The lengths people will go for cultural appropriation...
It seems like just yesterday that Rachel Dolezal's parents snitched on her for pretending to be Black. TBH, it was one of the few justified acts of snitching we've ever come across. *Just saying!*
In the two years since that story blew up, many news cycles have come and gone, but our country's particular ignorance toward — and demonstrated inability to effectively improve — race relations remains a constant. Enter the troubling new beauty fad that's sweeping the globe — and putting people's health at risk: synthetic melanin injections.
Yeah, you read that right; real life human beings are injecting chemicals into their bodies in hopes of achieving that #BlackGirlMagic you were born with. WTF?
According to all three dermatologists we spoke to, they would discourage anyone and everyone from receiving such injections. This is both due to the lack of FDA regulation (which makes it impossible to know what's really in the solution) and lack of research on the drug and its long-term effects.
Commonly referred to as the "Barbie drug," melanotan, a.k.a. synthetic melanin, can cause nausea, vomiting, flushing, stomach cramps, decreased appetite, fatigue and allergic reactions, and can even accelerate the onset of skin cancers. Turns out putting a synthetic, foreign agent in your bloodstream is not good for you. Who would've thunk?!
Melanotan comes in two forms: Melanotan I (aka afamelanotide) and Melanotan II. The former has some FDA-approved uses for very specific and somewhat rare ailments. The latter is not FDA-approved and is being sold online, promising benefits such as sunless tanning, though due to the lack of regulation, there's no way to know what you're getting. This is the very reason why doctors are warning against using it, citing adverse reactions and visibly permanent skin damage.
"When a medication is unregulated, we can't be confident in its purity, and that makes accurate dosing impossible. There could even be problems with contamination and sterility," Dr. Kenneth Howe, of Wexler Dermatology, said. "A further complication is the fact that melanotan is sold in various forms (nasal sprays, freeze dried powders), which then have to be mixed with bacteriostatic water before being injected."
One dermatologist, Dr. Alan Parks, founder of DermWarehouse, categorized melanotan injections as "not something we'd ever perform on patients in our office. I would say that because this is an unregulated drug and you can buy it online and do it yourself, it's likely not safe and you should stay away from it," he said.
Dr. Sejal Shah, a RealSelf contributor, had a slightly different take. While she expressed her belief that melanotan is illegal and she stressed it as being "really quite dangerous," Dr. Shah said there are some medical conditions which merit the use of the drug. "I would only recommend Melanotan I for people with the limited conditions it is approved to treat and under the care of a board-certified dermatologist," she shared.
Even though the risks and warnings are widely available, some tanning addicts do not want to face the music.
For example, take German model Martina Big. She has been charting her quest to look like an "ultimate real-life Barbie bimbo" by way of extreme breast enlargement and melanotan injections since 2012, spending more than £50,000 (or about $60K) on cosmetic surgeries and procedures in the process.
"Yes, I have the skin of an African girl. But I am not pretending to be a Black girl," she said. "I love my skin like this. I love the extreme look... I love the contrast of my bright blonde hair and my dark, crispy brown skin."
It should be noted that injections such as the ones that have been administered to Martina bring about a significant increase in the probability of developing melanoma.
"Already there have been four cases of melanoma reported in people using or shortly after they used melanotan, and that's very worrisome," Dr. Howe elaborated. "There have been other cases of changing moles and eruptions of new moles in people using melanotan. So it's a real concern that melanotan is causing abnormal changes."
Bottom line: you don't know what you're getting when you buy unregulated medications online. All the more reason to save your cash and love yourself as is!