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The Dark World of Tanning Injections

How far would you go for a tan? We uncover the grim truth about tanning injections.

Written by Casey Milano

As I lay on the bed starkers with Garnier cream tan in Medium covering my entire body, I didn’t pull the duvet over myself until I was completely sure my skin was dry. By morning I realised it wasn’t quite as dry as I had thought, and I was patchy all over (nothing to do with my utter failings of applying it…). I was 13 years old and naturally pasty – Mum would say I was “an English rose” to try to make me feel better – and at the time Girls Aloud seemed to be playing a game of who could have the darkest tan. Needless to say, I was suckered in.

But we all love a tan, don’t we? We feel better, we look healthier and most women would say it even tmakes them look slimmer. And nowadays we don’t just want a tan for summerl we want one all-year-round. With all the products available to us, from one-hour tanning mousse to a £10 spray tan at the local salon, we can shine bright, even in the snow (seriously – the winter will really bring out the orange!).

But is there a dark side (see what I did there?) to the tanning industry? How far would you go for a tan? Especially if you didn’t have to work at it. Welcome to the world of the tanning junkie.

Dubbed the ‘barbie drug’, tanning injections – although highly publicised for their dangerous side effects – are still big business in the UK. The illegal drug works by stimulating the body’s pigment cells, causing them to produce more. Have an injection, hit the sunbed or soak up some natural rays, and your tan will reveal itself much quicker and will last longer.

Sound good? Of course, it does! It even appealed to me (those damn TV shows…), but after doing some research and reading some horrendous real-life horror stories, I’ve decided to stick with my bottle of Aussie tan mousse.

Type tan injections into Google and thousands of results will pop up showcasing these so-called ‘tanning shots.’ They may be illegal, but getting your hands on some is very easy. The results bring up links to places where you can buy it (in bulk, because they’re helpful like that), and only when you scroll further down the page will you see any mention of side effects. To anyone desperate for tanned skin, the first thing they will see are options on how to buy. And if you’re desperate for something, chances are you will jump for it and think about the consequences later.

Basically, there are two types of tanning injections – both as bad as each other, but the most popular being Melanotan 1 (two points for guessing the second one’s name… yep, it’s Melanotan 2). Neither are tested for human use and both may produce a pretty tan, but you might not look as pretty with the side effects which, to name a few, including acne, eye disorders, stomach pain, sickness, heart problems, blood disorders and high blood pressure. And if Melanin 1 or 2 is injected by an unqualified person – like so many of the are – it can cause tissue damage, which can lead to infections. Oh, and let’s not forgot moles; a good tan may cover them, but injections make them darker, which could lead to skin cancer.

I couldn’t write this article without mentioning that tanning injections aren’t the only baddies here. The tanning industry is worth millions and the products are, let’s face, bloody expensive! With an average bottle coming in at £18 and not lasting more than a couple of weeks, it’s an expensive way to live if you’re only doing it because you hate the colour of your natural skin.  

I’m not saying that we should all boycott tanning. I still love a tan (a good one). It makes me feel confident and just great in general. But if I can’t be arsed to apply it? If I’m sick of brown sheets? If the summer is just melting it off as soon as I step outside? Then I don’t need it and I can embrace my white legs. I get the fact that a tan affects much more than your skin but is it worth risking your life over? Your pay-packet? Your white sheets!? Let’s face up to the fact that we’re a nation of pasties (English roses actually) and, yes, it’s frustrating but there are worse things – you could be a patchy orange.

Images via @melanotanaus / @tan2aus


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