Penis Bleaching Has Become A Trend — And It’s Getting Bigger

A clinic in Thailand has recently gained notoriety for its penis whitening treatment.

The Lelux Hospital specializes in cosmetic surgery, and bills itself as an “established provider of numerous plastic surgery procedures.” It primarily focuses on providing more conventional surgeries like rhinoplasty and breast augmentation. Recently, it made waves with their “3D Vagina” procedure, where women could have their own fat injected into their mons pubis for a “fuller” and “more youthful” vagina. And their most recent treatment, which apparently uses lasers to break down melanin in the skin on the penis shaft, has made headlines across the world after a social media post last week.

The treatment is done over five sessions and uses the same laser technology for their skin whitening procedures. The clinic has apparently been offering the treatment since last year, and it has attracted “around 100 clients a month” ever since, according to Bunthita Wattanasiri, a manager for the clinic’s skin and laser department.  “These days a lot of people are asking about it,” Wattanasiri told AFP reporters.

But despite the procedure’s popularity, many in the industry worry that it’s unsafe. Thailand’s Public Health Ministry issued a warning saying that penis whitening “is not necessary, wastes money and may give more negative effects than positive ones.” And Darren Smith, a New York-based plastic surgeon, says that the procedure puts people at risk of burns that may permanently damage appearance or reduce sexual sensation. “This is especially problematic as non-invasive procedures such as this are often adopted by under-qualified providers, as there is less regulation in place to protect the patient,” Smith told Allure.

Skin whitening is a lucrative industry, projected to reach $19.8 billion by the end of this year. Companies like India’s Fair & Lovely and Thailand’s Seoul Secret make millions of dollars annually on skin-lightening creams. Many skin lightening procedures face accusations of harmfulness due to risky chemicals like hydroquinone and mercury.

And the industry faces accusations that its profits are driven by racism and colorism. In Africa, Asia and the Middle East (where skin whitening procedures are most common), light skin is seen as a sign of success and social mobility. Hindustan Unilever Limited research, which owns Fair and Lovely, claims that “90 percent of Indian women want to use whiteners because it is aspirational, like losing weight. A fair skin is like education, regarded as a social and economic step up.”

In this social climate, penis-whitening has become the newest frontier for people wanting to feel comfortable in their own skin.

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