How to Apply Self-tanner

Self-tanners are a safe and quick alternative to sunbathing.
Self-tanners are a safe and quick alternative to sunbathing.
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The only thing scarier than bathing suit season is the idea of hitting the beach with a complexion that resembles Elmer's glue. Suntans are prized for a very simple reason: Tanned skin absorbs light, making us appear thinner and masking unsightly blemishes [source: Chalmers].

But what's a pale person to do? Brazen sunbathing -- armed with baby oil, a stack of magazines and a lawn chair -- is as dangerous to one's health as smoking three packs a day. In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during the course of his or her life [source: Skin Cancer Foundation]. A tan isn't worth becoming a statistic.

Tanning salons used to market themselves as safer and faster alternatives to frying like bacon on a beach towel. Medical research has blown this strategy out of the water as well: The risk of contracting melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer -- increases by 75 percent in people who use tanning beds before the age of 30. As a result, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared tanning beds carcinogenic [source: Quenqua].

If you're looking for a way to bronze your skin tone without exposing yourself to dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays, then sunless self-tanners are an excellent option. When used correctly, these topical skin products can give skin a natural-looking, yet temporary tint.

That said, self-bronzers have a bad reputation for turning skin an Oompa Loompa orange instead of bronze and beautiful. How do you make sure that every inch of skin is covered evenly? And what's up with that smell? Keep reading for expert advice on how to apply self-tanner.