Almost everyone knows the feeling of trying to rinse off the day's sunscreen, yet your skin still feels oily and coated. Especially if you've recently reapplied, washing off with water doesn't always yield the squeaky clean feeling you expect when fresh out of the shower. So, what gives?

If you've diligently applied your SPF throughout the day, you likely want to know how to remove sunscreen from your skin quickly. It's also helpful to know how to lift sunscreen stains from clothes, upholstery, and other surfaces.

How to Remove Sunscreen from Your Skin

Washing your face at the end of the day is an important step in any evening skin care routine and just as important is removing the day's sunscreen from your skin. It's important to use a facial cleanser to remove the dirt and oil that accumulated during the day. Using a facial cleanser also helps to remove any sunscreen or makeup you applied, keeping skin clear and clean.

A quick and effective way to remove sunscreen from your skin is with the help of an oil-based cleanser or pure oil formulated for use on the skin. Skin-friendly oils that are perfect for removing sunscreen include sweet jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and olive fruit oil.

If you're wondering how to remove thick layers of makeup and facial sunscreen effectively, try the double cleansing technique where you use both an oil-based cleanser and water-based cleanser back to back:

  1. Wash your hands to ensure you don't transfer any dirt or bacteria to your face.

  2. Use an oil-based cleanser or pure cleansing facial oil on dry skin. You can substitute for a makeup remover or micellar water if desired. Gently apply the product onto the skin and rub it in with your fingertips. Massage the skin thoroughly to lift sunscreen. Rinse with water.

  3. Follow up with a gentle facial cleanser. A water-based cleanser that lathers or foams will work beautifully. This will remove the sunscreen lifted by the previous step.

  4. Rinse your skin and pat dry.

  5. Follow up with a moisturizer to restore hydration and avoid drying out your skin.

Removing Sunscreen from Clothes

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside. During this time, you may change into your bathing suit, beach gear, or regular clothes for the day. If you've ever applied sunscreen before getting dressed, you may have experienced sunscreen stains or transfer onto clothes.

Removing sunscreen stains from clothes and bathing suits can be tricky given that sunscreen often contains oils of some kind—the culprit of many stains. Accidents happen, so if your sunscreen transferred onto your clothing, here's what to do:

  1. Attempt to remove as much as possible by blotting the stain with a dry cloth.

  2. Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the stain. This will absorb excess oils. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

  3. Pretreat the stain with a stain remover. It should contain substances to break up the oil and release it from the fabric.

  4. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the stain, then let it sit for 15 minutes.

  5. Wash the garment with your regular laundry detergent according to the garment's care instructions.

And voila! The sunscreen stain should be a thing of the past. It will likely be easier to lift sunscreen stains from synthetics like bathing suits than from natural fibers, but all hope is not lost if you accidentally get sunscreen on your lucky T-shirt or favorite sundress. If a stain is particularly difficult to remove, a trip to your trusted dry cleaner may be the best solution.

Removing Sunscreen Stains on Surfaces

If you apply sunscreen before heading out for the day, you may get some on your leather car seats. This can leave a greasy residue, but removing sunscreen from leather car seats, sofas, and accessories is fairly easy. Simply wipe away the sunscreen with a dry cloth. Then, wash with a soapy water mixture. Wipe away the suds and follow up with a leather conditioner.

Getting sunscreen on fabric car seats and other cloth surfaces requires a little more elbow grease. Here's how to remove sunscreen on surfaces like fabric car seats, couches, and carpet:

  1. Scrape up the excess sunscreen with a spoon or dull knife.

  2. Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the surface to absorb the oily residue.

  3. After 15 minutes, vacuum the powder up.

  4. Apply a cleaning solution such as dish soap, laundry detergent, or stain remover to the area. Let it sit for a few minutes.

  5. Clean up the solution with a washcloth, blotting the area until the cleaner is gone. You may need to add more cleaner until the stain disappears.

  6. Allow to dry.

Preventing Sunscreen Stains

The best way to avoid getting sunscreen on surfaces like fabric upholstery, leather seats, and carpet is to allow freshly applied sunscreen to fully dry before sitting or leaning against delicate surfaces. This will keep your things clean and make sure you get the most protection out of your sunscreen. However, life happens. The second best way to deal with stubborn sunscreen residue is to be prepared with stain removers.

Though white splotchy stains are bound to happen from time to time, following these simple suggestions might just keep your days clean and clear.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

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