A CORK doctor said he has seen patients as young as 16 experiencing side effects after injecting themselves for the ‘perfect tan’.
GP and former lord mayor, John Sheehan, of Blackpool Bridge Surgery, expressed concern about the potential return of so-called tanning injections, now that restrictions are starting to be lifted.
Dr Sheehan said that the youngest person he saw affected by melanin injections at his practice, before lockdown, was 16.
Melanotan, or ‘mel’, is a synthetic hormone that increases the levels of melanin in the skin, resulting in a darkened complexion.
Potential side effects are believed to include acne, stomach pains, eye disorders, sickness, and even heart problems. The two forms available, melanotan I and II, are diluted in water prior to injection.
Injections had been on sale illegally in Cork.
Dr Sheehan said that the majority of people had purchased the injections online and a minority had got them from friends.
“People felt less of a need for them in the last year, but that’s going to change and it’s something we need to be vigilant about,” Dr Sheehan said.
“There is a pent-up energy to get out there and live life, but people need to be aware that these are not a good idea.
“People don’t know what they are injecting themselves with and for that reason alone this is not a good idea.”
Dr Sheehan said that many users of the injections hide the fact.
“Disclosing this to your GP is a bit like telling your parents,” Dr Sheehan said.
“If you feel like you’re going to get a lecture, you probably won’t say it.
“The youngest patient I saw who had used injections for tanning was only 16.
"It’s younger people who are doing this, given that they are at an age where they feel image is very important. They don’t see the long-term effects.
“This is an age where the body is still growing and developing, so it’s extremely vulnerable to any influence like that.”
Dr Sheehan said that patients often fail to link the use of tanning injections to the symptoms they are experiencing.
“They can result in infections or even affect the mood or sleep pattern. You might as well be injecting something you bought on a street corner. There really is no difference.
“Dangerous beauty trends have existed over the centuries, from women breaking their ribs with corsets to putting silicon inside themselves.
“Looking after one’s appearance is fine, as long as it’s done safely. The good news is that there are so many artificial tanning products out there that are incredibly safe and so natural that you can’t tell the difference.”
Dr Sheehan said that the overuse of tanning beds also remains an issue. “I have had people come to me who had been using sunbeds every day. Unfortunately, the skin is affected over time and they have a permanent effect on the skin.”