People got really excited back in 1991 when it was first revealed that the University of Arizona had developed an effective tanning drug. A new type of peptide compound named, Melanotan, had been developed and had been found to be an effective sunless tanning solution.
It has been nicknamed the “Barbie Doll drug” because it produces a flawlessly perfect tan evenly across the entire body like you would find on a Barbie doll.
Melanotan is a synthetic hormone that mimics the action of MSH, or melanocyte-stimulating hormone which is responsible for darkening the pigments of the skin. Typically when your skin is exposed to UltaViolet radiation (the sun or tanning beds) your skin will release melanocytes as a natural defense to protect your skin from absorbing an excess amount of solar radiation. This natural defense to UV light is what leads to tanning or a darkening of your skin. Melanotan is a peptide which similuates this melanocyte response chemically in the absense of the sun. Therefore it is safe, because your skin pigment is responding to the simulated hormone rather than from actual UV damage to the skin.
Skin cancer researchers there knew that one of the best defenses against skin cancer was a natural tan which has been slowly developed over weeks. They hypothesized that an effective way to reduce skin cancer rates in people would be to induce the body’s natural tanning system to produce a protective tan prior to UV exposure.
They knew the body’s naturally occurring hormone alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (á-MSH) caused melanogenesis, a process by which the skin’s tanning cells (melanocytes) produce the skin’s tanning pigment (melanin). With that knowledge they tested to see if administering this hormone to the body directly could be an effective method to cause sunless tanning. What they found was that while it appeared to work, natural alpha-MSH had too short a half life in the body to be practical as a therapeutic drug. So they decided to try and find a more potent and stable alternative, one that would be more practical.
After synthesizing and screening hundreds of molecules, the researchers headed by Dr. Victor Hruby, found a peptide that after trials and testing seemed to not only be safe but also approximately 1,000 times more potent than natural á-MSH. They dubbed this new peptide Melanotan.
Since their discovery, numerous studies dating back to the mid-1980s have shown no obvious toxic effects of Melanotan. Because skin cancer (melanoma) today is a major health concern, Melanotan is expected to be used as a drug to combat it. Melanotan will do this by stimulating the body’s natural tanning mechanism to create a tan without first needing exposure to harmful levels of UV radiation. This in turn will reduce the potential for skin damage that can eventually lead to skin cancer.
This peptide has been going through extensive testing and research over the past ten years, however it is still not yet approved for use by the FDA. Not only can Melanotan be used for sunless tanning it may also be an effective preventative treatment for people at risk for skin cancer. So far, it is effective only when administered by subcutaneous injection, not orally. Since Melanotan must be administered with insulin needles, it will never be FDA approved for over-the-counter use until an effective oral form is developed.
In 1998 the University of Arizona improved the peptide even further and developed Melanotan II which was an even more effective sunless tanning agent. Both Melanotan I and II are synthetic hormones of melanocyte stimulating hormone that is responsible for darkening the pigment of your skin when exposed to sunlight. Melanotan I is a linear, full length peptide [containing all 13 amino acids]. Melanotan II is a shortened, circular version of the same peptide.
However while testing the new peptide Melanotan II they found that it had an unexpected side effect: it caused spontaneous erections in men. The American Association of Urologists tested this peptide extensive and found that it did not change the bloodflow or selectively expand or restrict capilaries in the same manner that Viagra or Cialis treats erectile dysfunction. It works by sending a signal to the brain which causes the body to naturally secrete the hormone which causes an enhanced erection. They did further testing and found that this same responside with women it increased sexual desire and genital arousal. Evaluation is currently being done with this peptide in hopes of developing a new type of erectile dysfunction drug, however the Arizona Cancer Center suspended all development of Melanotan II as a tanning agent.
The Arizona Cancer Center is working with Melanotan not only as a drug with cosmetic applications but in order to reduce the risk of skin cancer. They feel that if fair skinned people take Melanotan it will offer them the protective benefit of a tan without the harm of sun exposure. In essence, it could protect people by providing them with a slight sunless tan that would make them less prone to burn with their day-to-day exposure to the sun.
The Arizona Cancer Center’s research has found Melanotan I to be effective in promoting skin pigmentation with little or no risk, however it’s role in actually preventing skin cancer has not yet been determined. They also found that Melanotan will not do anything for people with albinism or vitiligo because these patients do not have skin cells with receptors for melanin. For this reason, the synthetic hormone has no mechanism for action and therefore cannot cause change in pigment.
Researchers at the University of Arizona are no longer conducting research with Melanotan I, although research continues for Melanotan II.
A private U.S. company, Competitive Technologies, announced in March of last year that they would be developing Melanotan I and II for commercial use.
A company in Australia, EpiTan, is raising funds to start production and trials for Melanotan I as a tanning agent to prevent skin cancer. Unfortunately, rumor has it that the Australian equivalent of the FDA will not be accepting the research already done in the U.S., which will greatly delay approval in Australia, as all the tests will have to be repeated.
Recently, EpiTan announced it is working on a time release injection version of Melanotan, moving away from an oral formula. These injections would need to be administered every 30 days, instead of daily. They are using the same time release injection hormone technology developed for the birth control drug, Depo Provera.
Even with all this development on the Melanotan I and II peptides, there still remains many unanswered questions. For example, how effective are these peptides for readheads or people prone to freckles? It may be quite a few years before these peptides are FDA approved and once they are approved you will need to go to a cosmetic surgeon’s office to get them administered. However, you don’t have to wait. They currently have research grade Melanotan I and II available for all those research chemists out there (anyone) to test out on their lab-rats (themselves).
So you can order “research grade” kits of Melanotan I and II online right now for around $100 and try out this peptide. I know a few people who have tried this peptide and they were very pleased with the results. However, you have to use this at your own risk because these kits are not FDA approved and not intended for human consumption.
Purchase research grade Melanotan here:
Below is a video segment describing Melanotan and how it is a highly safe and effective sunless tanning solution:
* Special thanks to Billy Warhol for inspiring me on doing research to find the perfect safe sunless tanning solution available.