There Might Soon Be A Way To Get A Tan Without Damaging Your Skin – But What's The Catch?

Illustration: Zhang Qingyun
Summer, summer, summertime. We love it, obviously, but the strong sun strikes dread into the hearts of us paler folk. The fear of premature ageing and cancer has many of us racing to the shade in our SPF 50. Plus, skin that resembles a strip of burnt bacon before peeling off like a snake's ain’t a good look.
But what if we could get a tan without risking cancer or premature ageing? The idea may sound too good to be true, but some genius scientists have created a drug that does just that, the BBC reported.
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The drug, developed by a team at Massachusetts General Hospital, creates a tan by mimicking sunlight, which makes the skin produce the brown form of the pigment melanin, the skin’s natural defence against harmful UV rays.
Unlike fake tan, which merely “paints” the skin and doesn’t protect against UV radiation, the tan created by the drug is “real” and within the skin. Users simply rub the drug into the skin, which kickstarts its melanin-making process.
The evidence suggests it would even help redheads to tan. Red hair and fair skin are caused by a genetic mutation that also stops UV light from creating dark melanin in the normal way.
Dr. David Fisher, one of the researchers, said the drug "has a potent darkening effect”. He told the BBC: "Under the microscope it's the real melanin, it really is activating the production of pigment in a UV-independent fashion."
While it’s easy to see the drug flying off beauty counters and department store shelves, the scientists said they’re more interested in preventing skin cancer – the most common type of cancer – than creating a new cosmetic product. It’s hoped the drug will be added to suncream to boost its effectiveness, the BBC reported.
"Our real goal is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer,” Fisher said. "Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer – that would be really huge."
As outlined in the journal Cell Reports, the drug has so far been tested on human skin samples and mice. While there has been "no hint of problems" so far, the scientists said they want to do more safety testing before it can be made available for commercial use. Put us on the waiting list, stat.
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