Fight death while you get a tan? That’s the idea. If used in moderation this, like most things, would be pretty damn snazzy. Would I use it? Hmm… I guess I’ll have to check it out.
I’ll probably be too lazy though and decide the ride to the store to buy it will take up too much time. Instead I’ll just drop my ass into a pool and swim around until I drown.
Check out the history of tanning products at the end of the article.
Future looks bright for sun-lovers as drug offers ‘instant tan’
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
20 July 2004
It may not be instant but it is pretty damn quick. Scientists have developed a drug that boosts tanning by speeding up the rate at which skin darkens when exposed to sunlight.
In tests, people who tanned in the ordinary way required 50 per cent more time lying in the sun than those who took the drug before stripping off. The tans of those who received the treatment – given by injection – also lasted at least three weeks longer.
The research is at an early stage, but the drug could potentially hit sales of sun cream yet at the same time cut rates of skin cancer. It could put tanning salons out of business. It might boost the annual rush for the sun, if people felt better protected, or undermine it if they felt no need to “head for the Med” for a tan.
The drug, called Melanotan-1 (MT-1), is a synthetic version of the hormone that stimulates the release of melanin in the cells, the pigment that produces a tan. MT-1 is described by the researchers at the University of Arizona, Tucson, who developed it, as a “super-potent” version of its natural counterpart, alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone.
In three small trials to test the safety of the drug, volunteers were exposed to varying amounts of natural sunlight or light from a sunlamp. There were 28 people involved in the trials and in all cases bar one those given the drug tanned quicker than those who were not. In the first study, tanning was tested with a sun lamp on the neck, in the second light was applied to one buttock – because it is an area not ordinarily exposed – and in the third, half of the back was exposed. The longest period of exposure was to natural sunlight over five days a week for four weeks.
Writing in Archives of Dermatology, the authors say that the drug is safe when combined with brief exposure to sunlight or sunlamps and that longer treatment over four weeks “does not produce more intense or new adverse effects”.
Although the principal aim was to test the safety of the drug, they add: “Perhaps the most important observation is of marked tanning synergy with the combination of UV-B light [from a sun lamp] or sunlight. The degree of skin darkening was significantly greater than that achieved with UV [ultraviolet] light, sunlight or drug alone.”
British skin specialists were cautious yesterday about the implications. Jane Sterling, consultant dermatologist at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge and a spokeswoman for the British Skin Foundation, said that if a pill could be developed that safely speeded tanning its effect would be unpredictable. “You could argue that if you went out in the sun for 20 minutes and got what you regarded as a cosmetically satisfactory tan you might regard that as sufficient. But would you go in again? I wouldn’t come back from the beach after 20 minutes – and I look after my skin.”
Users of sunbeds would be more likely to reduce their sessions if they tanned more quickly, Dr Sterling said. “But some might decide they would just get a deeper tan by going for the same number of sessions.”
The biggest potential benefit of the drug could be in preventing skin cancer. Melanin, the pigment that darkens the skin on exposure to sunlight, protects against the damage caused by ultraviolet light to the skin DNA which is a trigger of skin cancer.
The first of the three trials, in which a sunlamp was applied to the neck of four subjects, showed that three of them developed tans but they also had 47 per cent fewer sunburnt cells.
Dr Sterling said that would be “helpful evidence” that short bursts of sun exposure were not producing the sort of damage that leads to skin cancer in people who took the drug. But the long-term effects would still have to be tested.
“If we all got our cells to be an Indian dark skin colour and we stayed that way from May to September then there might be a chance 20 years down the line that we would get less skin cancer. But what would be the long-term consequences of taking a melanin-stimulating hormone on the melanin-producing cells? If you force them to overwork for years you may create a situation in which mutations can arise and cancer develop.”
However, there was little prospect that any pill based on the discovery would end the practice of sun worship or curb the desire for a summer spent lounging by the pool. “Human beings don’t think about the consequences of their behaviour,” Dr Sterling said.
Such sentiments were being echoed on Brighton beach yesterday. Claire Truscott, age 25, said: “With the unpredictable British weather you need all the help going to get a tan. The injection sounds a bit alarming, but ladies who already ‘Botox’ will have no qualms.”
TANS, REAL AND FAKE
– Cruising on an aristocrat’s yacht in 1920, Coco Chanel developed a tan. Sun-kissed skin becamedesirable, and the trend of the century was born.
– By the 1940s, women’s magazines encouraged a tan, and Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth were pictured in bathing suits showing off their glow.
– In the 1920s, a chemical refined from sugar cane, DHA (dihydroxyacetone), was found to react with a protein in the skin to produce a brown colouring. Since the outer layer of skin is continually replaced, the results are temporary.
– In the 1950s the first self-tanning product hit the shops. Containing DHA, it was named: “Man-Tan”.
– By the late 1990s, the range of products had reached saturation, from satsuma-coloured liquid applied in the privacy of the home to airbrushing in a salon. Tanners choose between “wash-off” (lasts 24 hours) or semi-permanent (up to 10 days – annoyingly longer on dry elbows and ankles).
– In 2003, a study commissioned by Au Courant fake tan revealed that, of 2,000 women aged 16-65 in the UK, more than three quarters felt a tan made them feel more attractive and confident. Nearly half admitted using fake tan.
– Around the globe a bottle of St Tropez fake tan (as worn by Victoria Beckham, Denise Van Outen and Elle MacPherson) sells every 10 seconds. A bottle of Ambre Solaire Self-Tan (as sported by Cat Deeley) is sold every eight seconds.
– The fake tan trend looks unlikely to fade as people become increasingly aware of the dangers of the sun. Skin cancer affects around 50,000 Britons every year, and kills about 1,000.