22-year-old tan addict who uses illegal Melanotan injections to get ultra-dark look says she is 'not racist'
A student who is addicted to tanning and was accused of "trying to look like a black woman" has come forward and said that she is "not racist" and that she just likes "having a tan".
22-year-old Hannah Tittensor from Belfast, Ireland, developed an obsession with being tanned after she was left with a beautiful bronze color while on holiday in Turkey in 2015. Since then, the beauty therapy student has regularly spent time in sunbeds, but her color isn't only due to the sun or UV light.
The Daily Mail reported that Hannah uses Melanotan, an under-the-counter tanning injection, that helps the user get darker tones more quickly when lying under sunlight or in sunbeds.
She said: "Some people have accused me of trying to look like a black woman. I'm not trying to do that at all, I just like the way my skin looks healthy and glowing with a tan. Some girls can't live without getting their nails or hair done and for me it's tanning."
Hannah has admitted that she is on the extreme end of the trend but has insisted that she is a part of a growing community in Belfast with many of them using the illegal drug. Her 23-year-old boyfriend Ben Dunlop also uses the injections in spite of the side effects, which includes nausea. Hannah said: "Everyone is doing it. It's become a trend in the city. I use the sunbed for about fifteen minutes three times a week."
She continued: "Ben and I do the injections for about one week each month where you have an injection before you go on the sunbed each time. I just use the injections to top me up for that week, and then I stay really tanned all month. I absolutely love the color I got and much prefer this than spray or fake tan that's smelly and makes you feel dirty. And it gets all over your clothes and bed."
The 22-year-old regularly posts pictures of herself on social media and has also been using Instagram since 2013, which was before she became addicted to tanning. After uploading a picture of herself in the 2015 holiday in Turkey, where she revealed her super dark skin for the first time, she started getting hate messages and online abuse. She said: "I had an amazing tan but I felt like dying. People told me I looked like an alien and that I looked ugly."
In January 2017, Hannah tried out box braids, which is a type of hair braiding that is commonly worn by African and African-American people, for which she received major backlash. She said: "People were commenting on my photos accusing me of cultural appropriation and even saying that I was racist, just because of how I looked. I'm not racist at all. I'm just a white girl who likes to be overly-tanned."
The young woman said that she found out about tanning injections from her brother Jack who tried it out in 2015. She explained: "He came in one day and was suddenly really tanned. We asked how he did it and he said it was Melanotan."
Her boyfriend Ben, who is a trainee barber, has been using sunbeds since he was just 15-years-old. He has now been taking the tanning injections for around four years. He said he keeps himself fit with bodybuilding and regularly goes to the gym with Hannah.
Melanotan has been promoted widely on bodybuilding websites and forums. It is aimed at bodybuilders who want to heighten the effect of their muscles shape with deeper tans.
He said: "Bodybuilding has gotten really popular in Belfast, and so have the tanning injections with it. I don't compete in bodybuilding or go on stage, I just like to work out and feel healthy. Tanning is a big part of bodybuilding. A lot of bodybuilders take tanning injections. My mum thinks I look like an idiot but I don't care, I like it. I worry about Hannah sometimes because cancer runs in her family, and she goes into the sun bed for longer than me usually. I normally do 10 minutes while she does longer."
People who use Melanotan are able to buy the injections through Facebook groups and some beauty salons and gyms. The vial is mixed with water and is injected under the skin. Hannah and Ben usually take around 1IU dose each time they use the tanning injection.
Hanna said: "The injection doesn't hurt. You just feel a bit sick and lose your appetite for a couple of days." The substance is made in a lab and helps in increasing the levels of natural pigment in the skin called melanin. Melanin responds to sunlight and causes darker skin, hair, and eyes.
Increasing the melanin content in the body using the injections allows the skin to become darker under the UV light of the sun or in a sunbed. In spite of all the health risks that will arise from spending too much time under the sun or in a sunbed, Hannah said she is not ready to quit tanning.
She concluded: "One of the main reasons I do it is I don't need to wear much makeup. Tanned skin looks better and it saves me lots of time going out or to work. I'm not going to go any darker at the moment but I probably will in the summer, and that will spark off all the abuse again. But it's OK, we're kind of used to it now."