Cancel that appointment at the tanning salon. Forget about keeping your mouth shut in the spray tan booth. Thanks to science, we may soon have a much safer way to induce the perfect suntan. A study published recently in the Cell journal has shown that a chemical applied to the skin can result in darker pigmentation, without having to go out in the sun or artificial exposure to UV rays. You may be inclined to call that a fake tan, but at the epidermal level, it’s exactly the same as the real thing.
So here’s how it works. The treatment relies on the behavior of the MC1R gene, which is what determines how your body reacts to sun exposure. Whether your skin turns dark or lobster pink, it’s because of MC1R and its variants. As part of the study, a team from the Massachusetts General Hospital found that an SIK inhibitor molecule can trigger melanin production before the MC1R gene can influence the reaction. The result is a process the study describes a “UV-independent topical modulation of human skin pigmentation,” which the rest of us would call a tan without risking sunburn.
So far, the chemical has only been tested on skin samples in the lab and mice. Mice which had a ginger complexion prior the experiment turned a much darker shade. The skin samples showed similar results and held their dark hue for as long as ten days. They then regained their natural color in about a week as they would naturally from the regeneration of skin cells. That’s about as long as a natural tan lasts.
Dr. David Fisher, the author of the study, said in an interview that the benefits of the chemical tan extend beyond getting that perfect shade of bronze. Current tanning methods rely on the application of UV radiation, whether that’s from the sun or an artificial source. Both are associated with a higher risk of developing some form of skin cancer. Even spray tans aren’t totally risk-free. But since even moderately darker skin can lower the risk of skin cancer, the chemical tan could be used as a way to prevent it. Dr. Fisher says that this could be utilized as a supplement to sunscreen in the future.
The next step, of course, is to hunt down commercial partners to raise funds towards safety trials. One of the primary concern experts have is that the treatment blocks the SIK enzyme, which is known to suppress tumors. So getting the procedure right would involve balancing the skin cancer-preventing benefits without depleting the body’s SIK reserve. While they figure that out, slather on some sunscreen and enjoy the sunshine, knowing that a few summers from now, you could get a tan without having to be sprayed, enclosed in a tanning bed, or being exposed to that big nuclear fusion reactor in the sky. What a time to be alive.
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Benjamin Guerrero says
People like to be tan, so you look less dead I guess.
Susan Orozco says
Skin cancer kills people just like any other cancer. If you are NOT going to be protecting yourself, then this might be an option on the other end.
Latoria Jackson says
That is true. I am just sitting here thinking about long term dangers we are going to find out about this product when it is too late for some people.
Santiago Saunders says
There are so many people that suffer just from the fact that they want to be tan. This might be a blessing in disguise for them.
Norma Rodgers says
The other thing you might want to note about the safety trials is that they are going to take awhile to conduct. I am sure in the short term the suntan is not going to have an impact on your skin and things like that, but what about a long term user? And then, what about their age?
James Villegas says
Are there any side effects of using this chemical in this way? AND does it provide the same reaction to ALL people?
Maria Angeles says
I would have to say that it does have the same impact on all people. It would be interesting to see how many companies open up tanning salons with these types of options for people.
Timothy Guertin says
If the end result is getting around the skin cancer, then this type of “suntan” is going to be the best option for you, don’t you think?
Candace Jones says
I agree. Skin cancer can lead to other types of cancer and that is the main thing to keep in mind. When you can control one of the types, then you at least have an option of getting other forms of cancer throughout your life.
Tamara Rigdon says
Putting a chemical on your skin is not the exact best way to prevent any side effect. However, if this works without having to go into the sun, then it might actually be a product you can market.
Thomas Morris says
I agree. There HAS to be another side effect that is coming from the chemical itself, right?
Rich Seal says
I would think so. Chemicals anywhere near your skin is not good.
Michael Bartley says
I have a friend that gets all itchy and red in the sun but would like sun-kissed skin look each summer. Maybe this is an option for her?
Tami Davis says
I would give it a try to see what happens. Sometimes you can still get the same reaction because it just happens to be sensitive skin, not the light in this case.