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Nasal tanning sprays are TikTok’s latest questionable trend

Experts are worried that unregulated substances found in tan-enhancing nasal spray could have serious health consequences.

While self-applied tanning lotions have gained popularity over the last two decades for being kinder to skin, many people may still be making a trip to the sunbed, especially as we enter peak winter paleness.

Deeper-tan creams containing low levels of SPF typically facilitate the darkening of sunbed lovers as they sprawl out under UV lights. But TikTok users are once again promoting another questionable beauty hack for those looking to boost their winter glow.

This time, it’s tanning nasal sprays – yes, a tanning solution you inhale through your nose like an anti-allergen. The product claims that it builds ‘a tan from within’ by entering the mucus membranes in the nose and stimulating skin-darkening cells called melanocytes.

Dermatologists have presented several concerns about these products, as they could potentially overstimulate melanin cells to the point of growing a tumour, such as melanoma.

Many of the sprays haven’t had their ingredients clinically tested to see whether they meet safety and health regulations. In fact, melanotan (one of the unregulated, yet key lab-made ingredients) is known to cause side effects of nausea, flushing, changes to blood pressure, and headaches.

The advice coming from the brands marketing them on social media isn’t exactly sound, either.

Replying to TikTok users’ comments, companies producing the sprays have said that their formula works better with increased sun exposure – endorsing an activity that is controversial and contradictory to the advice of health, skin, and beauty experts around the world.

In fact, staying out of the sun and regularly wearing sunscreen have been promoted as the most important step in daily skincare routines, as it prevents early ageing, sunspots, and sun damage. Both also protect from harsh UV levels, which over time, can cause cancer.

Without fearmongering readers into avoiding these products – whatever risk you want to take is completely up to you – there have already been reports of serious sun damage and skin cancer amongst users of the sprays.

In Scotland, a 24-year-old has had a pre-cancerous mole removed from her jawline after using nasal tanning sprays in combination with sunbeds, sun exposure, and oils. Though Amy says she blames her cocktail of tanning habits, she said continuously ignoring the risks was ‘stupid.’

38-year-old Sarah from Wales has warned against the use of nasal tanning sprays, now that she has started undergoing treatment for her precancerous cells, which appeared as a rash on the skin after using the product over the last few years. Her dermatologist said that nasal tanning sprays had doubled the amount of skin damage she received.

So, while users of nasal spray are looking bronzed, things are not looking so rosy in the long term.

It’s worth remembering that most TikTokers are regular people – most who have no credibility for giving advice that is healthy or safe. If we need reminding, there was the viral milk crate challenge, which saw many people visiting doctors for broken wrists, shoulder dislocations, and spinal issues.

Then there was the dry scoop challenge, in which people skipped out on diluting their pre-workout powder before exercising. Some people choked (cinnamon challenge throwback anyone?) and others suffered worse issues such as heart attacks from the substance entering their bloodstream too quickly.

From filing down teeth using nail files, eating a corn cob on a drill, and more, TikTok is likely the last place we should be taking beauty and lifestyle tips from. Not to mention, people will do anything for internet clout, which is why such risky trends go viral in the first place.

A rise in influencer marketing budgets should make it unsurprising that we’ve developed a habit of trusting social media before jumping on new beauty trends, products, or lifestyle activities. Even crazier, some accounts making the most cash without personal repercussions are robots, not humans – according to Influencer Marketing Hub.

The IPA trading association reported that influencer advertising shot up 46 percent throughout the pandemic, whereas traditional marketing dropped 20 percent. By last year, the influencer market was worth a staggering $13.8bn and is predicted to double by 2025.

We have to remember that the people marketing these products are getting paid to do so. While they might upload a sponsored post, collect a cheque, and never touch the product again, the butterfly effect of that marketing can have real consequences for other people.

Do we really believe the Kardashians, who have specialist doctors, nutritionists, and hair stylists, ate SugarBearHair gummies daily for their luscious locks throughout the 2010s? I’m doubtful, because the blue dye (FD&C Blue 1) it contains has been linked to allergic reactions and increased hyperactivity.

With these examples on the table, it’s safe to say doing research on what we’re putting into our bodies is a recommended move before blindly following the advice of a someone popular online.

So, let’s circle back to where we started. If a bronzed glow is something you strive to maintain all year round, there are tons of safer ways to do this – using sprays, mousses, or gradual tanning lotions.

You can check out this list of cult favourites here.