A farmer's tan is the telltale sign of days spent outdoors in everyday clothing. From streaks on the arms to odd tan lines along the legs, a farmer's tan not only looks strange, but also it indicates you've spent too much time in the sun. Because a suntan is caused by sun damage to the skin, tans won't go away overnight. But there are steps you can take to speed up the healing process, to cover the tan until it goes away and to prevent future farmer's tans.
How Skin Tans
The sun produces ultraviolet light that damages the skin. The UV rays penetrate the epidermis, and the damage this causes can spark an immune reaction. The skin produces extra melanin cells -- cells that provide pigmentation -- in an attempt to protect the skin from the sun, producing the characteristic darker color caused by tanning. A suntan is not just something superficial on the surface of the skin that can be wiped away. It's a skin reaction that can take several weeks to fully fade.
There are several steps you can take to speed up the skin-healing process and reduce the appearance of the tan. Stay out of the sun, or cover up your skin, to prevent further tanning. Exfoliate your skin daily. This helps to remove dead skin cells and might shorten the life of the tan. Moisturize your skin daily to reduce the leathery, dry appearance that often comes with a farmer's tan. Lemon juice might also speed the healing process by breaking down dead skin cells. Try rubbing your skin with fresh lemon juice in the shower. Make sure you thoroughly rinse the juice, as lemon juice can irritate the skin if left on for long periods and will cause burning if it gets into the eyes. Vitamin E might also speed skin healing, according to "The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies." Ask your doctor about taking a vitamin E supplement or apply a popped-open vitamin E capsule directly to the skin.
Covering the Tan
If you need to get rid of the tan for a special event, consider using a spray tanning bed for a more even color. Spray tanning is much safer than UV tanning and works by depositing pigments on the top layer of skin. Spray tanning will not eliminate the tan; it merely covers it up. If you're concerned about getting an uneven color from spray tanning, you have only two other options: covering the tan with clothing or covering it with makeup. Body makeup can cover up skin discoloration but can be tricky and time-consuming to use. The right clothing is often the simplest way to cover the tan. During hot summer months, wear loose-fitting clothing that covers tan lines. This might mean something as simple as wearing short sleeves instead of sleeveless tops, and wearing longer skirts or pants to cover lines on the legs.
The best way to get rid of a farmer's tan is to prevent it in the first place. If you must spend time outside in direct sunlight, wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Wear a hat to cover your face, and reapply sunscreen if you sweat heavily or get wet. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing can help keep you cool while keeping your skin safe from the sunlight.