Melanotan 2: The Skin Tanning Peptide

Jay Campbell

By Jay Campbell

February 18th, 2021

 

Let’s face it: There are a lot of superficial benefits to having a slightly darker yet glowing skin complexion:

I’m not saying you have to look like the Oompah Loompahs from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but those of us who are pale-skinned will admittedly wish they could get a nice tan without tanning salons or spending hours in the sun.

So is there a shortcut for those individuals who want to fast-track the process?

And can it be done in a safe, effective, and inexpensive manner?

I already know the answer to the question because I’ve personally done it myself.

And the way to do it is through the therapeutic peptide known as Melanotan 2.

What is Melanotan 2?

Melanotan 2 (MT-2) is a synthetic analog of the peptide hormone α-MSH (alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone) that is naturally produced in your body by the pituitary gland and your skin. 

In simpler terms, α-MSH is a naturally occurring melanocortin peptide hormone which is primarily involved in skin pigmentation:

“In response to ultraviolet (UV) radiation its production by the skin and pituitary is enhanced, and this plays a key role in producing coloured pigmentation found in the skin, hair and eyes. It does this by inducing specialised skin cells called melanocytes to produce a pigment called melanin; melanin protects cells from DNA-(1)’>DNA damage, which can lead to skin cancer (melanoma).”

And as it turns out, melanin plays a far greater role than maintaining our skin color:

“The pigment melanin is produced in melanosomes by melanocytes in a complex process called melanogenesis. Melanin is the primary determinant of skin, hair, and eye color.

Besides defining an important human phenotypic trait, it has a critical role in photoprotection due to its ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation (UVR). The melanocyte interacts intrinsically with endocrine, immune, inflammatory and central nervous systems, and its activity is also regulated by extrinsic factors (such as ultraviolet radiation and drugs).”

The history of Melanotan 2 is quite deep, going back all the way to the 1960s when it was being studied for a completely different purpose:

“Research in the early 1960s showed that in rats, administration of α-MSH caused sexual arousal, and work on this continued in many labs up through the 1980s, when scientists at the University of Arizona began attempting to develop α-MSH and analogs as potential sunless tanning agents, and synthesized and tested several analogs, including melanotan-I and melanotan II.”

But in an odd twist of fate, Melanotan II reverted from being studied as a “suntanning” peptide to its original purpose:

“Led by a popular dermatologist Norman Levine, the research team which was behind the invention of the drug used frogs for experimenting the effectiveness and safety of a hormone known as Alpha MSH before using it on people. The hormone caused the darkening of the pigments of the frogs used in the experiment.

Upon confirming the effectiveness of Alpha MSH in darkening frog skin pigments, they modified Melanotan II peptide in a way that would be friendly to the human body and put it through clinical trials. During the tests, one of the people who had taken the drug reported to Levine that he was experiencing spontaneous erections as a result of it.”

Once the general population got wind of Melanotan 2’s ability to induce a tan, all hell broke loose and it quickly became known as the “Barbie drug”:

“Melanotan.org, a forum dedicated to the peptide that shut down in 2011, had thousands of regular posters, many of whom have since migrated to other discussion boards.

In 2009, a BBC report tracking just six needle exchanges found that hundreds of individuals had visited these exchanges in order to receive syringes for Melanotan II use.

A year later, the Norwegian Pharmacy Association disclosed that, in Norway alone, several thousand syringes had been distributed to individuals seeking to inject the peptide”

Putting the mainstream media fear-mongering aside, what’s the magic behind Melanotan 2’s ability to give your entire body a tanned complexion?

How does Melanotan 2 Work?

It turns out that Melanotan 2 targets multiple cellular receptors to exert its effects, all while being several times more powerful than the naturally-occuring alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH):

“The tanning peptide Melanotan 2 works by stimulating the melanin production by acting on melanocytes that are present in the skin (i.e. melanogenesis). The melanin is responsible for producing skin tanning and increase in melanin causes an increase in pigmentation and tanning.

The protective amino acid structure of tanning peptide Melanotan 2 influences sexual functions, energy, appetite, inflammation and pigmentation by binding to the Melanocortin 1, 3, 4, 5 receptors (MC1, MC3, MC4, MC5). The potency of Melanotan 2 is 1000 times greater than natural α-MSH. The half-life of Melanotan 2 is one hour.”

Diving in deeper, it appears each receptor plays a pivotal effeect in the outcome being produced:

“To the extent that melanotan II produces melanogenesis, this is thought to be caused by activation of the MC1 receptor, whereas its clinically documented sexual effects are thought to be related to its ability to activate the MC4 receptor (though the MC3 is thought to possibly also be involved).”

And with greater melanin production comes improved protection against harmful ultraviolet (UV) exposure, as I’ve previously mentioned in The Testosterone Optimization Therapy Bible:

“The more melanin you have, the more protection your skin has against the sun. This subsequently reduces ultraviolet damage done to your skin. [Melanotan 2] increases production of the hormone melanin, allowing for the skin to naturally darken when exposed to the sun’s UV rays.”

So if you want to achieve a darker complexion without having to sit in the sun for long hours and expose yourself to UV radiation (hence increasing your risk of getting sunburn), this is the peptide to do it.

This same rationale can help you save a lot of wasted money and time with tanning beds and poisonous tanning lotions

Top 3 Health Benefits of Melanotan 2

Melanotan 2 doesn’t have an exceptional amount of research behind it, with only 112 studies examining its effects since 1991 (Source: PubMed).

Fortunately, Melanotan is one of the few peptides where its uses are few but very clear and straightforward.

So without further ado, here they are!

Melanotan 2 Provides an Exceptional Skin Tan

This is by far the #1 reason why people use Melanotan: producing a darker skin tone year-round, thereby increasing skin pigmentation, without excessive UV exposure (via too much tanning and/or staying in the scorching hot sun all day long). 

Here’s why it’s wise to moderate your exposure to UV light:

“Overexposure to ultraviolet light, which is naturally found in sunlight and also used in indoor tanning methods, can damage your skin and increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, just one indoor tanning session can increase your risk of developing melanoma by 20 percent, basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent, and squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent.”

(For what it’s worth, my personal stance is that Healthline greatly over-exaggerates the “dangers” behind Melanotan 2 injections)

Oddly enough, I could only locate one study that examined Melanotan 2’s skin-tanning effect in humans:

“Two subjects had increased pigmentation in the face, upper body and buttock, as measured by quantitative reflectance and by visual perception 1 week after MT-II dosing ended.

These results demonstrate that MT-II has tanning activity in humans given only 5 low doses every other day by subcutaneous injection. The recommended single MT-II dose for future Phase I studies is 0.025 mg/kg/day.”

You won’t find much more outside of that because it’s a near 100% guarantee your complexion will undergo a complete change when you use it – I would know this from personal experience.

If you don’t believe me, you can read these testimonials and see the before-and-after evidence for yourself:

  • I had the deepest darkest natural looking tan from head to toe for 2-3 months with no sun or ultraviolet exposure” (Source)
  • A 60-day experiment where the man shows a CLEAR difference in how he looks after using Melanotan 2, with pictures taken numerous times throughout

And in case you were wondering, the sunglow tan you get will last for several months after using Melanotan 2 (compared to how naturally-induced tans tend to fade away after 2-4 weeks).

Derek from the popular “More Plates, More Dates” says his skin color changes were permanent following Melanotan 2 use, although in his case I would argue it’s a mild change that serves his appearance better:

 

Melanotan 2 Can Help Treat Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Those of you suffering from subpar “bedroom performance” might want to look into using Melanotan 2 for solving your problems.

Because according to the numerous human clinical trials conducted on Melanotan 2, it could be worth a shot:

“In a small double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of psychogenic ED patients, eight out of ten men reported apparent erections with regard to penile rigidity and the significant duration of erection after subcutaneous injection of the MT-II (0.025 mg/kg). Mean duration of tip rigidity of the penis (80%–100%) was 38 minutes with injection of MT-II versus 3 minutes with placebo”

“Another study indicated that the erectogenic action of MT-II was effective not only for treatment of psychogenic ED, but also for treatment of ED from variable organic risk factors”

“…in [another] double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, ten men with psychogenic ED and Ten men with organic ED received subcutaneous injections of MT-II. Seventeen out of 20 men reported penile erection from at least one of two injections of MT-II in the absence of visual sexual stimulation (VSS). A total of 68% of subjects with MT-II injections reported increased sexual desire (versus 19% in the placebo group).

Funny when you consider that “spontaneous erections” were a side effect of Melanotan 2 when scientists were first using it to help protect your skin!

Unfortunately, further research into this peptide for treating sexual dysfunction was halted at Phase 2 of clinical studies.

And in the systematic review I just quoted, it is clear why this was the case:

“At the preferred dose (0.025 mg/kg), 13% of subjects injected with MT-II reported severe nausea. Furthermore, the reported latency time of 113 minutes is quite long for a clinically useful drug.

The addition of erotic stimulation could lead to a more rapid response. Based on the reported adverse effects, such as severe nausea, as well as the long latency time, investigators doubted the clinical utility of MT-II. No further clinical trials have been performed.”

But as you’ll find out later in the article, this side effect is quite minor and rarely happens to people who use Melanotan 2 properly.

Melanotan 2 May Trigger Fat Loss

Believe it or not, some early research demonstrates Melanotan 2’s ability to help people who are struggling with obesity and weight loss:

A 2003 study involving rats treated with Melanotan 2 discovered that not only did rats lose a significant amount of fat mass, but the loss was attributable to “accelerated lipid mobilization” and not apoptosis (cell death).

Another 2007 study involving rats found that Melanotan 2 lead to a reduction of both visceral and subcutaneous fat tissue, even though the rats were being fed a high-fat diet. 

In the same year, a separate study observed improved insulin sensitivity in rats with diet-induced obesity who received Melanotan 2 for 10 days straight.

All of these results were simultaneously discovered in a single 2018 study conducted by the University of Florida Health, noting how weight loss was achieved WITHOUT caloric restriction:

“Melanotan II produces a long-lasting weight loss without the need of maintaining caloric restriction. We did not observe any change in spontaneous physical activity level and we found that calorie-matched group did not lose weight to the same extent as the Melanotan-treated animals, suggesting that the drug increases energy expenditure. In other words, it triggers weight loss independent of dieting or exercising”

“Abdominal fat pads were 40 percent smaller in the animals that received either a low or high dose of Melanotan II compared with those that did not, and it appears that those effects were independent of caloric restriction. That, the researchers noted, suggests the central melanocortin system has the potential to be a unique regulator of lean body mass — all of the body’s non-fat weight.”

A phenomenal tan with the possible bonus effect of enhanced fat loss?

Sounds like a dream come true for any serious-minded bodybuilder!

Unfortunately, due to the possible side effect of increased blood pressure in early clinical trials, you won’t see Melanotan 2 getting FDA-approved for treating obesity anytime.

The BEST Dose of Melanotan 2 for Skin Tanning and Enhanced Sexuality

Despite the lack of a clear consensus around dosing Melanotan 2, I have personally used this peptide with phenomenal success.

All of the positive benefits were safely achieved without any of the commonly associated side effects (to be discussed in the next section).

I recommend two options:

a) 0.25 mg of Melanotan 2 injected subcutaneously at night, 1-2 times a week.

b) A “loading” protocol where you inject 0.5 mg of Melanotan 2 subcutaneously twice-per-day for the first 3-4 days, followed by an increase to 1.5 mg per day for one week before stopping.

I would follow either protocol 8 months out of the year for darkening your skin and maintaining an even tan, and I would keep the dose the same if you’re treating penile issues. 

Naturally fair-skinned people who burn easily when they attempt to tan will require a higher dosage, and darker-skinned individuals who tan easily without getting sunburnt should go for a lower dosage.

Regardless of which approach you take, you STILL have to tan via UV exposure to maximize the skin-darkening effects, although you will have to spend significantly less time tanning:

“Tanning should start after the third injection and occur 2-3 times per week if you wish to see tanning results quickly; otherwise one tanning session per week is sufficient to gradually build your tan

Tanning sessions should be short, 5-10 minutes in a sun bed or 30-40 minutes in the sun on a warm day is sufficient each time. DO NOT overexpose yourself to UV rays.”

My use of Melanotan 2 has not gotten much more complicated than this, but here are some resources for people who want to optimize their dosing even further…

LoveMelanotans.org has a dosing guide more specifically catered to specific skin types.

If math isn’t your strong suit, this handy online calculator should help you determine exactly how much Melanotan 2 to load in the injection syringe. 

IFBB Pro bodybuilder Greg Doucette has a video tutorial on how he safely prepares and measures his Melanotan 2 injections:

Melanotan 2’s Side Effects and Safety Profile

Any client who has personally used Melanotan 2 in the precise way I recommend doing so has yet to experience any harmful side effects, and I can say the same for myself.

However… everybody is biochemically unique and may react to the peptide differently.

Here are the most common side effects of Melanotan 2 you should know about:

  • Excessive yawning
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Flushing

There are also some “visual” Melanotan 2 side effects you should pay close attention to:

  • Uneven skin pigmentation
  • New nevi development (i.e. moles)
  • Darkening and/or enlargement of existing moles

So as you can imagine, the medical community has some reason – legitimate or not – to discourage the use of Melanotan 2.

But what REALLY drives the fear propaganda behind Melanotan 2 are idiots who abuse the peptide and paint high-consciousness biohackers in a bad light.

Here are just a few examples of what I mean…

  • Two people in the United Kingdom (here and here) over-used Melanotan 2 to the point where they are completely unrecognizable compared to their former selves, getting “addicted” to injecting the peptide
  • A 16-year-old girl developing multiple moles after injecting two times my recommended dose PER DAY for 2 months straight
  • One man suffered rhabdomyolysis (i.e. severe breakdown of skeletal muscle fibers) after injecting 6 mg of Melanotan II in a single dose
  • Two male patients (here and here) experienced priaprism – erections that last too long to the point of extreme pain – after overdosing Melanotan 2 (2 mg and 10 mg, respectively)
  • A light-skinned 20-year-old woman contracted melanoma after injecting 1 mg of Melanotan 2, 3-4 times a week for a month

When clowns like the ones shown above misuse and abuse peptides to the point of self-harm, it’s no wonder why the authorities have to step in and outright ban peptide use and distribution.

How is Melanotan 2 Different from Melanotan 1?

If you’ve heard about Melanotan 1 before, you’re probably wondering how Melanotan 2 is any different.

I’ve already written about the similarities and differences between both peptides in my book The Testosterone Optimization Therapy Bible, so I’ll just paste the summaries here…

Similarities Between Melanotan 1 and Melanotan 2

“Melanotan I (M1), also known as Afamelanotide, and Melanotan II (M2) are both analogs of the peptide hormone called “alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone” (a-MSH).

Both M1 and M2 are naturally occurring melanocortin peptide hormones that research and clinical trials have shown to induce skin pigmentation (tanning) via melanogenesis (i.e. the formation of melanin).”

Differences Between Melanotan 1 and Melanotan 2

“M1 emulates the ACTION of the melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), while also emulating the effect of naturally produced melanocyte.

In other words, it tans you more naturally (relative to your maximum allowable tan).

In the experience of most users, M1 gradually tans you and provides a more uniform color based on your skin tone (while working in unity alongside your body’s natural melanocytes).

Plus, Melanotan I has the unique effect of enhancing conscious awareness (more on that in a future article).

“M2 emulates the EFFECT of naturally produced melanocyte, is a shorter version of M1, and stimulates erections (unlike M1).

Most users notice a reddish-brown tint to their skin with it, and their skin darkens much faster than when using M1. 

M2 also acts as a non-selective agonist of the melanocortin receptors MC1, MC3, MC4, and MC5.

To the extent that M2 produces melanin, this is thought to be caused by activation of the MC1 receptor.

Its observed sexual effects, on the other hand, are thought to be related to its ability to activate the MC4 receptor (though the MC3 is thought to possibly be involved as well)”

The #1 Source for Pharmaceutical-Grade Melanotan 2

Given the controversy surrounding Melanotan 2 due to negative press and idiots who refuse to use therapeutic peptides properly, you can imagine how hard it can be to source the “real stuff.”

Along with how many mediocre suppliers will actively charge higher prices for low-quality Melanotan 2 because they KNOW how much demand exists for the peptide. 

Fortunately, Limitless Life Nootropics is the ONLY vendor I know who verifiably takes the ethical route and sells pharmaceutical-grade (>99% purity) Melanotan 2 at an affordable price.

Use code JAY15 to get 15% off your order!

To learn more about how this recommended vendor ensures quality control for all their therapeutic peptides, read this interview I did with the company’s founder. 

Additional Reading Resources for Melanotan 2

Melanotan 2’s reliable uses are fairly limited in scope, so you know exactly what you’re hoping to achieve when you inject this peptide.

However, if you’re interested in going beyond the information presented in this article, here are some extra resources worth your time…

Derek of “More Plates More Dates” has written what could be the best testimonial for Melanotan 2 I’ve ever seen, along with how his results were magnified with the use of tanning lotion.

A useful compilation of Melanotan 2 information I haven’t included in this article, such as traveling with Melanotan 2 and the peptide’s legality in other countries.

Dave Palumbo’s review of Melanotan 2 compared to other forms of tanning for competitive bodybuilders. 

And as always…

Raise Your Vibration To Optimize Your Love Creation!

If you want more game-changing intel on peptides – new ones not featured on this site, where to source them, and the best protocols for using them – join the Elite ranks of The Optimized Tribe!

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