Melanin injections are the dangerous way celebrities are trying to score a tan

Many of us go to great lengths to score a golden tan. From wearing a tansie to bed (got to protect those sheets) to slipping your mitt over a coathanger for an extended arm that reaches that spot on your back – applying self-tan requires a lot of skill and patience.

Which leads us to the question, if there was an injectable of some kind that could give you a tan without slathering on product – would you do it?

It sounds great in theory, but the reality is that melanin injections are far more dangerous than we ever imagined…

What are melanin/tanning injections?

“‘Melanotan’ (a brand of melanin injections) is a synthetic hormone which is injected via a needle under the skin to stimulate the pigment cells in your body to produce more melanin, which in turn gives you a tan”, says Dr Ross Perry, skin cancer expert and Medical Director of Cosmedics.

How do melanin injections work?

There are two forms of melanin injections available, Melanotan I and II, which are diluted in water before being injected.

“Melanotan I or afamelanotide is an alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha MSH) analogue which stimulates the production of eumelanin (tanning pigment) in the skin”, says Dr Catherine. “It was developed and registered for the treatment of a condition called erythropoietic protopophyria – a rare inherited condition that causes sufferers to develop prolonged burning pain, swelling and redness after 1-20minutes of sun exposure.”

In comparison, “Melanotan II as a tanning injection gives quicker, longer lasting results”, says Skin Expert, Lorena Öberg “However, Melanotan II will not work without some form of UV exposure, so you need to be getting a minimum of 20 minutes of natural sunlight a day to help activate the melanotan injections.”

“Within 6 days you will begin to see your skin warming up to a natural-looking sunkissed glow.”

Where can you get melanin injections?

Unlike Botox and other injectable skincare, tanning injections aren’t performed by professionals in clinics. in fact, they’re technically ‘illegal’ in the UK.

“Melanin injections are illegal to sell in the UK as they are unlicensed – this is because they have not been tested for safety, quality and effectiveness and there are serious concerns about potentially dangerous side effects”, says Dr Catherine Borysiewicz Consultant Dermatologist at Cadogan Clinic.

But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t still getting their hands on them…

“Although Melanotan is not a licensed medicine in the UK and to sell the drug is a criminal offence, people are still able to purchase the unlicensed injections online via underground websites and sources”, says Skin Repair Expert, Lorena Öberg. “All of the top models and celebrities are doing it and prefer this option over sunbeds as sunbeds cause skin ageing.”

The dangerous side effects of melanin injections

The biggest worry with these injectibles is that stimulating melanin production and cells can also stimulate dangerous changes in the skin.

“There have been case reports from users of Melanotan of moles which have rapidly changed and become darker”, says Dr Sophie Shotter, award-winning cosmetic doctor at The Cosmetic Skin Clinic. “Medical professionals would be very worried about anything which ‘stimulates’ melanocytes, because of the same risks associated with stimulating them via sunlight or sunbeds i.e. cancerous changes.”

Short-term side effects can also include facial swelling, nausea, flushing, vomiting and appetite loss.

“Also, bizarrely, type II can be associated with spontaneous erections in males!”, says Dr Jane Leonard.

Is there such a thing as ‘safe’ melanin injections?

The short answer is ‘no’. “They haven’t been properly tested, are not regulated and the reports of damaging side effects are commonplace and so they should be avoided”, says Dr Ross.

And with new tanning innovations coming across the beauty desk every day, self-tanning is only getting easier, faster and more stain-free as the years go by. Don’t risk it, just fake it.

Looking for your a self-tan to sweep you off your feet? These are our favourites…


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