The Philippines’ first and only industry magazine that deals with safety and security matters pervading the environment today.

If looks could kill: death from beauty treatments?

Thanks to endless possibilities in science, now every woman can indulge in her vanity. So diverse are the treatments that these days, it’s very possible to go from dark-skinned and flat-chested for example to fair and buxom. To be honest, I’ve personally tried intravenous glutathione shots even though there have been warnings about people who have had adverse reactions from  them. In fact, many of the beauty treatments in the market are not completely without risk. How many of these are you using, and are you aware of the danger?

HIV in Fish spa?

Though bizarre, having small, lively fish that eat the dead skin off your feet and leaving them nice and smooth is a growing trend around the world. Currently, there are only three other fish spa sites in the Philippines, and one of them is at the Manila Ocean Park. For the most part, the experience is painless and a bit ticklish, so much so that even children are allowed to try it. The most popular type of fish used is the Garra rufa, which doesn’t have any teeth and consumes excess skin by suction and not nibble. Mosquito fish and other species of tilapia are also sometimes used. The fish mostly ignore areas of skin that are normal and focus on the dead patches.

So what’s the problem? When operators don’t change the spa waters regularly that’s what. While we often expect beauty instruments to be sterilized after use, this is not the case for live fish, for obvious reasons. If previous customers with broken skin step into the water, there’s a possibility for them to spread their condition to others when waters are not changed. There has been little report of such things actually happening but you can imagine the scenario when blood-borne viruses are passed on when carriers bleed into the water, and this includes HIV or hepatitis. No reports about it yet, but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. Some people are obviously worried about it as some states in the U.S. have already banned this kind of treatment.

Dying from hair dye.

Coloring hair is popular not just among the graying ones, but the younger lot who change their hair color to follow trends. The downside is that repeat dyeing can lead to dry, brittle hair. I’ve personally never done it, and one hairstylist (who didn’t know) actually said to me: “I can tell that you’ve never colored your hair!” He was talking about the differences in hair texture between frequently colored hair and “virgin hair.” The only solution to this is to stop dyeing hair, using a deep conditioner or just dyeing roots to reduce damage to the rest of the strand. But these are the least of your troubles.

There have been repeat reports in the media of extreme allergic reactions to P-Phenylenediamine or PPD, which is an ingredient in hair dye. Other dangerous names on the label are resorcinol, ammonia, persulfate, lead acetate, and 4-ABP. If you want an exhaustive list of chemical hair dye risks, this is a good resource: Health Risks of Chemical Hair Dyes

The problem seems to be that most brands use phenylenediamines because the ingredient is cheap and the color lasts. The most interesting part is that words like “mutagenic” and “carcinogenic” have been linked to PPD. This page publishes a list of medical journal articles that document fatalities and injuries related to PPD. Yes, that’s right, fatalities. If you must color your hair, look for organic dyes, ask your doctor, and do a skin patch before using. Be reminded that just because you didn’t react to a brand the first time you use it doesn’t mean you won’t develop adverse reactions to it later.

Fake glutathione.

In May this year, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) arrested a midwife for administering fake glutathione. The Philippine Star report mentioned products in her possession including Acqua ampules, Tationil vials, Glutathione Saluta vials and vitamin C injections as turning out to be fake and unregistered after further verification.

In an episode seen on ABS-CBN’s Bandila, Korina Sanchez reported that several oral glutathione products currently in the market are fake. One unhappy and unnamed user developed allergic reactions from the products that she bought and brought them for testing. Ateneo de Manila’s Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC) performed the tests and the result was only 2 out of the 9 brands turned out to be genuine, while the others only contained 10 percent or less of the actual glutathione content.

Here’s the clincher: Sonia Acqui of BFAD was quoted as saying that the agency cannot really control the products being sold in the market. Companies can submit the requisites to get permits, but the actual items being released to the general public are beyond the reach of the BFAD. It sounds a bit like saying that BFAD stickers of approval don’t really mean anything. As consumers, we must take responsibility for what we ingest or put into our bloodstream because rogue products often slip through the government’s net.

Cancerous breast implants.

Europe has been gripped by an imploding breast implant scare this year after products manufactured by a company called Poly Implant Prosthetes SA (which has now been shut down) were found to be filled with industrial material instead of medically approved gel. Several reports have pointed out that such products can rupture and leak silicone gel into the body’s lymph nodes and spine. At least one French woman who had the operation in 2005 has already died from a rare form of cancer following the rupture of her breast implant. Reuters has reported that the French government has officially released a statement advising all women with implants from this company to seek removal.

Ruptured breast implants may not be a growing concern for the local masses, as they are quite expensive, with procedures beginning at PhP 100,000 and up. But there is a market for them, here and abroad. In a Philippine Star article written by Dr. Charles Chante published in May this year, he mentioned that more women go for silicone gel implants because they have a softer, and more natural feel. However, he pointed out that an estimated 45 percent of women receiving these implants undergo reoperations within 10 years – reoperations are often due to device rupture, contracture, pain, or loss of shape. Saline implants, though having a less-than natural feel to them, have fewer complaints.

Extreme beauty make-overs carry too much risk, especially those that involve invasive procedures. If you ask me, eating fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep and exercise and leading a stress-free life far outweigh the benefits of adventurous though highly risky treatments such as these.

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