Melanotan II User Experience: A Qualitative Study of Online Discussion Forums

Dermatology. 2021;237(6):995-999. doi: 10.1159/000514492. Epub 2021 Aug 31.


Background: Melanotan II (MT II) is a synthetic analogue of α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone that, via interaction with the melanocortin 1 receptor, induces skin hyperpigmentation. The unregulated acquisition of MT II injections via the internet and other outlets has become popular over the last decades in order to exploit its properties for use as a tanning agent. Due to the covert nature of MT II use, it is difficult to assess the extent of its use among the general population and to characterise any associated side effects.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to qualitatively examine MT II use, as portrayed on online forums, and to explore the motivations for its use and side effect profile.

Methods: Data were extracted retrospectively from UK and Ireland online chatrooms and forums from January 2016 to October 2017. Inclusion criteria were active MT II chatrooms and forums considered to be within the public domain. An inductive thematic analysis identified themes within discussion threads.

Results: A total of 623 discussion entries were extracted; 205 participants contributed to these entries. Emergent themes included motivation for MT II use, misinformation in the context of using an unregulated product, product preparation and administration, dosing regimens, sunbed use, side effects and concerning practices associated with MT II use.

Conclusion: Motivations for MT II use included the pursuit of a tanned appearance, often in anticipation of sun holidays and fitness/body building competitions. Clinicians should be aware not only of the potential risks in relation to pigmented skin lesions, but also remain cognisant of the other medical hazards associated with the use of this substance, namely transmission of infectious diseases, use of potentially contaminated products, polypharmacy, and sunbed exposure.

Keywords: Melanotan II; Skin cancer; Sunbed use.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Motivation*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Peptides, Cyclic / therapeutic use*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Pigmentation / drug effects*
  • Sunbathing
  • United Kingdom
  • alpha-MSH / analogs & derivatives*
  • alpha-MSH / therapeutic use


  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • melanotan-II
  • alpha-MSH