HPRA warns of ‘serious health risks’ of self-tanning aid advertised on social media

Substance, also known as MT2, is being sold as an injectable powder, nasal spray or drops

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has warned the public of the “serious health risks” posed by using a self-tanning aid being advertised on social media.

The substance, also known as Melanotan 2, Melanotan or MT2, is being sold as an injectable powder, nasal spray or drops.

The HPRA has advised any consumers who have used the products not to use them again and to seek advice from their doctor regarding any health concerns.

Melanotan 2 is not authorised by the HPRA or any medicines regulator to treat any condition, including for the purpose of changing skin colour.

The HPRA said it has noted “a marked increase” in activity on social media illegally advertising and offering Melanotan 2 products for sale.

Between January 2020 and June 2022, over 500 social media or ecommerce listings relating to Melanotan 2-containing products were removed by the HPRA. The HPRA is also “actively engaging” with international social media platforms with the goal of limiting the sale and promotion of these products.

“Despite the manner in which products containing Melanotan 2 may be presented to consumers they are not cosmetic products,” the HPRA said in a statement on Monday.

“Products intended to be inhaled, injected or absorbed from under the tongue cannot be classified as cosmetics.

“Concerning health effects arising from the use of Melanotan 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.”

No data

Grainne Power, Director of Compliance with the HPRA, said consuming the substance “presents a real risk” to a person’s health.

“We urge people to consider the fact that there is no supporting safety data available for this substance before they inject it into their body or inhale it into their lungs,” she said.

“Melanotan 2 is not an authorised medicine in any form; it is not available in any pharmacy or any mainstream retail outlet. However, we are seeing the growth of marketing and promotion akin to a cosmetic product, using images of glamour and golden tans, and offering simple ‘tanning injections’ or ‘nasal sprays’ to replicate an aspirational body image.

“The promotion, advertising or sale of Melanotan 2 via online sources or social media platforms is in effect selling a dangerous substance that has not been declared safe for human use and is illegal. There is no data to support any safe use in any form and anyone using it is taking huge personal health risks.”

Members of the public can report suspicious activities around the supply of Melanotan and other health products to the HPRA, in confidence, by e-mailing reportacase@hpra.ie or by calling 01 634 3871 or 01 634 3431.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times