What Are Self-Tanning Injections?

Self-tanning injections are drugs administered through at-home injections, sold as Melanotan I or II, that increase levels of the skin darkening pigment melanin in the body. Experts warn against their use because of their potentially dangerous side effects, lack of regulation, and the unavailability of knowledge on their long-term effects.

Melanotan is a synthetic hormone that darkens the appearance of the skin by simulating melanin production, the natural process of tanning caused by exposure to UV rays. It also suppresses appetite and increases libido, earning it the nickname "Barbie drug."

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has warned the public of the potential health risks posed by injecting this drug. It causes the rapid darkening and enlargement of moles, which can be an early sign of skin cancer. The at-home nature of the injections presents risk of transmitting blood viruses with improper sanitation. Melanotan is also unregulated, meaning that it has never been through the licensing process and the purity of the product cannot be ensured. As of 2013, the MHRA has documented 74 reported negative reactions to the drug, such as stomach and heart problems and blood and eye disorders.