I remember hearing a few years ago about a revolutionary tanning pill coming to the market. The concept is exactly where I would want technological advances in beauty to go — taking a pill which will result in a beautiful tan thus saving my skin from further damage and premature aging. But do they work?
Finding two types of pills, the most frightening using the color additive canthaxanthin. The additive is suppose to tint your skin by, “depositing in various parts of the body, including the skin, where it imparts a color. The color varies with each individual, ranging from orange to brownish.” This claim the Food and Drug Administration is skeptical about. The FDA warns, “this coloration is not the result of an increase in the skin’s supply of melanin, the substance produced naturally in the skin to help protect it against UV radiation.” Did you hear that fair-skinned people? If it works you will get a tanned look but you still cannot go outside without getting burnt — you will not be more protected from the sun. Shucks.
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The FDA has approved the use (in small doses) of canthaxanthin in food but there has been no FDA approved tanning pill in the amount which is suggested to change the color of your skin. In fact, there has only been one company which submitted a claim for a pill containing the necessary dosage but had to withdraw the application due to adverse effects. The reports were of nausea, cramping, diarrhea, severe itching, and welts but the scariest side effect was something called, canthaxanthin-induced retinopathy. The condition involved crystal-like retinal deposits in the eyes and loss of visibility taking up to 7 years to clear up. Eww.
The second type of pill I found seemed more like a vitamin supplement. The pills contain L-Tyrosine, Vitamin E and Copper (among many others) which are suppose to aid in increasing melanin production. People gave mixed reviews about the effectiveness and I don’t think taking this type will do much harm since it only contains vitamins. However, research is inconclusive on such products — there are no FDA approved tanning pills.
Don’t fret just yet! There may be hope in the future for some sort of tan-aid. In 2006, Harvard scientist’s did an intriguing study on mice accidentally discovering a way to induce melanin for fair-skin.
Webmd.com’s article states, “In their experiments, they found that UV radiation doesn’t act directly on the melanocyte cells, as experts believe, but rather on neighboring skin cells called keratinocytes. “The keratinocytes responded to UV radiation by making a huge amount of melanocyte stimulating hormone,” he says. “It then secreted that and that hormone needed to find its receptor on the surface of the melanocyte.” But if that receptor is faulty, as it is in fair-skinned people, tanning doesn’t occur.
They then used the plant extract, forskolin, which seemed to bypass the mutated receptor and started the pigmentation process. Forskolin is known to activate an enzyme “one step past the receptor” involved in pigment production, Fisher says.
“We applied forskolin once a day, five days a week,” Fisher says. “Within a few days we could see the skin was starting to get dark. One hundred percent of them got dark. We extracted the melanin, and it was true melanin. We looked at it under the microscope. Everything about it was the same as a dark person’s melanin.”
Mice treated with the forskolin developed six tumors, while those not treated with it developed 11 tumors. At the end of the 50-week follow-up, the skin of the mice treated with the forskolin was still dark. Treatment of forskolin also prolonged the time until development of tumors as well from an average time of four weeks to 25 weeks.”
The use of forskolin is still thousands of tests away from being attempted on humans so don’t go lathering up in the stuff. Hopefully, this window into how we tan can save lives in the future and get the fair-skinned out for a game of volley ball on the beach. Which would be far better then an orange hue produced by color additive tanning pills.
Still seemingly far away from safely tanning without bronzers and self-tanners, the tanning pills today seem terrifying. Like the parfum pill or the surgery which can permanently change your eye color — you should proceed with caution.
Have you any safe tanning solutions? or Have tanning supplements worked for you?