A new drug that mimics a tan without the harmful effects of UV rays may be the happy medium between skin cancer protection and keeping that sun-kissed look. According to a new study, the drug can darken skin as a suntan would, only without the dangerous side effects.

According to new research, a drug recently developed by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital is able to brown melanin in skin but without the harmful effects of UV rays, The BBC reported. Researchers are hopeful that this drug may be able to give skin tanning addicts that same summer glow without putting their health at risk. Early research suggests that the drug could also help preserve skin’s youthful appearance, as it also does not cause signs of advanced aging such as those associated with traditional tanning methods. What’s more, the drug could even safely tan those with the fairest of skin without the risk of developing sunburn.

Read: Melanoma Treatment 2017: New Insight Into Deadliest Skin Cancer May Lead To Effective Personalized Chemo

The drug, which is applicated topically, works by causing the skin to make more melanin. This is the same way that sun exposure creates a tan, only in the case of traditional tanning, the production of more melanin is in response to cellular damage. The sun kills skin cells, which stimulates the body to make more of them. When the new drug is rubbed into the skin, the same process occurs only without the need of initial skin damage as a catalyst for the process as the drug instead activates a protein further down the pigmentation pathway.

While the drug obviously has cosmetic purposes, the developers say their ultimate goal is cancer prevention.

"Our real goal is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer, said study researcher Dr. David Fisher, BBC News reported. "Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer - that would be really huge."

Regardless of whether you want to use it to get a golden tan or as a way to prevent skin cancer, the drug is still in developments and not yet available for public use.

"We need to conduct safety studies, which are always essential with potential new treatment compounds, and better understand the actions of these agents,” explained Fisher in a statement. Still, the drug has potential and researchers hope it could be our next best defense against skin cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with  basal and squamous cell skin cancers the most common form of skin cancer, and melanoma the most deadly. Skin cancer occurs when skin cells begin to multiply out of control, usually caused by a mutation brought on by sun damage. Skin cancer is treatable when detected early on, and is also largely preventable through the use of sunblock. Unfortunately, sun block also prevents the skin from tanning, a trait that causes many to forego it.

Source: Fisher, DE, et al. A UV-Independent Topical Small-Molecule Approach for Melanin Production in Human Skin. Cell Reports. 2017

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