Tired of hearing your fair or red head friends complaining all the time about not being able to get a proper tan? Well, they aren’t exaggerating. Redheads contain a variant of the MC1R gene- the melanocortin 1 receptor that plays an important role in pigmentation and production of specialized cells that produces melanin, it imparts their red hair and fair skin and also messes with a receptor molecule that is situated on the surface of skin cells called melanocytes. In others, this receptor works with the melanocytes to produce melanin pigments in response to UV radiation. Like you have already guessed, by some cruel twist of fate, the redhead variant doesn’t do this, thereby causing the skin to burn- causing them to go from pale to a straight-up burn with no tan in between.
In an attempt to overcome this issue, scientists had in 2006, come across a wondrous chemical compound that was capable of both, triggering the release of dark pigments in any skin type – even in redheads – while also boosting our body’s natural defenses against skin cancer. It was unearthed that a plant extract called forskolin could produce a cancer-protecting tan in red-haired mice, without being exposed to harmful UV radiation (sunlight).
The researchers applied this plant compound to mice which stimulated the production of melanin, these treated mice were then exposed to UV rays and compared to untreated red-haired mice; where less sunburn and DNA damage, and less chances of developing skin cancer tumors was found. But later, a sobering matter came up- humans have skin that is 5x times thicker than that of mice.
Now, the scientists have come up with similar compound- tiny molecules from plants that work by inhibiting Salt Inducible Kinase. This is something like turning off the master switch to the production of melanin.
This compound had satisfying effects on mice and hence was further tested on human skin samples which showed promising results. It was concluded that by adjusting the dosage and frequency of use, a natural tan was possible without the need for reapplication.
So which drugstore do we run to, to get this?!
Woah, not so fast there!
Despite being quiet successful, the product will have to prove its mettle in the human trial in order to be pronounced consumer ready.