Want that "healthy glow" without caving into taboo sunbathing or fake baking in a tanning bed? Today's sunless-tanning options range from store-bought self-tanners to inexpensive salon spray booths to full-fledged spa treatments.

We tried several methods, and found pros and cons to each. Bottom line: They all require careful application and some degree of prep work. But even with the flaws, all offer a safe way to achieve a tan.

Many spas have their own signature tanning treatments. Worth the hefty price tag, most include an exfoliation process to optimize your tan.

THE EXPERIENCE: Airbrush tanning

Cost: $45; with body / facial exfoliation, $95

Where: Red Hots Sun Lounge, Spa and Boutique, Roslyn; 516-484-8267, redhotsspa.com

The process: After the exfoliation, you consult with a technician on color -from subtle to savage. Then you put on disposable undergarments (or you can wear black), and every revealed inch of skin gets a hit of tanning solution. Afterward, you bake under warm lights for four minutes.

Does it smell? Not much, though someone who gets real close might think you went to Benihana a few days ago.

How long did it take? Exfoliation is 30 minutes, airbrush is 15.

How long does it last? Seven days

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Details: The airbrushing formula is improved from earlier days, not so dense or sticky. Bonus: The technicians here can "shade," creating muscles or cleavage where there's none. No shower for eight hours, but you can go back to work (wear loose, dark clothes).

What color do you end up? Gorgeous, glowing sun-kissed - our choice, though you can go darker. Perfectly even tan. - Anne Bratskeir

A more affordable alternative to upscale spas, chain tanning outlets like Beach Bum, Hollywood Tans and Tanfastic give you the option of being airbrushed by a technician or sprayed in a booth for a fraction of the salon cost.

THE EXPERIENCE: Mystic tan

Cost: $25 for a single session

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Where: Beach Bum Tanning, Huntington Station, 631-271-2558 (other locations, beachbumtanning.com )

Process: Strip to your birthday suit or underwear, put on a shower cap, lather hands and feet with lotion to avoid streaks. Step into the booth, press the green button and get sprayed. Turn around, spray again. Smooth color with a towel and air-dry.

Does it smell? Yes

How long did it take? 10 minutes, if that.

How long does it last? Began fading and rubbing off after five days.

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Details: Take a deep breath when you press the button or you'll inhale the mist. The odor may last for 24 hours. Don't expect to show off your tan the same day - you'll be too sticky to wear anything nicer than sweats, plus you can't shower for at least six hours.

What color do you end up? Naturally bronze with blotches of a dark orange around your hands and feet.

- Diana D. Palka

TANNING AT HOME

A mind-numbing array of self-tanners can be had at drug and department stores. But what you save in cost, you'll have to make up in diligence - apply carefully to avoid streaks. Many prefer gradual tanning formulas (such as longtime favorite, Jergens Natural Glow), which are more forgiving. Others we tested:

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Dior Bronze Auto-Bronzant, $32. This tinted cream reads your skin's pH level and darkens to a natural-looking shade - but the color was a bit too dark for pale skin. Works in about an hour.

Clinique Body Tinted Lotion, $20. Goes on easily with no odor and we loved the initial tint (very similar to putting tinted moisturizer on your face). Nice tan developed in about six hours with minimal streaking.

Aveeno Continuous Radiance Moisturizing Lotion, $14.99. A five-setting dial lets you choose your desired shade, and that results in very natural-looking color that emerges slowly over several days. Be prepared to apply daily.

Coppertone Moisture Mist Tan, $8.99. This spray was easier to apply than a lotion - and spares you from messy hands. The results were subtle and natural-looking, with only minor streaks.

A CELEBRITY TAN

Long Island's own Lindsay Lohan has gone into the faux tanning business. While not making gossip column headlines, she teamed with airbrush tanner Lorit Simon to create Sevin Nyne Tanning Mist ($35, at select Sephora stores and sephora.com).

The odorless spray (named, it has been reported, for Lilo's favorite numbers) contains antioxidant goji berries and moisturizing chardonnay extracts to pamper your soon-to-be-bronze skin.