If you have very fair skin that never tans but only burns or freckles; if you have dry skin; or if you are afraid of the very real damage the skin can do to your skin, prematurely aging you and even causing cancer, then you should consider using sunless tanning lotions. Sunless tanning lotions use a chemical called DHA that stimulates the melanin-producing cells in your skin, creating a tan without ultraviolet rays. Most also contain a mild dye that will temporarily darken your skin, gradually disappearing as dead skin cells flake off over time. There are two basic ways of applying these lotions. The first, cheapest, and most common is to apply it in cream form.
Unfortunately, with a cream you will have difficulty applying it evenly, and you're risking a streaky tan. The really cheap sunless tanning lotions may work, but are likely to make your skin more orange than tan. The other basic way to apply sunless tan lotion is at a tanning salon using a special misting machine. This is really neat; you enter the booth in bikini, underwear, or nude, and a machine sprays every inch of your body's surface with a mist, coating you with sunless tan lotion. It's a process that lasts only a few seconds, and though it's more expensive, it has excellent results. There are several things to remember when you use the mist form of sunless tanning.
First, you will need to hold your breath during the treatment. If you have trouble doing this (some asthmatics might), you can purchase nose plugs at any dive shop; they're gross and ugly, but they will keep you from inhaling. If you do have a lung condition, you should speak with a doctor before using sunless mist. You don't have to cover your hair, but it will get into it if you don't, and you'll have to wash it afterward. A plastic disposable shower cap will work just fine to protect your hair from mist sunless tan lotion. You may notice a peculiar smell after your session, but it will dissipate fairly quickly.
You should wash your hands well after your tanning session to avoid accidentally rubbing any of it into your eyes. For best results from any sort of sunless tan lotion, you should exfoliate carefully prior to application. At the very least, apply a good moisturizer to any rough surfaces on your body (like knees) so that the lotion can penetrate your skin properly.
Do not shower, swim, or use moisturizer of any sort after the treatment for at least five hours. After that, moisturizer should be applied frequently to maintain your tan in best condition. Chlorinated water, in particular, is bad for your treatment, as it can bleach the solution and cause streaking. After you shower for the first time, you may notice that your skin is immediately paler; that is because the bronzing dye, water soluble in some lotions, has rinsed off.
However, the treatment you just underwent stimulated the cells in your body that cause a natural tan. You will probably notice your skin darkening gradually for as long as several days after your treatment. This is not an instant tan. You'll have a little color after the first application, but it will probably take several sessions in order to achieve the color you want. Once your tan is dark enough for you, you can maintain it by tanning weekly.
If you're in a hurry, you can use both sunless lotion and traditional tanning techniques like indoor tanning booths. There are dozens of brands of hand-applied lotions available, with the most popular being St. Tropez and Fake Bake. When choosing one of these, be certain to look for one with "color guide" - that is, a pigmented lotion dark enough that you can see where you've applied it. If you decide to try a mist tanning process, you can try Mystic Tan or Sun Spritz.
Either of these systems will bathe your body in a mist that will encourage tanning.
Aaron Trubic offers sun tanning advice, tips and information for sun seekers of all types at Cheap Tanning Bed Supplies.