Trisoralen (Trioxsalen)

ALTERNATIVE DRUG NAMES: Trimethylpsoralen, Trioxysalen, Trisoralen,
Usual dosages: 10 mg, 2 to 4 hours before sun exposure.


Trisoralen is a trade name (ICN) for the synthetic melanizing agent trioxsalen. As you may be familiar with, the normal pigmentation of the skin is due to melanin. This chemical is produced in the melanocytes, which are located in the base layers of the epidermis (skin). Melanin is formed by an enzyme reaction, involving the conversion of tyrosine to DOPA via the enzyme tyrosinase. Radiant energy in the form of ultraviolet light is needed to complete this process, hence the procedure of tanning. The exact mechanism in which Trisoralen takes its action is not clear however. Some investigators feel that this drug has a direct impact on the epidermis, or more specifically the melanocytes. Others feel its action is an inflammatory one, and that the process of increased melanogenesis is only a secondary effect. Whatever the exact path, Trisoralen can clearly increase the rate in which the skin is pigmented.

Medically this drug is used to treat a number of specific skin conditions. For starters, it is used effectively with various cases of vitiligo. This is a disorder that involves a marked loss of skin pigmentation. In many instances it will take on a very blotchy, uneven appearance. Depending on the intensity of this problem, Trisoralen may need to be used for a number of consecutive months in order to slowly and safely rebuild the skin’s appearance. In many instances periodic treatment will be continued indefinitely so as to control any future progress of the disease. Trisoralen is also used when an increase in a patient’s tolerance to sunlight is necessary. The extreme would be cases of albinism, in which the body is manufacturing no pigment. While Trisoralen will not stimulate new coloring, it can prevent severe sunburns by increasing the exposure time it will take for damage to occur. This protective action is accomplished by a greater retention of melanin in the skin, although the full melanagenic process cannot be completed. More basically, fair skinned individuals use Trisoralen in order to reduce the tendency to burn when tanning or out in direct sunlight. In many instances people will use this drug in order to prepare themselves for a tropical vacation. Regular use prior to the trip should greatly increase the amount of time one can spend in direct sunlight, and also increase the tendency to tan instead of burn.

Competitive bodybuilders find this drug extremely useful when readying for a stage appearance. It is no secret that a dark tan will make the physique look much more appealing. Muscle features seem to be markedly improved with tanning, resulting in a more “ripped” and impressive look on stage. Many bodybuilders, especially fair skinned individuals, have trouble developing a very dark skin base. Although the use of various skin dyes (sun-less tanning products) may be popular, a tanning agent like Trisoralen will produce a much more natural look. This drug has therefore proven to be invaluable to many top-level competitors, whom may otherwise have a frustrating time when developing their show physiques.

The typical routine is to take two 5 mg tablets, 2 to 4 hours before sun exposure. When beginning therapy, it is important to gradually increase the sun (or tanning bed) exposure time, as this drug may cause severe burning if exposure is too great. It is also important not to increase the amount of tablets taken from this point, as the chance for burning (or blistering!) will notably increase with the dosage. Should the user accidentally take too high a dosage, or be noticing an uncomfortable burn after the drug is taken, he/she should remove themselves from light (as much as possible) for the next 8 hours. It is also of note that some users complain about stomach upset with this compound. Taking the drug with milk or after a meal will generally diminish this effect. Others may need to lower the dosage to 5 mg, which in many instances is more tolerable. This amount is still enough to elicit a beneficial effect, but it will appear more slowly. This drug has also been shown to place some strain on the liver. Cautious individuals may therefore wish to limit the intake of Trisoralen to no more than two to four weeks. In fact two weeks is the typical cut-off point when the drug is prescribed to increase a patient’s sun tolerance. Since bodybuilders are generally only.taking this drug for short periods of time before a show, this is probably not a major concern.

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