What You Need to Know About the Insane New Health Trend Sweeping Asia
There are a lot of strange health trends out there. Some of them are a waste of money, while others might actually endanger your health. Some, like the latest craze overtaking Thailand — A laster procedure called “penis-whitening” — carry more of a cultural weight — but still aren’t, technically, necessary.
Here’s what’s happening, why it’s so popular, a summary of potential (and terrifying) health risks, and why this procedure is so controversial.
What is it?
It’s just what it sounds like. A man’s penis is treated with a laser to alter the pigmentation, lightening the skin with — in many cases — few to zero major side effects.
Penis-whitening is similar to many other cosmetic procedures in that there’s a high cost with more psychological than physiological benefits. Skin whitening isn’t anything new, but focusing the trend on this specific body part is a more recent development.
Why are people doing it?
In various parts of Asia, both men and women — especially between the ages of 20 and 50 — strive for whiter skin. Retailers sell all kinds of skin-whitening products, from soaps to lotions to sunscreens. It’s a beauty trend that’s been around for hundreds of years — but is this ambition worth the cost?
How much does it cost?
You can buy skin-bleaching lotions and creams in the U.S. for less than $10. For many people, though, this isn’t enough. They want something more permanent — and they’re willing to pay for it.
Five sessions of a penis-whitening treatment typically cost about $650. There’s a chance that the effects of the procedure will fade if a patient stops regular treatments, so this isn’t typically a one-time cost. Someone might pay for treatments continuously for years if they so desire — but for what benefit?
Are there benefits?
Physically, no. Psychologically, maybe. If you really want to know why people are paying money for this procedure despite the lack of scientific benefits, you have to instead ask why people opt for purely cosmetic surgeries at all.
Put simply, people undergo these procedures because they want to. Poor self-esteem is one of the greatest predictors that a person will agree to have a physical part of themselves altered in some way, despite the possible associated risks.
What are the health risks?
The more this trend spreads, the more experts question the overall safety of an elective procedure like this. Setting the laser improperly could always lead to a burned penis, and there’s a chance the irritation and inflammation following the procedure could last. And those are just the mild side effects.
People also use other skin-whitening methods
Other than soaps and lotions, and the “bleaching creams” many people use in the United States, women throughout Asia also use skin-whitening pills. Like many other supplements, these are costly and don’t always produce the results they promise to. They’re also becoming controversial for other reasons.
Is skin-whitening racist?
A preference for fairer skin has been around for centuries. That hasn’t made any skin-whitening methods any less controversial — especially when poorly executed advertising turns the seemingly innocent beauty trend into a political disaster.
One video ad for skin-whitening pills implied that whiter skin makes people more successful. The practice itself might not have the same racial implications, but the messaging itself might need some work.
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