The Lelux Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, is currently offering a skin whitening treatment in a less than conventional place. The thought of it might make you wince but penis whitening turns out to be surprisingly popular in Southeast Asia with clients apparently traveling from as far as Myanmar, Cambodia, and Hong Kong. According to Bunthita Wattanasiri, who manages the skin and laser department at the hospital, the clinic sees roughly 100 men for the procedure every month.
“These days a lot of people are asking about it,” Wattanasiri told the AFP. “We have to be careful because it’s a sensitive part of the body.”
Unsurprisingly, news of the treatment caused quite a furor when the clinic posted a picture of a client undergoing a laser procedure on its Facebook page. It reached viral status on Thai TV and social media.
The Thai health ministry has responded, telling people tempted to try the treatment for themselves that penis whitening is really not a very good idea. Aside from the side effects that include pain, inflammation, and scarring, patients who stop treatment will see their penis return to its usual shade and could end up with some "nasty looking spots", the ministry has warned, reports the BBC. It could also harm your reproductive system and negatively affect your sex life.
But it turns out this service isn’t just for men. The Lelux Hospital’s marketing manager Popol Tansakul told the BBC they began offering vagina whitening services four months ago.
"Patients started to ask about penis whitening, and so we started the treatment a month later," said Tansakul.
The procedure has caught on among men aged 22 to 55 years old and members of the LGBT community, Wattanasiri told the AFP. Patients can get five sessions for $650 (£450).
While skin whitening (or bleaching) has provoked a huge amount of outrage and criticism concerning the health implications, not to mention the racial connotations, of lightening your skin, it remains popular in several Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand. According to the BBC, over half of all clients visiting Lelux Hospital come in for skin whitening treatments. This is because darker skin is associated with outdoor labor and the working class, whereas fairer skin is thought to imply wealth and beauty.
Fortunately, with this story being an exception, the tides may be turning on this dangerous beauty trend.