Sun kissed skin looks sexy but sun damaged skin does not; you can use self tanners to achieve a warm summer glow without putting yourself at risk for sun cancer. Self tanners are lotions that you rub into your skin that can fake the appearance of hours and hours of laying out in the sun. They are perfectly safe to use and, when applied correctly, should be entirely indistinguishable from a real tan. Self tanners take a little bit of practice to get the hang of, though. If you are not applying your self tanner right, you may end up with orange skin, streaks, or splotches. You should probably make your first attempt on a Friday evening so that if you mess up you can fix your fake tan before you need to head off to work on Monday.
There seem to be about a million fake tanners currently on the market and choosing which one is right for you can be a bit tricky. Traditional self tanners contain a sugar called dihydroxyacetone, otherwise known as DHA, that chemically reacts with your skin to create a tawny color. The higher the percentage of DHA, the darker you should get. Not everyone has the same reaction to DHA though. Some people can slather it on and look fine, whereas others will turn dark with just a light application. If your skin is sensitive to DHA and you pile too much on, you will turn orange. For your first self tan, go with a product with a very low percentage of DHA. You can experiment and add more if you think your skin is reacting well.
If you are more concerned with convenience than an even glow, try a self tanning spray, mist, or towelette. These products are quick and easy to apply. Neutrogena and Bliss make a mist and L'Oreal and Estée Lauder both make self tanning towelettes. These products all have low doses of DHA, so you should be able to experiment with them to get a good color.
The most important step to getting a smooth application is exfoliating beforehand. Scrub your entire body down with a salt scrub to smooth your skin. This will slough off any bumps that could collect pools of self tanner and turn orange. If you do not exfoliate, some of your skin will begin to peel off within days of applying the tanner, which will also make you look streaky. After you have exfoliated, apply a self tanning moisturizer. This type of moisturizer is made for self tanners and will not block your skin from absorbing the product, but will also give you a smoother surface to smooth your self tanner over.
Apply your self tanner in a thin, even layer from your feet up. You can wear latex gloves to protect the palms of your hands and apply petroleum jelly to your hairline and eyebrows to keep them from darkening. Be extra careful around tough areas like your knees and elbows, which are more likely to collect tanner and get dark. If you are a beginner, have a buddy help you with your back.