Health experts want consumers to be wary of an intravenous treatment that claims to erase skin blemishes and lighten skin tone in a safe alternative to dangerous skin bleaching creams. Intravenous treatments gaining popularity in Asia, the UK, and the US involve weekly or twice-weekly doses of glutathione, the naturally occurring antioxidant which is believed to reduce melanin production in the body, reports the New York Times. But while oral and topical glutathione treatments have undergone study, experts say no major studies have explored the possible dangers of IV glutathione treatment, which can go for $150 to $400 per dose, with some spas recommending as many as 30 doses to be repeated every few months.
That's despite the FDA stating injectable skin-lightening products "are potentially unsafe and ineffective, and might contain unknown harmful ingredients or contaminants." An editorial in the BMJ suggests IV glutathione treatments may also pose a cancer risk, while the Philippine government has linked the practice to skin disorders, thyroid dysfunction, kidney dysfunction, and even death, per NewBeauty. Reports of side effects are lacking in the US, where treatments are less frequent than in the Philippines, involve smaller doses, and are administered by doctors and nurses. But "it's probably not a good idea to use something when you don't know all the potential side effects," a dermatologist tells the Times. (This country has banned skin whiteners.)