This weekend I am flocking south for the summer...so far south that it will be winter. The climate there is tropical year-round, and we plan to spend a large portion of our time at the beach - a vision that simultaneously elicits glee and dread. While I am lounging by the waves without a care in the world, my timid midriff will be exposed to the sun for the first time in a year. On top of a few extra fleshy curves, my bare skin is whiter than a white sand beach.

Of course, despite the pallor of my stomach, I will still coat my entire body in a higher than normal SPF (see my sunscreen tips for what I’ll use) and seek out shade whenever possible. But I don’t want to advertise to my fellow beachgoers that I’m a sun nerd, and my body’s urban adaptation of a farmer’s tan is a dead giveaway. Let’s face it: every body looks better - skinnier even - with a tan. To even out my skin tone and eek out a trace of my Florida roots, I’ll fake it ‘til it looks like I baked it. My mission: achieve golden, sun-kissed skin before I board the plane to paradise. My plan of attack: read on.

I have tested my fair share of sunless tanners (here are my five best finds from last summer). Before applying any self-tanner, I always shave a full 12 hours beforehand (24 hours if waxing), since tanner is no friend of irritated skin. I prepare my skin for an even application by exfoliating in the shower. Removing dead skin cells helps to create a smooth canvas and prevent splotching. My trick for avoiding tanner saturation in the elbows, knees, and ankles is to rub in body lotion beforehand. Otherwise color collects in these dry areas, supplying a telltale sign of a faux tan.

My newest favorite is Beautisol All-Seasons Glow, which comes with a set of disposable gloves to prevent stained palms. Topped off with antioxidants from acai berry extract and nutrients from jojoba oil, the formula combines low levels of DHA with erythrulose (both from plant sources) to produce a subtle color. Not only is it paraben free, but it is also devoid of the rancid DHA-triggered odor that typically accompanies sunless tanners. The product’s innovative fragrance technology manages to mask this off-putting smell with a pleasant scent that can be best described as fresh laundry.

Though Beautisol’s instructions suggest that you can use the tanner the same way as you would use your regular moisturizer, its effects will be very visible the next day. So it’s a good thing that the lotion is mud-colored, as it enables you to achieve full coverage while giving you clear guidelines for avoiding streaks. I have tested Beautisol’s tanner on various sections of my body, each sporting a different degree of paleness. Somehow it managed to tint each area of skin exactly one shade darker, without looking too dramatic or even slightly radioactive.

When I don’t have latex gloves lying round, I diligently wash my hands with soap and warm water in between applications to each section of the body. I first made the mistake of not following this rule with Xen-Tan Transform, which falls short of Beautisol on several counts: 1) the lotion is colored white and becomes transparent as it absorbs, so there are no visual cues for where and how to blend; 2) the oppressive odor spawned by DHA settles on your skin as soon as the product is applied, and doesn’t seem to go away; 3) the final color does not match and deepen your skin tone quite as naturally as Beautisol.

For my face, I rely on nothing but the most natural, non-comedogenic tanning option out there: Aviva Organics Face Creme. I love this 78% organic tanner not only for its deliciously sweet smell, but also because its heaps of antioxidants, botanical extracts, and essential oils make my skin radiate with well-nourished satisfaction. Its low concentration of DHA creates a very natural color, which doesn’t flake off with dry skin (as is the case with certain other tanners), since Aviva Organics provides just the right amount of hydration.

Based on my success with using Aviva Organics before weddings in the past, my face is guaranteed to have a natural glow for days. The bottle’s small size is perfectly portable to pack in my bag and re-apply as needed. As for my body, I am prepping for the beach with Beautisol before bedtime each of the three nights preceding my trip. I’ve found that nighttime is best for sunless tanner application because you’re not supposed to shower, swim, or sweat at least 6-8 hours after tanning. As the lotion gets absorbed into skin, your clothing options are limited: cotton or birthday suit. Wearing silk or any dry-clean-only fabric is a big no-no.

While showering on my trip, I will scrub lightly with my facecloth and pat myself dry to prevent the tan from coming off prematurely. When the tan inevitably does wear off toward vacation’s end, I will get my gams ready for an evening out with Michael Kors Bronze Leg Shine, which spreads on like a silky deodorant and smells like a sexy cologne. It instantly smooths over imperfections while lending my legs a healthy, glamorous sheen. And the Leg Shine’s liquid-free design makes it ideal for on-the-go travel.

I think my tan-in-a-can plan is foolproof. I should know, since I’ve fallen prey to nearly every sunless tanner trap. This time around you won’t find me sneaking around with dubious tanners, holding my nose to block out sour odors, scrubbing at my skin to erase streaks, succumbing to pity stares on the beach, and (most importantly) soaking up the sun’s rays to secure a color that actually makes me look like I'm on vacation.

Ingredients in Aviva Organics Face Creme:
Aqua (Water), Organic Rosemarius Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Organic Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Extract, Organic Zingiber Officinale (Ginger Root) Extract, Organic Lippia Citriodoro (Lemon Verbena) Leaf Extract, Organic Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange Peel) Extract, Organic Rosa Canina (Rose Hips) Fruit Extract, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Cetearyl Glucoside, Dihydroxyacetone, Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Caprylic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol (Vitamin E) Natural, Glycine, Potassium Sorbate

Ingredients in Aviva Organics Body Creme:
Aqua (Water), Organic Rosemarius Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Organic Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Extract, Organic Zingiber Officinale (Ginger Root) Extract, Organic Lippia Citriodoro (Lemon Verbena) Leaf Extract, Organic Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange Peel) Extract, Organic Rosa Canina (Rose Hips) Fruit Extract, Organic Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Organic Glycine Soja (Soy) Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Dihydroxyacetone, Glycerin, Cassava Starch, Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Cetearth 20, Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, Aroma (a blend of Essential Oils), Caprylic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol (Vitamin E) Natural, Glycine, Potassium Sorbate

Ingredients in Beautisol All Seasons Glow:
Water (Aqua), Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Isododecane, Dihydroxyacetone, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Polyacrylamide, Trimethylpentanediol/Adipic Acid Copolymer, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Stearate, Methylpropanediol,Cetearyl Alcohol, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Glycerin, Erythrulose, Fragrance, Dimethicone, Caprylyl Glycol, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai Berry) Extract, Vitex Agnus Castus Extract, Acetyl Tyrosine, Steareth-2, Steareth-21, PEG-100 Stearate, Xanthan Gum, Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Tetradibutyl Pentaerythrityl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Citric Acid, Caramel, Blue 1 (CI 42090)