaks or uneven color.
  • Let It Work: Allow the lemon juice to sit on your skin for a few minutes. The acid in the lemon juice will help to break down the color.
  • Rinse Off: Rinse your skin with warm water to remove the lemon juice.
  • Gently pat your skin dry with a towel.
  • Moisturize:  Apply a good moisturizer to your skin. Lemon juice can be drying, so it’s important to rehydrate your skin.
  • Repeat if Necessary:

If the self-tanner doesn’t come off completely, you can repeat the process. However, be cautious not to overdo it, as lemon juice can be harsh on the skin.


  • Test the lemon juice on a small area of your skin first to ensure you don’t have a reaction.
  • Avoid using lemon juice on sensitive areas or broken skin.
  • Lemon juice can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Be sure to use sunscreen if you’re going outside after using this method.

Ways To Remove Fake Tan (Video)

Jess Rea explains ways to remove your self-tanner if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it or you get it on your hands.

What Role Does Collagen Play In Self Tanner Effectiveness?

Collagen plays a significant role in enhancing the effectiveness of self-tanners, primarily due to its impact on skin health and texture.

Here’s how collagen can help your self-tanner work better:

Improved Skin Texture: Collagen is vital for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness. When your skin is firm and smooth, self-tanner can be applied more evenly, resulting in a more uniform and natural-looking tan.

Better Absorption: Healthy skin, bolstered by adequate collagen levels, is more likely to absorb self-tanning products effectively. This means that the active ingredients in self-tanners, such as Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), can work more efficiently, leading to a quicker and more lasting tan.

Hydration and Moisture Retention: Collagen helps in retaining moisture in the skin. Well-hydrated skin provides a better base for self-tanning products, allowing for smoother application and reducing the chances of dry patches that can absorb more color and appear darker.

Enhanced Skin Repair: Collagen aids in the skin’s natural repair process. Healthy skin can recover better from any irritation or dryness caused by self-tanning products, ensuring that the tan looks better and lasts longer.

How to increase collagen in your face

Are Self Tanners Toxic?

While many sunless tanners are formulated with skin-healthy ingredients, they can also contain harmful ones that pose health concerns and skin irritation.

Key ingredients to avoid in sunless tanners include:

  • Parabens: These are preservatives that extend shelf life but can disrupt hormones, mimicking estrogen in the body. This can lead to hormonal imbalances and potentially increase the risk of cancer.
  • Alcohol (Ethanol): Often used as a solvent for dyes in self-tanners, alcohol can dry out the skin, leading to irritation and cell damage.
  • Mineral Oil: Derived from petroleum, mineral oil can clog pores and cause acne breakouts, as it creates a waxy layer on the skin’s surface.
  • Fragrance: This term can conceal a mix of chemicals that might cause headaches, dizziness, hormone disruption, and allergic reactions.
  • Synthetic Dyes and Pigments: Common in self-tanners, these can cause skin irritation and, in some cases, increase the absorption of DHA through the skin.
  • Formaldehyde: A known carcinogen used for its antimicrobial properties, it can cause eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and breathing problems.
  • Hydroquinone: Sometimes found in self-tanners to prevent orange tones, it’s linked to eye and liver problems, allergic reactions, rashes, and even miscarriages.
  • Lead Acetate: Previously used in self-tanners, lead acetate can cause nervous system and kidney damage, cognitive impairment, and infertility.

It’s essential to read labels carefully and opt for self-tanners with naturally derived ingredients for a healthier fake tan.

Best Non-Toxic Self Tanners

These self-tanners are ideal for those seeking a sun-kissed glow without exposing your skin to harmful chemicals.

  • Beauty By Earth Self Tanner: This product stands out for its use of natural and organic ingredients like shea butter, coconuts, cranberries, and aloe vera. Read over 20,000 reviews on Amazon.
  • Skinerals:  The self-tanning whipped mousse has a rich brown tint, allowing you to see exactly where your sunless tanner has been applied. Read over 4,270 reviews on Amazon.

FAQs About Self-Tanners

When it comes to self-tanners, there are common questions that users often have:

How long does unopened self-tanner last?

Generally, unopened self-tanners can last up to two years from the manufacturing date.

How often should I replace my self-tanner?

It’s recommended to replace your self-tanner every 12-18 months to ensure its effectiveness and safety.

How do I read the expiration dates on tanning lotions?

Look for the open jar symbol on the packaging, which indicates the shelf life after opening (e.g., 12M means 12 months after opening).

What happens if you use out-of-date self-tanner?

Nothing may happen or you might see some undesirable outcomes like those mentioned above.

How long do self-tanners last?

The shelf life of self-tanners can vary, but generally:

      • Unopened: Most self-tanners last about 12 months unopened.
      • Opened: Once opened, a self-tanner typically lasts between 6 to 12 months. It’s important to store it properly to ensure its longevity.

Why did my self-tanner turn green?

Experiencing a self-tanner that turns green can be both confusing and alarming. Understanding the reasons behind this change can help you prevent it in the future. Here are the key factors that contribute to this phenomenon:

      • Oxidation of Dihydroxyacetone (DHA): The primary active ingredient in most self-tanners is DHA, a colorless chemical that reacts with amino acids in the skin to create a tan. When DHA is exposed to oxygen, it can oxidize, leading to a change in color. This oxidation process can turn the self-tanner green.
      • Exposure to Air and Light: If a self-tanner bottle is left open or not properly sealed, exposure to air and light can accelerate the oxidation of DHA. This is why it’s crucial to store self-tanning products in a cool, dark place and ensure they are tightly closed after each use.
      • Age of the Product: Over time, the ingredients in self-tanners can degrade, especially if the product is past its expiration date. This degradation can cause the product to turn green, indicating that it is no longer effective and should not be used.
      • Reaction with Other Ingredients: Sometimes, the green color can result from a reaction between DHA and other ingredients in the self-tanner or residues on the skin. This is less common but can occur with certain formulations.

To avoid your self-tanner turning green:

      • Check the Expiration Date: Always use self-tanner before its expiration date.
      • Store Properly: Keep the self-tanner in a cool, dark place and make sure the lid is tightly sealed.
      • Buy Fresh Products: Purchase self-tanner from reputable sources to ensure you’re getting a fresh product.

Do Self-Tanners Protect Your Skin?

Unless your self-tanner has sunscreen it does not protect your skin from UV rays.

How to increase collagen in your face

Bottom Line

In conclusion, I hope you understand the expiration of self-tanner is a crucial aspect to consider if you are seeking a safe and effective sunless tanning experience.

Understanding that products like self-tanners do have a shelf life and can expire is essential in avoiding potential skin irritations, uneven tanning results, and other undesirable outcomes like I had.

Good luck!

Does self tanner go bad?

Does Self Tanner Expire?