There seems to be no end to the magical powers of the gummy bear. The adorable squidgy candies that have been helping to pacify screaming children and nauseate adults for decades have recently undergone their latest transformation. Now no longer the last resort of a desperate shopper seeking a speedy mammalian-shaped sugar fix, beauty specialists UTan & Tone have taken gummy bear tech to previously unimaginable levels. For the first time, consumers can “enjoy” a sweet that helps them get a tan as they chew.
Quite how the jellified red bears assist tanning is not clear. The seemingly deliberately confusing pseudo-scientific explanation provided by UTan doesn’t provide a great deal of background information. According to their website, special ingredients within the bears "allow potent actives to be held in the buccal cavity for a considerable time, resulting in 'direct absorption' through the membranes in the cheek walls." What, if anything, that sentence actually means remains a mystery.
A look at the active ingredients on the packet of the new product seems to reveals even less than the impenetrable explanation offered by the website. On the face of it, all the sweets seem to contain is a bucket load of sugar, amino acids and some supplements of vitamins A and C. However, on closer inspection, the source of the bears’ bronzing powers becomes clear. According to UTan, the high doses of beta-carotene, or vitamin A within the sweets help to artificially discolour the skin, leading to a desirable, sun-drenched glow.
The chameleon-like properties of vitamin A have been known about for a while. Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, states that "Ingesting high levels of beta-carotene may discolor the skin, as we see in people who eat a lot of carrots." All good news for tanning junkies, so far.
However, it’s not all plain sailing for those who are after an edible way to get that “been to the beach” look. As the legume-like name “carotene” implies, the colour change that takes place tends not to be towards the tan end of the spectrum, but instead towards orange or yellow. The result is that most people who eat an excessive amount of vitamin A often inadvertently turn themselves into a walking satsuma. This is perhaps not the desired effect for the majority of consumers.
This is not the first time that a venture into gummy bear based technology has yielded some surprisingly potent results. As many will attest, an attempt to popularise a new batch of sugar free candies ended in disaster when the internet became awash with grisly reviews listing the laxative consequences of consuming the product. Stories of customers stuck down by an irrepressible desire to evacuate their bowels at inopportune moments provided both hilarity and horror in equal measure.
What’s clear from every foray into the gummi bear formula is that there are always unintended consequences to any slight alteration. If you have a burgeoning desire to turn into a carrot, then these candies could be for you. However, you should be well aware of the dangers present when playing with fire. You have been warned - you underestimate these sweets at your peril.