Thursday, April 28, 2011
The deadly DIY tan injection
By John Naish, on 28th April 2011:
Starved of sunshine over the winter and desperate for a healthy glow, Terri Sotherton, 21, sat at her computer screen four weeks ago looking for a cheap and easy way to get a perfect all-over tan.
She didn’t have to look far. Type the words ‘quick tanning’ into Google and the first three online companies to come up offer cheap deals on tanning accelerators in the form of creams, pills — and even injections.
Terri, from Bolton, bought three doses of a product called Melanotan for £25. On the website, it was claimed these one-milligram injections would make her browner faster than if she went on a sunbed or sunbathed.
But this online shopping trip ended in the local hospital A&E. ‘I didn’t think about the risks,’ says Terri, a full-time mother to her 18-month-old daughter, Megan. ‘What happened was terrifying.’
The kit she had bought included syringes and vials of Melanotan, but came without instructions. After recalling a friend had used something similar, Terri rang her.
‘She told me to inject myself with one milligram, which I did,’ she says. ‘Looking back, I can’t believe I was so stupid, but I did it without a second thought because at the time all I wanted was a tan without any hassle, just like she had.
‘I didn’t see any effects until two days after the injection. Then bizarre things started to happen. My face became luminous and swollen. It had the strangest green tinge and became hypersensitive. It was itchy, painful and I couldn’t bear to touch it.’
Extremely frightened, she went to A&E at Bolton Hospital and told the doctor what she had done.
‘He had never heard of Melanotan, but went off to research it with their poisons unit,’ she says. ‘When he came back, his face was grave. I started to panic.’
Melanotan contains hormones that increase the levels of the brown pigment melanin in the body.
In December 2008, the drugs watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), outlawed the product, which has earned the nickname ‘jabba-tan’, after finding it causes skin discoloration, stops the healing process and lowers the immune system so dramatically that patients have got meningitis.
Yet, as Terri proved, you can still obtain it easily on the internet. While its sale is banned in Britain, it is not illegal to buy or possess it.