Many Metro-Detroiters can't wait to work on their deep dark tans in the summer, but some people might be going too far, according to a local dermatologist.
One local woman tried something that's been dubbed the "Barbie Drug". It's a decision she came to regret.
Melanotan has been dubbed the "Barbie Drug" for promising a fake tan, boosting your sex drive, and encouraging weight loss. Ruth to the Rescue was able to easily buy the drug online, and we found people online giving melanotan rave reviews. However, dermatologist Dr. Steve Grekin says it’s not worth the risk.
Trying to get darker
Alicia Cole said she was willing to try anything to make her naturally pale skin darker. "I wanted tan skin and I would stop at nothing down to $600 a month in a tanning salon," she told Local 4 Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer.
Cole said she went online looking for something to make tanning easier.
"I stumbled across Melanotan II on the internet, started researching it quite extensively," she said. "Couldn't find anything to state that it was dangerous. I did find it wasn't FDA approved."
Doctor Steve Grekin says melanotan is a protein manufactured in a lab that works to make our skin darker. "It's designed to copy a synthesizing hormone that we make in our bodies, but it's 1000's of time more powerful," he explained.
Cole first used melanotan in December of 2010. She loved the color of her skin when she was injecting the drug and also tanning at the salon.
"There's such a small amount in the syringe that it almost didn't seem like it could hurt you," said Cole.
Not tested, not approved
While researchers are working on legitimate ways to use the protein. They call the products sold as melanotan counterfeit chemicals that have not been tested. When Cole told Doctor Grekin how she was getting her deep dark tan, he was shocked.
"She reluctantly came clean and told me she's been buying these shots from the internet. Now this time I was horrified," said Dr. Grekin.
International agencies have warned consumers against buying products marketed under the name melanotan. Ruth to the Rescue received a statement from the FDA saying in part, "the FDA cautions consumers against injecting any substance, particularly products that are not FDA-approved into their bodies without the oversight of a licensed health care provider."
Added Dr. Grekin, "Anything that stimulates your hormones unnaturally, you don't know the effect, the risk of not knowing is far too great."
Beware what you buy online
Cole can't remember which website sold her the melanotan she used. We easily purchased of vial of the product. Doctor Grekin worries other patients may be using melanotan, but won't admit it.
"We have had lots of other patients that we are suspicious that they're using this compound, many of them are too embarrassed to tell you," said the doctor.
A thought that's disturbing to both doctor and patient. Alicia said she would not use melanotan again.
Doctor Grekin was even more vehement, adding, "If you're thinking about doing it, stop! Do not pass go! Do not click on buy...don't even go to the website. This stuff is dangerous!"
"If you are doing this stop immediately, and again we advise them to get a full body scan exam every six months," he advised.
Ruth to the Rescue tried to reach out to the company behind the website where we purchased the melanotan, but have not heard back.
The FDA wants to remind everyone to be cautious when buying any kind of drugs online. Follow this link for more information about what you should think about when surfing the web for anything you might put inside your body.