It's probably a good idea not to get tanned before you get tanned (and by tanned we mean tanned and also drunk), as was initially the premise of this pre-Spring Break tanning investigation, because the whole thing is a lot more complicated than you might think. Both of us, one experienced, one less so, set out to see how brown we could get sans sun. Tanning is a secretive ritual, and here we are, bringing ultraviolet light to light.

Tanning is a very subtle art I (Gena) have learned. I went for the old school, but arguably more authentic, ultra violet cancer ride. Though my fingers are practically too sunburned to type, I feel I owe this account to Spring Breakers in training.

The process is deceivingly simple. Strip down, lather with moisturizing bronzer cream and step into the illuminated coffin, which I like to think of as Spring Break in a box. The music and lights in the box are mesmerizing enough to make you think that you are at your own club Hollywood tan -- but take care not to bump and grind to zealously.

Unlike an authentic spring break tanning experience, one should not get too comfortable while soaking up the U.V. rays. The HT-60 is NOT a vertical lounge chair. Lean up too closely against the floor to ceiling bulbs and you will be limping around with over exaggerated stretch marks on your ass -- the same one's you tried to tan off to begin with. Looking at the world through "Winkies" (overpriced foil eye protection you can buy at the front counter at Hollywood) has made me see things in a totally different light. This may also be because the little guys protected shit, and let the tan bulbs scar my retinas. The HT-60 is a serious piece of machinery and should by no means be operated while tanned.

In order to properly perform this experiment, and to avoid carcinogens, I (Yona) went for the ultramodern spray tan. Unfortunately, when in the spray tanning booth, one is instructed to keep one's mouth closed for the entire time the spray is going off -- six seconds. If you're a smoker, chances are not breathing for six seconds will be nearly impossible, and God knows what poisons lie in the UV Free Six Second Tan solution, so the whole health and safety aspect becomes moot. Since this was my first time tanning, I was required to watch a highly sexualized instructional video, reminiscent of sights at real Spring Break locales. Still, once in the booth, the similarities between Hollywood Tan and Cabo Saint Lucas ended. In a small metal room I stripped naked, covered my dry-skinned areas with lotion, pressed a button and then got sprayed with an awful smelling potion. Much angst preceded, and followed, the procedure, and I came out looking slightly browner, but smelling like B.O. masked under deodorant. Basically, my whole body turned into my armpit, only darker. Plus, I now feel like the kind of person who spray tans. I don't know which was worst for my self-image -- the smell, the emotional baggage or the streaky skin that resulted from the tears that began forming moments after exiting Hollywood.

For those of you not lucky enough to be naturally tan, or to be going to somewhere warm for Spring Break (peasants!), who will be forced to become Tanorexics in training, we have some tips so that you'll go from being a Tanateur to Tantastic in days (or seconds, if you choose to spray). First of all, watch how much time you spend in an ultraviolet booth -- as Gena will attest, you have the potential to become one giant freckle. (Her internal organs are still asizzle.) Also, don't do hot yoga after spray tanning, or you'll turn camo. Wear a disguise, because nothing is worse than being exposed for your faux sun exposure. If you're a tanthlete preparing for a tanathon, stick with spray, 'coz there's less potential for permanent damage. Most importantly, whatever the results, don't cry, or you risk pain and streakage, or both.


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