With the wedding season fast approaching, would-be brides and grooms from the city are queuing up at skin clinics for the latest fairness solutions — skin-lightening pills and intravenous injections. Twenty-six-year-old IT professional Shuchi Garg, who is getting married in September, is part of this crowd. The treatment has been on Garg’s wedding checklist since she saw its “miraculous results” on her friend’s skin.
The skin-lightening pills, which most prefer over the intravenous injections, have the drug Glutathione, an anti-oxidant that is primarily used to treat ailments in smokers and patients with liver diseases. However, doctors have noticed that one of the side-effects of Glutathione is skin lightening, but they said not much is known about the drug’s health hazards.
Mumbai-based cosmetic surgeon Dr Mohan Thomas, who started offering the treatment since last year, gets around 20 patients a month.
“It’s mostly young women, but men are not far behind. We suggest clients meet us a good three months before the marriage for best results, but many have already started the course,” he said.
Dr Karishma Balani, a dermatologist in Mumbai, said she gets around 10 clients every week, seeking the treatment. “A 500mg dose of oral Glutathione is taken daily for a minimum of four weeks till the desired result is achieved. In the form of injections, it is 1.2gm once every three days, with at least 10 such doses. In both cases, maintenance for the next few months is a must,” she said, explaining the procedures.
For oral course, the treatment cost ranges between Rs3,000 and Rs5,000 a month, while for intravenous injections, it is can go up to Rs30,000 to 50,000 a month, said Balani.
The trend is slowly and steadily spreading across the country. Dr Sukhjot Kaur, a dermatologist at Punjab’s Dayanand Medical Hospital and College, said she is treating at least 1 or 2 patients every week. “A major chunk of them are Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), who are currently vacationing in Punjab,” said Kaur, who began offering the treatment six months ago. A dermatologist with a skin clinic in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, said the treatment had become one of the most in-demand services at her clinic.
All three doctors admitted that not much is known about the drug’s side-effects, saying that controlled usage under instructions from medical experts hasn’t led to any complications so far. However, the fact that the drug can be easily bought over the counter in some cities and is home-delivered after ordering it online is alarming, they said.
“Drug overdose, more likely through IV injections, can cause stomach ache and diarrhoea. Rare drug reactions can also cause kidney failure,” said Thomas.
When HT contacted a dealer in Andheri (East), through an e-commerce website, he offered to sell a pack of 50 capsules of 250gm each
for Rs3,000, claiming the drug didn’t need any prescription.
Kalyan resident Sarika Gaikwad, who is in the third month of the course and has spent around Rs40,000 so far, said while she inquired about the lasting effects of the drug, she did not bother to check about health hazards. “Let’s see what happens in the future, but so far, I have not noticed any side-effects,” she said, adding that she was pleased with her new lighter skin.
However, there are critics who pan the treatment, calling the usage of Glutathione “unethical”.
Dr Nitin Walia, consultant dermatologist with Delhi’s Max and DLK hospitals, said despite the growing demand, he has chosen to not offer the treatment, as long-term effects of Glutathione as a skin-lightening agent are not known.
“Nothing in the world can alter one’s skin colour permanently. At best, one can take measures to prevent it from darkening,” said Dr Nina Madnani, consultant dermatologist at Mumbai’s PD Hinduja Hospital, adding that while there is a huge demand for the treatment, she is being cautious and offering only a month-long course to “brighten up the skin”.