Tanning pills come in two forms: those that contain tyrosine and those that contain a concentrated dose of beta-carotene. Let’s start with tyrosine. The FDA has debunked tyrosine as a tanning accelerator. The marketing pitch is that tyrosine is needed by your body to produce melanin, which is a true statement. Ergo, the logic (albeit flawed) follows: taking pills with tyrosine will increase melanin production. It just isn’t true—only exposure to UVA or UVB sun rays can activate tyrosine and other elements in skin to initiate (or trigger) melanin production, the pigment we see as a tan.

The FDA reports in their Office of Cosmetics and Colors Fact Sheet (June 27, 2000), “Lotions and pills marketed as ‘tanning accelerators’ generally contain tyrosine (an amino acid), often in combination with other substances. Tanning accelerators are marketed with the claim that they enhance tanning by stimulating and increasing melanin formation. FDA has concluded that these ‘tanning accelerators’ are actually unapproved drugs, and the agency has issued warning letters to several manufacturers of these products. There are no scientific data showing that they work; in fact, at least one study has found them ineffective.” Companies that sell these types of tyrosine pills or lotions play on the fact that tyrosine is an amino acid that is a precursor for the production of melanin. Yet no research supports the oral consumption of tyrosine as having any effect on the color of skin. In another report, the FDA stated “In fact, an animal study reported a few years ago demonstrated that ingestion
or topical application of tyrosine has no effect on [melanin production]. The [FDA] has … issued warning letters to several major manufacturers of these products (Source: www.fda.gov/ora/inspect_ref/igs/cosmet.html).