Declaration: IAS Aging Matters Magazine is intended for IAS private members (and therefore is not intended for the public). It focuses on the latest international nutritional, hormonal and drug therapies to help combat the signs of aging. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you have read and agreed to the full declaration.

Read the full declaration
A woman's back in the sun with a gradient of lighter skin to darker skin

MSH2, it’s not just for tanning

April 20th, 2021

An interview with Thierry Hertoghe, M.D. by Phil Micans, MS, PharmB

Dr Thierry Hertoghe

Dr Thierry Hertoghe is a Belgium-based physician who has gained international reputation as an expert in hormone therapies. His expertise has grown to be particularly effective in treating difficult conditions often due to unsuspected hormone deficiencies and imbalances. Among these conditions are chronic fatigue and burnout syndromes, and treatment-resistant depressive and anxiety disorders. Also, difficult-to-treat physical disorders of brain, heart, gastrointestinal system, and joints, are part of his interests and success.

His books in the field of hormone and nutritional therapies are accepted as classics by physicians. He is he president of the International hormone society (more than 3000 physicians) and the World society of anti-aging medicine (over 7,000 physicians throughout the world). He has recently set up an Evidence-based hormone therapy training program for physicians and health professionals through live webinars and prerecorded videos, with in-depth practical information, including how to prevent and treat with success in COVID19 infections.

The following is a discussion between Thierry Hertoghe (TH) and Phil Micans (PM)

PM: “Dr. Hertoghe, I do appreciate you taking time from your always busy schedule to talk with us today about MSH2.”

TH: “Always a great pleasure Phil.”

PM: “Many of our readers will already be aware that you are one of the world’s leading hormone experts and a passionate devote of preventative and regenerative medicine.”

TH: “Yes, indeed Phil, I travel the world lecturing about these subjects, although recently this has been more webinar-based, and I have written many books. I say books, but many of them are reference guides, very practical and beyond theory.”

PM: “I agree, in fact we shall mention your books and your webinar programs at the end of this interview. Today I’d like to talk about MSH2, which I shall begin by describing it as a ‘strange’ hormone, by which I mean it does seem quite distinct. For example, I saw graphs of its quantity vs. age relationship, and it looked like a flat line to me. Am I wrong, or is this another hormone that declines with age?”

TH: “MSH2, or to give its full name melanocyte stimulating hormone type 2, also called melanotan 2 is in fact, a synthetic derivative of MSH, the natural hormone in our body. MSH itself is not accessible as it is short-lived, too short action for use in medicine. MSH2 has more prolonged and effective beneficial effects. Checking if the levels of MSH decline with age is a difficult task as MSH is secreted when needed, for example with sun exposure, when the skin needs to darken to block ultraviolet light from penetrating too deeply into the skin and damaging the tissues. To check if there is a decline with age, we need to have volunteers of various ages exposed to sun and measure the increase in MSH to see such a stimulation, to my knowledge this has not yet been done. It seems likely to me that it will show that younger individuals secrete more MSH when exposed to ultraviolet radiation than older people, thus, demonstrating an age-related decline in MSH secretion.”

PM: “People who know about MSH2 are aware that it tans the skin, would you care to comment on that?”

TH: “MSH can quickly tan the skin in a short time, even without sun exposure. With one week of daily treatment with MSH2, the skin may darken sufficiently to make sun creams unnecessary for skin protection, at least in people who respond well to MSH2. Red or blond hair persons whose milk-white skin was (before using MSH2) unable to tan, always needed a strong skin protection by clothes or sun creams. The tanning usually remains modest, such as a light brown, but certainly enough for neighbors and friends to recognize the change.

In laboratory experiments on melanoma cells–which is the deadliest and most rapidly proliferating of all types of skin cancers–MSH derivatives such as PSH2 reduce the proliferation of melanoma cells, meaning they oppose the development of melanoma. However, I still suggest that people with sensitive skin take MSH2 to protect their skin but also continue putting sun creams on their skin when they go in the sun to optimize skin protection. MSH2 does not offer a total protection against ultraviolet rays.”

PM: “And how should it be dosed/ used?”

TH: “There are two ways of efficiently administering MSH2–by subcutaneous injections or the more comfortable and less invasive way by intranasal sprays. The intranasal method consists of spraying a solution of MSH2s through each nostril every morning.

The dose differs depending on the skin sensitivity of an individual. People whose very white skin is poorly responsive to MSH2 need higher quantities (around 0.5mg per day), whereas most subjects whose skin easily darkens may need very low doses, between 0.05 to 0.1 mg per day or even less, every 2-3 days. Higher doses are necessary for intranasal solutions than for subcutaneous injections, as less is absorbed through the mucosa. It is easy to compensate for this by simply increasing the dose to get the same results. A dose of MSH2 that is two to three times higher dose than the ones mentioned above are usually enough to obtain satisfaction.”

PM: “Are there any individuals where this tanning effect will be ineffective?”

TH: “Normally, as I mentioned before, people with very white skin and who cannot normally tan in the sun, may finally get skin darkening with MSH2, although people with the lightest Caucasian skin color class will tan less and only get a light brown tan of their skin.”

PM: “I suppose I must ask, that whilst MSH2 starts to create an overall tan, and that continued use makes the skin darken further. What happens if one stops using it?”

TH: “A return to ‘normal’ skin color in 3-months’ time. In some people even quicker.”

PM: “Does MSH2 have any applications in ‘orthodox’ medicine?”

TH: “Yes, its sister molecule, MSH1 or melanotan 1 has similar efficacy for skin tanning, although it is not as good as MSH2, but it has been officially approved by the European Medicines Agency, and, thus, authorized for the whole European Union in 2014. In 2019 in the USA it was approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for treatment of erythropoietic protoporphyria, a rare disease that causes intolerance and pain to light.”

PM: “And outside of that, what are its off-label uses?”

TH: “MSH2 is far more than just a skin tanner. It is in my experience, the most potent stimulator of erections in men. Men with erectile dysfunction who get 3 minutes of erection with typical stimulators of erection like phosphodiesterase-5 /PDE5 inhibitors will get 20 minutes with its MSH2 combination. That’s 5 to 10 times longer erections! Used alone, MSH2 often works well enough, bringing back to men over 60 the erectile function they had at age 25 years old, which makes the use of sexual enhancers less necessary. In women, some of my patients are sexologists and they claim that MSH2 is by far the greatest sexual enhancer of all: making every area of the skin sexually sensitive to sexual touch. Some women claim it drives them sexually ‘wild’ and are very happy about it.

Other effects of MSH2 are darkening of the hair. This may seem very exciting, but although white hair may become less whitish with PSH2 the remaining brown hair becomes so dark black that the contrast between colored hair and gray or white hair becomes stronger than before and may give the impression the patient’s hair is graying more than before. MSH also has weak anti-inflammatory effects, moderately increasing the secretion of the anti-inflammatory cortisol. MSH2 can also increase skin scent, an effect that is most noticeable with overdoses. And some patients claim it makes their sagging inner sides of the thighs firmer.”

PM: “My goodness, that is quite a list, I guess it goes to show once again that a single hormone has many uses within the body. Do you advise your patients to use MSH2 in a different way to achieve these kinds of effects- I mean different from those who want to tan?”

TH: “Yes, for patients who need to protect themselves more efficiently against sun rays and those whose sexuality has not been sufficiently improved by other treatments.”

PM: “At this point, I should ask what contraindications and side effects have been seen with MSH2 use?”

TH: “There are basically three side effects that may form contraindications. They mostly appear at overdosage which means that a decrease in dose may avoid having them.

First side effects are nausea, and for men excessive strong and persistent erection (priapism), almost always the consequence of overdosing. In this case, use lower doses (up to 5 to 10 times lower) to avoid these signs.

Secondly, some people get much more hyperpigmented spots when they use MSH derivatives. Once you get them, it takes about 9 months to lose these pigment spots after stopping the treatment. In my experience, the underlying cause is untreated adrenal deficiency. Correcting this adrenal deficiency with the necessary cortisol and DHEA, considerably reduces this type of irregular pigmentation. Also, taking much lower doses helps.


Thirdly, allergic skin rashes may occur, also mainly due in my experience to untreated adrenal-deficiency. I almost never get this reaction in my patients because I am very attentive to correct any adrenal deficiency in them, knowing how much burden it is to the quality of life and health to suffer from adrenal deficiency. However, when the underlying adrenal deficiency is not treated, MSH2 may cause allergies as testified by sexologists who prescribe MSH2 for sexual enhancement but do not usually treat adrenal deficiency. I sometimes wonder if the allergy may not be due to some additives caused by the impurity of preparations bought on untrustworthy websites with no quality control. So, that is why I highly recommend only to use well-controlled pure MSH2 of pharmaceutical grade.”

PM: “As usual, Dr. Hertoghe, it’s all fascinating information. For those people who want to go deeper into this subject, or for that matter into other hormones, which of your books do you recommend?”

TH: “The best and most practical information is in my Hormone Handbook, second edition, as it has all the practical how to do in information on the 18 most frequently used hormone treatments, including all the useful information on the use of MSH derivatives, and its most potent one, MSH2. This book also contains all scientific references for the health professionals who need that type of information. Additionally, I recommend the Atlas of Endocrinology for Hormone Therapy, which has more than 650 pictures on 20 hormone deficiencies and 19 hormone excesses, including MSH deficiency and overtreatment. Enlightening! For those who want to live long and remain or become younger the reference book to buy is Reversing Physical Aging, volume 1, which focuses on the head and the senses. With its 1100 pages it has all the information, physicians and patients need on how to reverse scalp hair and face aging with hormone and nutritional therapies, to get more youthful and obtain a healthy outlook. The Reversing Physical Aging textbook also contains how to rejuvenate efficiently the decline with age of eyesight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.”

PM: “And you are now hosting free public webinars, as well as your medical school for health professionals. Where can people go to find out about these?”

TH: “Yes, almost monthly my team organizes free webinars with me as the speaker. These international free webinars are overviews of fascinating medical topics. On February 2, 2021 it was on female hormone therapies, all the practical tips for an optimal treatment of even the most difficult medical conditions for women, including solid and reassuring info on breast cancer and female hormone therapies. Next, in March, chronic fatigue and burnout. With the tiresome Covid 19 crisis and its stress, it’s an absolute not to be missed webinar as it offers reliable information on how to get your energy levels high again! After that, there will be an in-depth review of thyroid therapy, as probably never explained before. Afterward, there follows a unique free webinar on melatonin, followed by testosterone therapy in men and then testosterone in women. I strongly recommend physicians to register to the whole program of this formation as it will open a lot of doors in their practice. It will make them able to solve various medical and psychological disorders which previously were hopeless.

You can find all this information regarding my webinars at: and all the videos of my webinar are online on my YouTube channel Dr. Hertoghe.”

PM: “Dr. Hertoghe thank you for all your work. Sometimes I wonder if you sleep! Since apart from your clinical work, you find time to travel, to lecture and pursue your medical school and publish incredible hormone guides. So, we do appreciate you talking today about MSH2 rather than taking a well-deserved nap!”

TH: “Ha Ha Ha… I also want to thank you, Phill, for giving me the occasion to talk to your well-informed public by you and International Antiaging Systems. You are doing a great job in making hard-to-find medical information and products available to those who need them. Continue doing this great job!”

A woman's hair split down the middle with half showing grey hairs


Lost your password?