BBC investigation shines a light on beauty salons selling illegal tanning products

A new BBC Inside Out investigation is airing tonight (October 7) showing beauty salons and barber shops in the North East and Cumbria selling illegal tanning products.  

Undercover BBC reporters discovered that high street shops, including beauty salons and barber shops in Durham and Tyneside, have been selling Xtreme Rapido Nasal Spray which contains melanotan – an unlicensed medication that has been reported to cause nausea, heart palpitations and even turn nostrils green.

The makers of the spray say the product helps to over-stimulate pigment production, turning skin brown, enhancing tanning results. Although it’s illegal to market or sell an unlicensed medication such as melanotan in the UK, buying and owning it isn’t against the law. 

The Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which has repeatedly taken action to try and remove the sprays from the market told the BBC: "Melanotan is not a licensed medicine and therefore its quality and safety has not been tested. No information is held on where or how it is made nor what it contains."

Dr Jim McVeigh, from the Liverpool Health Institute, told the BBC: "We don't know how many people are using, we don't know the strength of the products, what is actually in them. Taking any substance is a risk but taking [one] when you have no idea of the content or the strength – it's like Russian roulette."

In the programme, the BBC track down Glyn Ferris, the owner of Extreme Health and Beauty Ltd, which markets and supplies the Xtreme sprays. He admits to the reporter that he knows it was illegal to sell the product in the UK, adding, “well it was a great way to make money because I had a bad time with my business a few years ago”.

When asked about it being potentially dangerous, he told the reporter: “Well, I’ve been using it for years.” He added: “I didn’t realise I was actually that good [at sales], do you know what I mean? And it did escalate, it just went beyond [and] I couldn’t even cope.” 

He has told the programme there will be no further sales. 

The story appears on BBC Inside Out in the North East and Cumbria at 23:45pm tonight and will be available on iPlayer afterwards. 

Another trend with dangerous consequences – some consumers are using Coca-Cola to help enhance their tan while sunbathing