Illegal tanning products purchase on North East high streets – but using them is like playing “Russian roulette”.
An investigation by BBC Inside Out revealed high street shops, including in Durham and Tyneside, were selling Xtreme Rapido nasal spray, which contains an unlicensed and potentially unsafe chemical.
Makers of the spray say it contains Melanotan, which over-stimulates pigment production and turns skin brown. It’s illegal to market or sell an unlicensed medication like Melanotan in the UK, although buying and owning it isn’t against the law.
There have been reports of the product causing nausea, heart palpitations, and turning nostrils green.
In the programme, set to be broadcast on Monday, reporters confront the owner of Extreme Health and Beauty Ltd, which markets and supplies the Xtreme sprays, and was founded in Windy Nook, Gateshead.
Although it claims to now run from Spain, when Inside Out ordered some spray from the Spanish website it was posted from a Gateshead address.
The programme managed to track down owner Glyn Ferris.
He admitted he knew it was illegal to sell it in the UK but said: “Well it was a great way to make money because I had a bad time with my business a few years ago.”
When asked about it being potentially dangerous, he said: “Well, I’ve been using it for years.”
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But he said there would now be no further sale of the product, as “Xtreme is coming completely off it.”
The Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which has repeatedly taken action to try and remove the sprays from the market told the BBC: “Melanotan is not a licensed medicine and therefore its quality and safety has not been tested.
“No information is held on where or how it is made nor what it contains.”
And Dr Jim McVeigh, from Liverpool Health Institute, added: “We don’t know how many people are using, we don’t know the strength of the products, what is actually in them.
“Taking any substance is a risk but taking [one] when you have no idea of the content or the strength – it’s like Russian roulette.”
The story appears on BBC Inside Out in the North East and Cumbria at 11.45pm on Monday, and afterwards on the iPlayer.