Everything you need to know about tanning injections

Image:Shutterstock
Image:Shutterstock

What is the ‘Barbie drug’?

Melanotan, Mel, MT or the Barbie drug, is a synthetic hormone that increases the levels of melanin in the skin which can cause the skin to darken. It comes in two forms: Melanotan 1 and 2.

The drug can either be injected or inhaled through a nasal spray.

Melanotan varies in price from distributor to distributor, however, a ‘starter kit’ costs around £30 and a nasal spray £45.

There are currently no stats or figures as to how many have used or are using the Barbie drug.

Is it safe to use the Barbie drug?

The British Association of Dermatologists are concerned about the long term damage injecting Melanotan can do to the body.

A spokesperson from the BAD says, “Using injectable tan accelerators such as melanotan can be dangerous, and the health problems that people have suffered as a result of using them are well documented, providing further evidence of why people should stay away from unlicensed products.

“The very fact that melanotan is not licensed for sale in the UK should serve as the strongest warning against injecting a substance into your body for which we don’t yet have the full safety data. Those that sell it illegally are preying on people's’ insecurities in a highly irresponsible manner and should be reported immediately.”

What do the distributors say?

Melanotan is currently sold online by different distributors, privately and through social media.

One online distributor, says on their website, “Our tanning solution, Melanotan 2 also known as MT2 is a widely renowned solution that stimulates the body’s natural tanning abilities, which then allows you to tan with minimal sunlight and avoid harmful tanning hours in the sun bed, under the sun or the not so long lasting Spray Tans.”

But despite selling the drug as a means of tanning, Easy Tan specifically states that Melanotan 2 should not be used for tanning purposes.The Terms and Conditions advise, “ALL products and services offered are for RESEARCH purposes ONLY. 
Under NO circumstances shall/should ANY of these materials be used for human consumption.” (sic)

A different online distributor claiming to be based in London recognises that the drug has not been approved yet still distance themselves from any responsibility. They say: “As the consumer you are taking this product entirely at your own risk, UK Melanotan will not be held responsible for any side effects incurred.”

Both companies have been contacted for comment, but are yet to respond.

Is it legal?

Melanotan is not a licensed medicine in the UK and to sell the drug is a criminal offence.

Carl Alexander Cancer Research UK health information officer explains more, “Using melanotan in the quest for a tan is a risk to your health. Melanotan is an unlicensed product and it’s illegal to advertise or sell it in the UK because it hasn’t been tested for safety, quality or effectiveness and its side effects are unknown.

He adds, “We’d love to see more people owning their natural skin tone instead of using potentially dangerous products.”

Should I use it?

Multiple health and drug regulatory bodies do not support the use of Melanotan to develop a tan.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency says, “Melanotan is not a licensed medicine and therefore its quality and safety has not been tested; no information is held on where or how it was made nor what it contains.

“The fact that it is injected also raises serious questions about the sterility of the needle.

“Why would you inject yourself with something when you don’t know what it is? This may be a quick fix but is certainly not a safe option and may have serious long-term consequences.

“Our advice to those who have used Melanotan injections is to stop using them immediately and if you have suffered side effects, report them to us through our Yellow Card Scheme.”

If you have already used Melanotan consult your GP immediately if you have experienced any side effects or are worried about the use of sharing needles.