Scientists Introduce a Skin-Protecting Tanning Drug

Remember childhoods spent on the beach when your parents wouldn’t let you go in the water until you slathered yourself in greasy sunscreen? If you’re smart, that lesson was ingrained in your mind, and you continue to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from damaging UV rays. Most people think they only need to wear sunscreen if they’re going to the beach or planning on exposing themselves to direct sunlight for a long time, but you can burn even on cloudy days when up to 80 percent of harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin.

Even if you know you should to protect yourself from skin damage or cancer, you probably don’t wear sunscreen every day. It makes your skin look and feel greasy and it’s just a hassle to remember to reapply! Plus, how will you ever work up to that summer tan if you shield your skin with SPF every day? What if there was a drug that would accomplish both those things at once, giving you a natural tan while also protecting your skin? While it’s still in development, scientists may have just found the solution.

The new drug, developed by research team at Massachusetts General Hospital led by Dr. David Fisher, works by tricking the skin into producing the brown form of the pigment melanin, and has been successful so far in trials on skin samples and mice. The research suggests that the drug, known as a SIK-inhibitor, will even be effective on fair-skinned redheads who normally burn in the sun instead of developing a tan.

By introducing a new and safer way to tan, scientists hope that they can prevent skin cancer with the drug and reduce the appearance of aging. Tanning beds have been proven dangerous, yet people still flock to them for natural-looking tans in favor of the fake stuff that comes from a bottle.

Don’t get too excited just yet- the drug is still in development and works in conjunction with sunscreen by being rubbed into the skin; the advantage is that it allows you to tan while also protecting your skin. It is also a much safer alternative to tanning beds.

Dr. Fisher was spurred to develop this drug due to a lack of progress in skin cancer research. His ultimate goal, he explains, “is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer.” When one in five Americans are affected by skin cancer over their lifetime, this drug is a welcome addition to cancer research.