- By Catherine Heathwood
- BBC News IS
There has been a massive increase in TikTok videos promoting the use of illegal tanning products such as sun beds and nasal sprays, a Belfast content creator has warned.
Shannon Mitchell, 27, has advised her 150,000 followers not to use such products after her own bad experiences.
He said he had used sunbeds and nasal sprays in the past, but gave them up because of the harm they could cause.
TikTok is popular among lifestyle influencers and content creators.
A search on the platform „sunbeds” will turn up thousands of results.
While it is widely accepted that UV radiation from sunbeds can damage the skin, there is no safe limit for exposure according to the European Commission.
Dr Louise Heron, from the Institute for Public Health, told BBC News NI that those who used a sunbed at any point in their lives had a 20% higher risk of developing melanoma skin cancer than those who did not.
This risk increases significantly when you use one before age 35, he added.
’People are easily influenced’
Ms Mitchell said she started using sunbeds four years ago and continued to use them on and off until stopping in July 2022 – after experiencing side effects including aging skin and an increased number of moles.
„If I’m going out for a big night out or if I’m going on holiday, I’ll go on a sunbed every day and not think twice about it,” he said.
„I can’t judge others for doing them because I’ve been told about the dangers.
„I have moles on my back. I checked them to see if they were all right.
„But if anything happens in the future I only have myself to blame, because I’m the one who went to the sunbed.”
Ms Mitchell says she regrets using nasal sprays, which are often advertised with products such as tanning needles.
Both contain a synthetic hormone called melatonin, which stimulates cells to produce more melanin – the pigment that darkens the skin.
It is not illegal to use or advertise these tanning products, but it is illegal to sell them in the UK.
„I think it’s very wrong to promote it (on social media) because people are so easily influenced by what they see online, myself included,” Ms Mitchell said.
He believes social media platforms should be stricter when it comes to monitoring posts promoting these products.
TikTok told BBC News NI that any content that violates its community guidelines will be removed or banned and is making it easier for users to report problematic content.
Damage, aging and cancer
Ms Mitchell said she was fully aware of the dangers of using sunbeds – she partly blames social media pressures to get a glowing tan and recommendations from friends to encourage her to use them.
Dr Heron at PHA said: „Many people think that having a tan makes them look more attractive, but having a tan is actually a sign that our skin has been damaged by overexposure to UV radiation.”
According to the charity Cancer Focus NI, intense UV exposure from sunbeds can cause skin damage and accelerate skin ageing. They can irritate your skin, causing redness, itching and dryness, and damage your eyes.
Ms Mitchell said her skin aged very quickly and its texture completely changed once she started using sunbeds.
Along with these risks, sunbeds or exposure to UV radiation from the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer, Dr. Heron said.
„Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Northern Ireland and accounts for more than 31% of all cancers diagnosed. More than 4,000 people develop skin cancer every year, and one in 10 is malignant melanoma, the most serious form,” he said. .
„Malignant melanoma rates have risen over the past 30 years from an average of 103 cases per year in the mid-1980s to 382 cases in recent years.”
It is illegal for under 18s to use sunbeds in every part of the UK.
’10 Minute Fake Don’
Ms Mitchell urged those considering starting sunbeds to „really, think about your future”.
„Think of people who have to spend hours going to doctors and hospital appointments to get their moles removed, and people who get cancer treatment with tanning beds,” he said.
„Realistically, putting 10 minutes into your evening for a little fake tan isn’t a big deal.”
Dr Heron, from the PHA, said: „If you are concerned about skin cancer, for example a mole that has changed shape, size or colour, you should talk to your doctor.
„Early detection of skin cancer can significantly improve survival, so it’s important to get your skin checked regularly,” she said.
„Totalny pionier w sieci. Specjalista od piwa niezależny. Ewangelista popkultury. Miłośnik muzyki. Nieprzepraszający przedsiębiorca”.