(WJW) — The long winter months are approaching and you may be already missing the sun-kissed days of summer — as well as the glowing complexion that comes along with them.
There are many options for skin tanning and while we already know most come with risks, the latest tanning trend is one experts warn you should never try.
The trend: nasal tanning spray, also called “the Barbie drug.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the new way to get a tan involves snorting a product that can lead to temporary skin darkening. But the product comes with serious, even life-threatening risks. It even contains a lab-made ingredient that the Cleveland Clinic says is “so risky that it’s illegal to sell it in all 50 U.S. states.”
What are nasal tanning sprays?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the key ingredient in these products is Melanotan II, which is completely lab-made. The clinic says the chemical imitates “your body’s natural melanocyte-stimulating hormone,” which causes pigmentation in skin.
“It still requires exposure to harmful UV rays in order to work,” said Dermatologist Allison Vidimos. “After you’ve taken Melanotan II, your skin will get tanner than usual (and faster than usual) once you’ve spent time in the sun.”
Melanotan II isn’t regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. TikTok told TODAY in March, “our policy on illegal activities and regulated goods prohibits the promotion of nasal tanning sprays.”
What are the risks of nasal tanning sprays?
“Let’s start with this: Snorting anything into your nose isn’t a good idea unless your doctor tells you to do it and it’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” emphasized Dr. Vidimos. “Because the FDA doesn’t regulate Melanotan II products, you can’t be sure what’s in your inhaled tanning spray, no matter what the label claims.”
Experts at the Cleveland Clinic go on to say that while researchers don’t yet know the long-term effects of Melanotan II, they’ve identified “some immediate and scary risks,” listed below:
Possible side effects include:
- Decreased appetite
- Gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea and vomiting
- Facial flushing (redness)
- Spontaneous erections
More severe risks include:
- Priapism, or painful, sustained erections
- Renal infarction, a rare but life-threatening condition that causes reduced blood flow to your kidneys
- Rhabdomyolysis, a potentially deadly condition in which the cells in your muscles start to disintegrate
Last week, the Australian government released a warning about the continued threat these products carry. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration even enforces criminal penalties and fines for businesses and social media personalities who promote and supply Melanotan products.
Are there safe tanning options?
We know sun exposure and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature aging, so are there safe ways to get a tan?
Here’s what Dr. Vidimos says, “Use a spray tan or the kind of gradual tan you can get in a cream or a lotion. These work by changing the color on just the outer layer of your skin (called the stratum corneum), and they don’t end up in your bloodstream. And they’re very safe.”