1. ITV Report

Tanning injections: 'The side effects could be extremely serious'

Melanotan injections can be readily purchased on the internet Photo: Reed Saxon / AP

An unlicensed and untested tanning product is being sold illegally at a gym in Neath, an ITV Wales investigation has revealed.

The product, Melanotan, is a synthetic hormone which is injected into the skin causing it to darken. It works by increasing the body's level of melanin, which is a natural dark pigment in the skin that darkens in the sun.

It is currently illegal to sell these tan injections because the product has not been tested, and so it is unlicensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), a body responsible for regulating the quality and safety of medicines.

As it has not been through the licensing process, the MHRA are unsure of any potential side effects the product might have, and therefore it is not legal to market or supply it.

Although it is illegal to sell Melanotan in the UK, an ITV journalist was able to buy it from the gym in Neath.

The owner of the gym says he was "completely unaware that it was going on". The gym has since been unavailable for comment.

Despite it being illegal to sell the product, it is still being used by those who are keen for a year-round tan.

Elin* lives in west Wales and has been buying the tanning injections from the internet for a few months.

All my friends were doing them so I wanted to try them. They're cheaper than having a spray tan every week, and I feel really confident being nice and brown.

– Elin, Melanotan user

On the internet, Melanotan is marketed as a safe alternative to sun beds, but Cancer charity, Tenovus, are warning that there could be side-effects to the tanning injections.

We’ve warned young people to stop using sun-beds because of the proven link with skin cancer. These tan injections are even more worrying because they haven’t been licensed so we don’t even know what the effects are now or what they’ll be in the future.

– Richard Pugh, Community Development Manager for Tenovus

Elin admits that some of her friends have noticed side-effects after using Melanotan. She said that some felt 'really ill' after injecting, while others suffered 'heart palpitations, headaches, and dizziness'.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has warned people not to use Melanotan, as the product has not been tested in the UK.

We are warning people not to use this product. Don't be fooled into thinking that Melanotan offers a shortcut to a safer and more even tan. The safety of these products is unknown and they are unlicensed in the UK. The side effects could be extremely serious. If you have used either of these products do not use them again and if you have any concerns you should seek advice from your doctor.

– David Carter, Spokesman for the MHRA

You can see the full investigation into tanning injections at 6pm on ITV1, or on S4C's Hacio at 10pm.

*Name has been changed to ensure anonymity