Vol 14 Edition 3

The dark side of tanning injections

Recent posts in the email discussion group NSPForum asked about the prevalence of requests for equipment to inject tanning products such as Melanotan II; particularly requests from young women.

What is Melanotan II?
Melanotan II is a synthetic hormone that speeds up the production of melanin, the pigment that absorbs ultraviolet radiation and gives skin its colour. It was originally developed as a potential treatment for female sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction, but this research ceased in 2003. In technical terms, Melanotan II is a synthetic analogue of the peptide hormone α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH). Today, there are numbers of sellers on the internet of unlicensed and untested powders sold as Melanotan II.

Steroid Educator Kay Stanton from Your Community Health (formerly Darebin Community Health) says that the tanning injections are becoming more common.

“The tanning injections have become even more popular since state and ACT governments banned commercial solariums,” Kay says. (There were no commercial solariums in the NT).

There is no long-term research on the health impacts of the tanning products but people are willing to trade off the risks and the unpleasant side-effects to gain a tan. Some people may not even realise that there are negative side-effects as online sellers of the products often market them as safe and reliable.

“Side-effects include nausea, diarrhoea, darkening of freckles and moles, and even spontaneous erections.

“The product accelerates the effects of the sun. People achieve a tan with as little as ten minutes per day of sunlight. This is very appealing to particular client groups,” Kay says.

Young women clients may visit the NSP requesting “insulin needles”, by which they mean 27gauge 1.0ml injecting equipment. (The tanning products are injected into the skin folds of the abdomen.)

Many of these new NSP clients may not fully understand the risks of blood-borne viruses. Advise them about washing their hands, only using sterile equipment, never sharing syringes, the risks of drawing up from the same vial, and safe disposal.

Kay recommends the following advice be given to NSP clients injecting tanning products:

  • Don’t share your mix or injecting equipment and use the equipment only once. Unsafe injecting of tanning products carries a risk of blood-borne virus transmission.
  • Make sure to rotate your injecting site.
  • The best water to mix up the powder with is bacteriostatic water. This is sterile water containing 0.9% benzyl alcohol. The benzyl alcohol suppresses or stops the growth of most potentially contaminating bacteria.
  • Unmixed or mixed, the product needs to be kept in the fridge (cold but not frozen).

Kay is available to talk to NSP workers or clients about steroids, tanning products and other performance and image enhancing drugs. Kay’s number is 0417 529 678.

You can subscribe to the NSPForum by sending an email with the subject line ‘Subscribe’ to NSPForum@penington.org.au.

What dose of Melanotan II is recommended?
Suggested doses vary depending on the source – some sellers will encourage higher use! One site suggests starting with a dose of 0.25mg. If side-effects (see above) are not proving troublesome, the site advises users to attempt to increase daily dosage. After 2-3 weeks of daily use, or when the desired level of pigmentation has been achieved, people who use Melanotan II should start a maintenance phase of two injections per week.

– Sophie Marcard

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