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CLEVELAND (WJW) – The long winter months are approaching and many will long for that sun-kissed, summer glow.

There are many options for skin tanning and while we already know most come with risk, the latest tanning trend is one that experts warn you should never try.

The trend: Nasal Tanning Spray, also known as “the Barbie drug.”

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the new way to get a tan involves snorting a product that can lead to temporary skin darkening. But, the product comes with serious, even life-threatening risks. It even contains a lab-made ingredient that the Cleveland Clinic says is “so risky that it’s illegal to sell it in all 50 U.S. states, as well as in the United Kingdom and Australia.”

What are nasal tanning sprays?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the key ingredient in these products is Melanotan II, which is completely lab-made.

“Melanotan II imitates your body’s natural melanocyte-stimulating hormone, which is responsible for pigmenting your skin. And when you inhale Melanotan II through a nasal tanning spray, it has a direct path into your bloodstream, explains experts at the Cleveland Clinic.

“It still requires exposure to harmful UV rays in order to work,” Dermatologist Allison Vidimos. “After you’ve taken Melanotan II, your skin will get tanner than usual (and faster than usual) once you’ve spent time in the sun.”

What are the risks of nasal tanning sprays?

“Let’s start with this: Snorting anything into your nose isn’t a good idea unless your doctor tells you to do it and it’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” emphasized Dr. Vidimos. “Because the FDA doesn’t regulate Melanotan II products, you can’t be sure what’s in your inhaled tanning spray, no matter what the label claims.”

Experts at the Cleveland Clinic go on to say that while researchers don’t yet know the long-term effects of Melanotan II, they’ve identified “some immediate and scary risks.”

Possible side effects include (list provided by the Cleveland Clinic):

More severe risks include (list provided by the Cleveland Clinic):

  • Priapism, or painful, sustained erections. This can cause scarring and permanent erectile dysfunction.
  • Renal infarction, a rare but life-threatening condition that causes reduced blood flow to your kidneys.
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which the cells in your muscles start to disintegrate. It can also lead to acute kidney injury and even death.

Are there safe tanning options?

We know sun exposure and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature aging, so are there safe ways to get a tan?

Here’s what Dr. Vidimos says, “Use a spray tan or the kind of gradual tan you can get in a cream or a lotion. These work by changing the color on just the outer layer of your skin (called the stratum corneum), and they don’t end up in your bloodstream. And they’re very safe.”

More details from the Cleveland Clinic, here.