Fake tan and melanotan injections

  • Research so far shows that fake tan products are safe to use.
  • Melanotan injections are illegal and unlicensed in the UK because it has not been shown to be safe.

Instead of tanning, we encourage everyone to own their natural skin tone, and enjoy the sun safely. Find out more about our Own Your Tone campaign here.

But if you really want to change the colour of your skin, it’s safer to use a fake tan product on your skin than to sunbathe or use a sunbed.  

Does fake tan protect you from the sun?

No. Neither a fake tan nor a sun tan will protect your skin from too much UV. Even if your fake tan says it contains sunscreen, use shade, clothing, and sunscreen with at least SPF15 and 4 or 5 stars to protect your skin.

Is fake tan safe?

Fake tan products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a substance that reacts with the top layer of your skin to change its colour.  In 2010, experts at the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded that fake tan products containing DHA are not a health risk.­ But we still need to know more about any potential long term effects.  

This doesn’t apply to Melanotan injections, which are illegal in the UK.

Why is Melanotan illegal in the UK?

Melanotan injections, also referred to as a tan injections, are illegal in the UK and is unlicensed because they have not been tested for safety, quality or effectiveness and no one knows what the possible side effects are or how serious they could be. This decision was made by the the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which tests medical products in the UK.

Read more in our Melanotan science update blog here.

If you have recently used Melanotan, then you should stop, and see your GP if you think that you may be at risk from using or sharing needles or have any unusual side effects.

Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety. Opinion on Dihydroxyacetone. doi:10.2772/27149 [Accessed January 2019]

International Agency for Research on Cancer. Is there such a thing as a “healthy tan”? http://cancer-code-europe.iarc.fr/index.php/en/ecac-12-ways/sun-uv-exposure-recommendation/76-healthy-tan. [Accessed January 2019]

Agar N, Young AR. Melanogenesis: A photoprotective response to DNA damage? Mutat Res - Fundam Mol Mech Mutagen. 571, 121-132 (2005) doi:10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2004.11.016.

Coelho S.G. et al. Photobiological implications of melanin photoprotection after UVB-induced tanning of human skin but not UVA-induced tanning. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 28(2),210-216 (2015).

Faurschou A, Wulf H. Durability of the sun protection factor provided by dihydroxyacetone. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 20(5), 239-242 (2004).

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