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New chemical can tan your skin without UV or spray

Good news for all you tanners who don’t want to risk time under the brutal Aussie sun.

Joint research by a team at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) has found a way to boost skin pigmentation without the danger of ultraviolet (UV) radiation or the use of “spray tans”.

The researchers believe that the new sunless tan will even work on those who usually burn easily, which means the chemical could help to prevent skin cancer.

In a study published in this month’s Cell Reports, the researchers identify small molecules called salt-inducible kinases (SIK) inhibitors which can activate melanin production.

The study builds on previous research that was carried out on mice in 2006 using a topical compound called forskolin. Although forskolin worked on mice – even red-haired ones – it was unsuccessful when tested on human skin, which is much thicker.

The researchers took mice from the same strain used in the 2006 study and applied the new SIK inhibitor. They found that that mice’s skin darkened with daily treatment and that the little fellas were basically black within a few days. Once they stopped applying the chemical, the tan naturally receded just as a real tan does.

So no more tanning salons, no more Trump-style spray tan and no more skin cancer? Sounds awesome.

Professor David Fisher, who led the study at MGH told The Guardian that he sees the new “sunless” tanning as being used in conjunction with rather than as a replacement for regular sunscreen.

“Sunscreen is extremely important; there definitely is protection, but [its] efficacy in melanoma and basal cell carcinoma is surprisingly and frustratingly incomplete,” he said. “If you have someone who can tan very easily, it seems to be protective above and beyond the SPF factor.”

Although the new drug has not shown any signs of toxicity to humans yet, it will be a while before it will be able to get to market. It will have to go through clinical trials on humans, a process which can take several years.

In the meantime, Australians, in particular, need to be wary of exposure to cancer-causing UV radiation.

According to the Cancer Council, approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70 and more than 750,000 people are year are treated for non-melanoma skin cancers.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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