Fake tan and melanotan injections

  • There’s no such thing as a safe UV tan. It is safer to use fake tan than to sunbathe or use a sunbed.  
  • Remember that neither a fake nor a real tan will protect your skin from the sun. 


  • Unlicensed melanotan injections are illegal to sell in the UK.

Instead of tanning, we encourage people to embrace their natural skin tone, and enjoy the sun safely.

But if you really want to tan, you’re better off using fake tan.


Fake and spray tans

Fake tan is a product that can be used at home to give skin a tanned appearance. Spray tan is a thin mist that is sprayed onto skin and uses more specialist equipment, so is usually done by a technician.

Using a fake or spray tan instead of sunbathing or using sunbeds can help you avoid harmful UV rays.


Are fake and spray tans bad for your skin?

No. But always make sure that you use fake tan products according to manufacturer instructions.


Do fake and spray tans cause cancer?

No, using a fake or spray tan according as directed on the product packaging does not cause cancer.

But it’s important to remember that neither a fake tan nor a sun tan will protect your skin from too much UV, which can cause melanoma skin cancer.

Even if you have a tan, you still need to think about protecting your skin when the sun is strong. Use shade, clothing, and sunscreen with at least SPF15 and 4 or 5 stars.

Find out more about enjoying the sun safely.


Chemicals in fake and spray tans

Both fake and spray tan products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which reacts with the top layer of your skin to change its colour.  

In 2020, experts at the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety found that fake tan products containing DHA are not a health risk, and they will continue monitoring the evidence.

This doesn’t apply to unlicensed melanotan injections, which are illegal to sell in the UK.


What is melanotan?

Melanotan is an artificial hormone. It stimulates the pigment cells in your skin to produce melanin (the substance that makes skin look darker).

Melanotan is made in different forms, such as a tanning nasal spray, but it is most commonly sold as an injection.


Are melanotan injections (tanning injections) safe?

No. Unlicensed melanotan injections may not have been tested for safety, quality or effectiveness. So we don’t know how serious any possible side effects could be.

Because they are not regulated, unlicensed melanotan injections could contain other harmful chemicals that aren’t listed on their label.


Are melanotan injections illegal in the UK?

Yes, unlicensed melanotan injections are illegal to sell in the UK.

If you have recently used unlicensed melanotan, then you should stop. See your GP if you start to notice anything unusual or if you may be at risk from using or sharing needles.


Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety. Opinion on Dihydroxyacetone (2020). https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/scientific_committees/con... [Accessed April 2021]


International Agency for Research on Cancer. Is there such a thing as a “healthy tan”? (2016) http://cancer-code-europe.iarc.fr/index.php/en/ecac-12-ways/sun-uv-exposure-recommendation/76-healthy-tan(link is external). [Accessed April 2021]


Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory agency. “Tan jab” is an unlicensed medicine and may not be safe.’(2008) *https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20141206164951/http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/groups/comms-po/documents/news/con031010.pdf [Accessed April 2021]

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