Skin clinics claim shots of vitamins are panacea

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Skin clinics claim shots of vitamins are panacea

Beauty-conscious Korea has turned its hopeful eyes toward a new cosmetic strategy: vitamin injections.

The main claim for the injections is that they lighten skin, and celebrities like Beyonce and Korean singer IU are frequently featured on posters at plastic surgery and skin care clinics.

The whitening effect is but one benefit. If you believe the hype, vitamin injections can treat depression, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

Impotent men should also give them a try, proponents claim.

And don’t just try a few injections. For the benefits to really kick in, 10 or more are needed.

“Vitamin injections were a big hit in Japan before getting popular in Korea, and many clinics just repeat what Japanese clinics say,” said Lee Sang-joo, a dermatologist running a hospital in Sinchon, western Seoul.

“When they promote vitamin injections, the effects are not scientifically proven at all.”

But they’re already popular with women in their 20s and 30s. According to the Korean Medical Association, none of the benefits can be proven and negative side effects are possible.

“Many think lypoaran, a substance often used in the injections, has an antioxidant effect, but there is no substantive scientific evidence to support that,” said Yoo Jin-mok, an internal medicine doctor who is a member of a committee monitoring medical advertisements at the Korean Medical Association.

The doctors’ association said that almost 90 percent of advertisements for vitamin shots have been rated as inappropriate, but the clinics shrug off any talk of facts and evidence.

At a plastic surgery clinic in Jongno District, central Seoul, a poster reads: “The skin lightening effects confirmed by Beyonce and IU are safe enough even for pregnant women.”

But those who took the shots say otherwise.

“I supposed my overall health conditions will get better after taking the injection,” said Seo Hee-jeong, a 28-year-old woman exiting a cosmetic surgery clinic in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul, where a row of beauty clinics operate.

“The clinic said my blood circulation has improved but I don’t buy it.”

In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration warned against having glutathione injected, saying it may cause serious injury, even death. It added that the use of glutathione administered intravenously as a skin-whitening agent may trigger adverse reactions or serious infections.

The hype is unlikely to be toned down considering Korea’s light approach to false medical claims, even outrageous ones.

Only 33 clinics in Seoul were slapped with administrative measures for false advertising since 2007.



BY LEE JI-EUN, PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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