In the last several years, there has been an increase in research and media attention surrounding the harmful consequences of sun exposure and tanning beds. The upside to this has been greater awareness of skin cancer risks, and greater emphasis on skin care, leading many tanning enthusiasts to embrace sunless tanning options like spray tans and tanning lotions. The downside has been the adoption of newer, potentially harmful tanning solutions such as "Tan Jabs" to make up the difference.
Tan jabs, in the simplest terms, are tanning injections or tanning supplements. Human trials of tan jabs began in 2006, but still haven't gained federal approval, and thus their sale and distribution is illegal. Even so, Melanotan or the "Barbie drug," as WIRED magazine dubbed tan jabs in a 2006 article, is being sold and distributed online, in tanning salons and at the gym. According to WIRED, Melanotan can aptly be called the Barbie drug for its ability to induce a fake tan, while supposedly boosting sexual drive and possibly encouraging weight loss, all at once.
Utilizing two synthetic versions of the hormone melanocyte, Melanotan I and Melanotan II injections have both undergone some clinical trials, but neither has been approved by the FDA or any other regulatory system. While each of these synthetic hormones are rumored to increase the production of melanin in skin, Melanotan II is the type that purportedly affects libido and increases sexual arousal. Due to this additional effect, Melanotan II is also being studied as a medication for sexual dysfunction, in addition to a tanning treatment. The Melanotan II hormone is said to induce weight loss by pinpointing appetite-suppressing receptors to diminish patients' food cravings. These same receptors are popularly targeted in many of today's weight-loss drugs.
Apparently, patients receive the Melanotan, a peptide, in powder form to avoid degradation. The powder is then mixed with a prepared bacteriostatic water and injected with a syringe daily. On average, injection dosages range from 0.25mg-1mg, administered once or twice a day. Dosage amounts can vary based on a patient's weight, and whether a patient is using Melanotan I or II. Typically, Melanotan II injections are used at lower dosages than Melanotan I because there is a greater instance of side effects with II.
For one thing, it's always smart to be wary of medications or treatments that haven't received approval from the FDA or other health regulatory systems; especially those treatments that are injected or orally ingested. In 2007, the FDA reported sending a Warning Letter to the company's owner for illegally marketing and selling the drug on their website. They also issued a consumer warning about Melanotan II, stating that:
Other websites about tan jabs have cited these possible side effects for both Melanotan I and Melanotan II:
Additional side effects specific to Melanotan II are uncontrollable sexual arousal and possible anaphylactic shock. Even if certain side effects aren't guaranteed, there's a lot that can go wrong during the drug's administration. The drug's lack of federal approval has required it to be marketed over the internet and administered by inexperienced, uninformed individuals at their own discretion and accountability. That means the odds for error are much greater than if the drug was legal and widely administered by cosmetic professionals.
The appeal to simultaneously get tan, lose weight and increase our libido is a very attractive prospect. However, there's nothing worth sacrificing our personal health and well-being for. The Barbie drug may work as it claims to, but just remember that it's illegal for a reason. Perhaps with time, increased clinical trials, and alterations to the formula, Melanotan will be resubmitted for FDA approval and attain it in the U.S. Until that time, we suggest you lose weight the old-fashioned way (exercise and a healthy diet), get your tan from a bottle or with spray tanning, and increase your libido by increasing your quality of life, or looking into approved drugs for sexual dysfunction.