‘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 its tanning.’ – Hannah Tittensor
Hannah Tittensor from Belfast, N. Ireland became hooked after holiday in Turkey
The 22-year-old beauty therapy student uses Melanotan to make her go darker on sunbeds
Addicted to tanning, Hannah revealed she’s not quitting tanning despite the health risks of excessive tanning and dangers of using an unapproved drug
Her dark skin has been trolled, sometimes accused of being racist because of her ultra-dark look, she insists she’s ‘just a white girl who loves a golden glow’
And while Hannah admitted that her regimen was at the extreme of the spectrum, she has insisted she is a part of a growing trend in tanning in Belfast, with many using the illegal drug.
Despite side effects which include leaving her feeling sick, her boyfriend Ben Dunlop, 23, also uses the injections.
‘Everyone is doing it. It’s become a trend in the city. I use the sunbed for about fifteen minutes, three times a week,’ said Hannah.
‘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.
Tittensor explained that she uses Melanotan for about one week each month and injects the substance before she gets on the sunbed
She added: ‘I just use the injections to top me up for that week, and then I stay really tanned all month.
‘I absolutely love the colour I go 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.’
Tittensor regularly posts photos of herself on social media and has been using Instagram since 2013, before she became hooked on tanning.
But after uploading the snap of herself on the 2015 holiday in Turkey – when she revealed her new ultra-dark skin for the first time – she was trolled on social media and started to get hate messages and online abuse.
‘I had an amazing tan but I felt like dying,’ Tittensor said.
‘People told me I looked like an alien and that I looked ugly.’
In January 2017, after she combined her new skin colour with box braids – a type of hair braiding more commonly worn by black women from Africa and the African diaspora, the online backlash resumed with a vengance.
Tittensor’s boyfriend Ben Dunlop, [left], revealed that he also uses the injections and sunbeds each week. Although he worries about his girlfriend Tittensor, [right], sometimes as she spends very long periods on the sunbed, especially since ‘cancer runs in her family’
‘People were commenting on my photos accusing me of cultural appropriation and even saying that I was racist, just because of how I looked,’ she said.
‘I’m not racist at all. I’m just a white girl who likes to be overly-tanned.
Hannah first found out about tanning injections when her brother Jack tried them in 2015.
‘He came in one day and was suddenly really tanned,’ she explained. ‘We asked how he did it and he said it was Melanotan.’
Trainee barber Ben has been using sunbeds since he was 15 and has now been taking tanning injections for three to four years.
He keeps fit with bodybuilding and regularly goes with Hannah to the gym, where the couple like to keep in shape.
Melanotan is widely promoted on bodybuilding websites and forums, aimed at bodybuilders who want to enhance the effect of the way their muscles look with deeper tans.
‘Bodybuilding has gotten really popular in Belfast, and so have the tanning injections with it,’ said Ben.
Her bodybuilder boyfriend Ben Dunlap seen [left], with Tittensor at the tanning salon, said he started trying to get bronzed when he became interested in bodybuilding
‘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.’
He continued: ‘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.’
Users of Melanotan are able to buy it through Facebook groups and some beauty salons and gyms.
The vial is mixed with water and injected under the skin. Hannah and Ben take around 1iu dosage each time they use it.
‘The injection doesn’t hurt,’ she said. ‘You just feel a bit sick and lose your appetite for a couple of days.’
The substance is created in a lab and increases the levels of a natural pigment in the skin called melanin, which responds to sunlight and causes darker skin, hair and eyes.
Increasing it in your body using tanning injections allows your skin to go darker under the ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun or a sunbed.
Despite the other health risks of too much sunlight or sunbeds, Hannah is not ready to quit tanning.
‘One of the main reasons I do it is I don’t need to wear much makeup,’ she explained. 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.’