Chantelle Tolson began visiting tanning beds at the age of 21 to help her eczema, the Daily Mail reports. Soon, her 6-minute sessions turned to 12 minutes every other day; and eventually, the British waitress began tanning injections after the birth of her first child. We know what you're thinking: What is a tanning injection? We were also stumped. According to WebMD, injections of melanotan-II are used to not only "increase the production of skin-darkening pigments," but to also help with erectile dysfunction. Tolson found information on how to perform the injections by watching instructional videos online. She told the Daily Mail that she turned to the injections because she did not like the "pale-faced girl" she became after she gave up tanning during pregnancy.
"After about 20 injections, I put in 5 ml rather than 0.5 ml into the solution — and I felt awful straight away," Tolson told the Daily Mail. "Within hours, I was feeling awful pains in my stomach, worse than contractions during pregnancy. Not only did Tolson not stop the injections, she continued them every other day until she noticed a lump on her butt, near the injection site. The lump would eventually turn completely black — a pretty big indication her skin was dying. The Daily Mail has all the gruesome photos, but be forewarned: They are graphic. Six months later, Chantelle isn't getting any better. She's stopped the injections, but she still goes to a tanning bed every other day for 12 minutes. "I did it all for vanity, but now I'm covered in scars," Tolson told the Daily Mail.
The Yale School of Public Health identified a gene that may be associated with tanning dependence in a small percentage of the population. This small study found the gene makes tanning have a similar affect on the brain as substance dependence, and "is defined by specific behaviors and symptoms, such as continued and frequent tanning, despite adverse consequences." Brenda Cartmel, a senior research scientist at Yale and the lead author of the tanning gene study, said in a statement that while their study was conducted on a small sample size and requires replication in future studies, they are hopeful that "it will help us understand more about the biology of tanning dependence and may help in the development of interventions to help people reduce indoor tanning and sunbathing, which expose them to ultraviolet light, a known human carcinogen." One lesson Tolson has learned? She said will not let her young daughter tan, ever.
Correction: An earlier version of this article omitted proper citation of the Daily Mail as the source of quotations from Chantelle Tolson.