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The risks of tanning with melanotan: the ‘Barbie drug’ that triumphs on TikTok

Get a tan all year round like the ‘Malibu Barbie’, which is why it has gone viral on social media as the ‘Barbie drug’. It is melanotan, a synthetic analogue of melanocortin, which induces the production of melanin and therefore tans the skin without having to sunbathe. But not only that, it increases sexual potency and reduces appetite. Seen this way, it could be considered a panacea. However, dermatologists warn about its risks. And not now that platforms like TikTok have made it fashionable, but rather they have been warning about it for more than 10 years, when the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV) was already talking about the side effects – not always desired – of this drug. , whose use is not authorized in the European Union, but which can be purchased online.

According to the AEDV, the use of Melanotan, which is mainly administered by subcutaneous injection or nasal spray, can cause spontaneous erections, increased sexual stimulation, decreased appetite, decreased inflammatory and immune response of the body, increased tension blood pressure and behavioral changes. But are not the only ones. Health authorities warn of other possible side effects such as darkening of the skin, nausea, vomiting, redness of the face, and one of the most dangerous reactions: the increase in melanocytic nevi (moles).

Can it cause melanoma? In this sense, the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology considers that “we must be cautious”, because there is no scientific evidence of this. What there is evidence of is the multiplication and transformation of nevi (moles), even the need to remove “moles with a potential risk of malignant transformation” in patients who had used this drug.

Safe self-tanning: DHA is the key

There are self-tanning products on the market, both in cream and spray, with which you can achieve a tan color without putting your health at risk or harming your skin.

The AEDV highlights that they have made a lot of progress, and “they provide a tanned tone in record time and without damaging the skin.” In addition, it stands out that they now incorporate all types of treatment active ingredients and are increasingly easier to apply, leaving a more uniform, luminous and natural volume, moving away from the orange effect and the strong smell that they left years ago.

Behind the good results of self-tanners is a molecule called DHA (dihydroxyacetone) that upon contact with the epidermis produces a chemical oxidation reaction, staining the dead cells of the outermost layer of the skin, destined to be eliminated in two. or three days due to the natural peeling process. As the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology explains, the tone will also depend on its formula. With only 2% DHA you can get a sunless tan, but most self-tanners include between 3% and 6%. The color can range from orange to toasted brown, so the AEDV advises testing the self-tanner on an area of ​​the skin that was not previously visible.