A tanning-addicted student who sometimes gets mistaken for being a different race has argued that she’s ‘not racist’ – she just really likes ‘having a tan.’
Hannah Tittensor, 22, from Belfast, discovered her love for being bronzed after she developed an amazing bronzed tan while on holiday in Turkey in 2015.
Since then the beauty therapy student has regularly taken to the sunbeds but her colour isn’t all down to the sun or UV.
Hannah uses under-the-counter tanning injections of a substance called Melanotan, which helps users go darker more quickly under sunlight or sunbeds.
‘Some people have accused me of trying to look like a black woman,’ explained Hannah. ‘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 (above), 22, from Belfast, is obsessed with tanning and uses sunbeds three times a week for around 15 minutes a time
The beauty therapy student, pictured right with a friend, said she uses tanning injections of a substance called Melanotan to make her go darker quicker on the sun bed
And while Hannah admitted she is at the extreme end, 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.
Hannah, pictured before she started tanning regularly, said she’s received abuse online for her very tanned look with some people accusing her of ‘trying to look like a black woman’
Hannah, pictured with a friend, 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.’
Hannah 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 started to get hate messages and online abuse.
‘I had an amazing tan but I felt like dying,’ Hannah. ‘People told me I looked like an alien and that I looked ugly.’
In January 2017, when Hannah combined her new skin colour with box braids – a type of hair braiding more commonly worn by African and African-American people – she received a fresh waves of attacks.
Boyfriend Ben Dunlop, 23, pictured together, revealed that he also uses the injections and sunbeds each week
Hannah revealed that people called her ‘ugly’ after revealing her look and compared her to an ‘alien’ when she first started tanning after her holiday in 2015
Ben, pictured with Hannah at the tanning salon, said he started trying to get bronzed when he became interested in bodybuilding
‘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.
Dangers of Melanotan
– The UK National Health Service (NHS) warns people on its website against using Melanotan
– They claim it is not legal because it has not been tested and approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
– Because it is injected and users might share needles, other concerns about Melanotan include the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases like hepatitis or infections from injecting non-sterilised water
‘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.
Ben, pictured with Hannah, revealed that he worries about his girlfriend sometimes as she goes on the sunbed for longer than him usually and ‘cancer runs in her family’
Despite getting abuse online, Hannah, pictured, said: ‘I’m not racist. I’m just a white girl who likes to be overly-tanned’
‘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.’
Hannah, right with a friend, said that the Melanotan injections can make users feel a little bit sick and lose their appetite but added that they do not hurt
Hannah, pictured, said she likes being tanned so she doesn’t have to wear as much makeup
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.’