Rise in social media influencers promoting dangerous nasal tanning sprays

“Dangerous” tanning products, such as nasal sprays that claim to accelerate tanning, are being promoted by influencers on social media sites TikTok and Instagram.

In the UK it is illegal to sell injectables or nasal sprays containing untested drug melanotan-II, but it is not illegal to use the products.

The unlicensed drug works by replicating the function of naturally occurring melanocortin peptides, which are involved with the pigmentation of your skin, acting as a catalyst to stimulate the production of melanin throughout the body, darkening your skin colour.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Catherine Borysiewicz told BBC News in a news piece it created on the issue how the products “can potentially lead to cancer. We have cases that have shown melanoma developing after using these products.”

One of the dangers of using unlicensed products is the lack of certainty when it comes to ingredients. The BBC sent off samples of the products to a lab to be tested, where it was discovered to contain around 100 unidentified ingredients – 10 times the expected 10 ingredients in most licensed medicines.

Professor Tony Cass, head of chemistry at Imperial College London, warned of the dangers of taking unlicensed medications and products, telling BBC News: “If you don’t know what you’re taking, you should probably avoid it.”

This is not the first time the BBC has shone a spotlight on dangerous tanning products, having previously done an Inside Out Investigation on beauty salons and barber shops selling illegal tanning products.

Why are dangerous tanning products trending on social media?

Influencers are often sent these products for free in exchange for promotion on their social media profiles, with one influencer, Lauren, admitting to the BBC that she promoted a nasal spray on her TikTok without knowing they were illegal. 

She told them: “At the time I didn’t think much of it… now that I look back obviously, I need to, as an influencer, be careful with what I’m promoting.”

Lauren stopped taking the nasal spray after two months due to feeling nauseous. Other side effects of using melanotan-II include increased moles and freckles, vomiting, loss of appetite, flushing of the face, involuntary stretching and yawning, and even spontaneous erections. 

Last year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned two influencers tanning ads for using filters that could be “misleading” and “exaggerate” the effects of the products.

How do you think awareness can be raised about the dangerous of these tanning products? Let us know your thoughts below.

Don’t miss: The UK's leading spray tanners tell us 2022's top tanning trends