Melanotan feature
Ageless Beauty

An Injectable Tanner? What You Need to Know About Melanotan.

Ah, the golden glow of a sun-kissed body. It immediately conjures memories of days spent playing in the ocean or relaxing by the pool. Vibrant. Healthy. Happy. Or so we think. But after a few decades of circling the sun, we know the toll the big orange ball can take on our skin. So maybe there’s an easier way to get that glow. What if it was as simple as a spray or a shot?

Well, it is – sort of. 

By that, we mean the option exists. We’ll tackle that part first, then tell you the details to help you decide whether it’s a good one.


Melanotan shot

Melanotan may have you thinking melatonin, but it’s not at all the same thing. Melanotan (muh-LAN-oh-TAN) is a synthetic chemical that works like a hormone in your body to essentially produce melanin, or a black-brown pigment, in the skin. Melanin is what dictates your skin and hair color, along with your eyes (in the retina). The more you have, the darker you become. Researchers first created the chemical Melanotan to help treat certain skin conditions. It essentially acts as a hormonal catalyst, stimulating melanin production. According to companies currently selling the product, it makes it possible to tan much faster without spending hours in the sun with its potential negative effects on the skin and long-term health.

Research has also shown that it can produce erections in men with erectile dysfunction and sexual stimulation and treat rosacea, fibromyalgia, and other conditions. But we’ll just tackle the tan topic here. 

So, to summarize, this Melanotan substance is introduced into your system–through a shot or a nasal spray–and you’re promised to be a golden goddess.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Well, most experts say that’s because it is.

The Drawbacks

FDA not approved

So what can be wrong with this ‘miraculous’ Melanotan? Well, to start with, it’s banned in several countries, including the United States, the U.K, and Australia. In fact, many health agencies began issuing warnings about the drug more than a decade ago, saying it can pose some serious health risks, including vomiting and skin changes that could lead to melanoma, along with kidney disease, among other things.

There is a version authorized by the FDA (Melanotan I or afamelanotide), but that’s just for people with a rare disease who feel tremendous pain if sunlight or certain interior light touches their skin. That requires a doctor’s prescription. However, that’s not the version most people are using to tan, which is Melanotan II.

In a 2018 study, researchers asked nearly two dozen volunteers who were using Melanotan or had in the past about side effects. The most common were nausea, flushed skin, loss of appetite, and drowsiness. Again, these are the most common, not the most serious.

If banned, how’s it even available?

It’s not legal to sell Melanotan II in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to find. Unlicensed, untested, or fraudulent products sold as “Melanotan II” pop up all over the web. A quick google search turns up a few companies offering to ship it into the country, for a fee, with other sellers on eBay and Etsy also pitching products. And a social media search with the #nasaltanningspray hashtag turns up millions of views on videos of beautiful, tan young women bragging about what’s become quite the trending topic. 

That being said, if you order what they’re offering – something unregulated – you never know what you’re really getting. The product may be mislabeled or contain impurities that could seriously harm your health. And even if it is “the real thing,” if you get through the quick side effects others have complained about, there are no scientific studies regarding the long-term and potentially permanent side effects it may cause. 

Along with the risks of using a spray, the shots carry other concerns that you typically find with improperly prepared injections, including the risk of hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, nerve damage, abscess, and flood infections.

The Reviews

When you find the sites offering the products, their reviews run the gamut, from people who rave about the tans they had in no time to those who say they ended up with no tan at all. And you’ll find those who had the bad reactions we mentioned earlier sprinkled into comments, too, including people hit with headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, and nosebleeds. Many of the products also say the results are improved when combined with a tanning bed, and we all know the side effects those can cause. 

The Bottom Line

Woman getting a tan

Sure, you may think you look better with a tan. But if getting that darker shade means potentially shaving years off your life or living a much lower quality of life, you may want to reevaluate. You already know baking in the sun for hours increases your risk of skin cancer – the same with the tanning bed. And now, we’re finding that most researchers and clinicians agree that getting a shot or nasal spray to get that glow may not be any better for you. Sorry. This isn’t the safe, research-based, regulated option your beautiful body deserves.  

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