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Illegal tanning drug sellers tell Irish customers it is ‘safe’ despite cancer risk

Nasal drops are being promoted on social media as a way for sun worshippers to “hack the process”

The HPRA and the Department of Health have warned of the dangers of using Melanotan

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

Sellers of illegal tanning sprays that can lead to skin cancer and strokes are falsely promising customers that their products are “so safe” with “no side effects”.

Nasal drops are being promoted on social media as a way for sun worshippers to “hack the process” and achieve a golden glow all year round using a banned substance called Melanotan or Melanotan 2.

And while sunbed users may find it tempting to cough up cash in exchange for a speedy all-over bronze, the toxic substances are unsafe and pose a host of nasty risks for those who dare to inhale the drug.

Irish men and women are even getting lessons on how to ingest the chemical on social media (one spray up each nostril daily with UV exposure or sunbed use at least two times a week, one stockist instructs), paying no heed to its damaging qualities.

One wholesaler advertises a mango scented nasal spray that promises to give users the “darkest, deepest tan you'll ever have in your life” for just £45 plus £15 shipping (a steep €68).

The 10ml bottle holds an estimated 50 sprays and, according to the brand’s Instagram page, has “many health and skin benefits” despite keeping its ingredients a mystery.

It can also be purchased as part of the limited edition £55 (€63) ‘Xmas Sale Ultimate Triple Bundle’, which includes a generous three sprays in addition to bubblegum flavoured tanning drops (which are “designed specially to be taken 30-60 mins before tanning to increase your tanning rate when paired with our tanning spray”) and a choice of the brand’s so-called ‘tingle’ cream, accelerating sunbed cream, or a tanning stick.

The Sunday World made contact with the seller in question, who is flogging its products through promoters in Ireland as well as salons in the UK.

Our reporter sought details on how to become a tanning spray promoter and was advised to “buy at wholesale price and sell on Facebook or TikTok” or stock the products in a salon.

When our reporter raised concerns about the safety of the illegal drug, the trader assured her: “All our products are tested and safe to use, 100pc organic and cruelty free”.

One Irish ambassador for the brand, who uses TikTok and Instagram to promote the lethal goods, told us that she was selling the nasal spray for €70, the rapid accelerator cream for €45, and bundles for €150.

Much like the wholesaler, this pusher promised that the products would help our porcelain reporter achieve her ideal shade with no mention of the risks involved – even when she added that she’d never used a sunbed before.

“Yes, so safe babe, no side effects at all, brilliant results xx” she wrote.

An alarming number of thrilled customers have left delighted reviews and testimonials after using the products.

“Three beds my tan is on another level from gel n sprays & I never tan obsessed with your products (sic)”, one woman said as she shared a post-sunbed selfie.

Another wrote: “Must say your nasals really are the best, I’ve got so dark, love it.”

While a third added: “I’m obsessed. If you don’t have these tanners, you need to get them now! You will not find anything as good as these. Quality speaks for itself.”

These sun worshippers are either inconceivably naive or choosing to ignore the warnings of potential vision loss, muscle failure, and skin cancer that come with Melanotan nasal sprays.

In a statement to the Sunday World, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said it has “consistently advised that Melanotan 2 should not be used in any circumstance”.

“There is no guarantee as to the quality, safety or efficacy of these unauthorised medicines.

“Concerning health effects arising from the use of Melanotan 2 have been reported here and internationally.

“These include the development of new moles, darkening of existing moles and freckles, vision loss, stroke, muscle tremors and anaphylaxis. In addition, the administration of these products by injection or by nasal inhalation further increases the health risks”.

The Department of Health added that Melanotan is “neither an authorised medicine nor a cosmetic product” and it is therefore “not possible to obtain it from any legitimate source”.

“As such, the sale and advertising of Melanotan products is illegal within and into Ireland.

“As Melanotan 2 has not been authorised as a medicine, there is no guarantee of its safety, what it contains and how it is manufactured.

“Quality and hygiene concerns also apply to nasal sprays and drops”.

Speaking about the risks posed by Melanotan nasal sprays, Dr Sophie Shotter took to TikTok to advise young people not to risk their lives for a mahogany complexion.

“These nasal tanning sprays are so worrying and really, really potentially dangerous. They involve spraying something up your nose that contains an ingredient called melanotan which will stimulate your melanocytes to produce more pigment.

“So, not only is the sunbed really dangerous (and should be outlawed in the UK), but using this spray is completely unregulated and we have absolutely no safety data that this isn’t going to cause melanoma.

“And believe me, if there’s a cancer you don’t want, it’s melanoma,” she said.

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