Thailand’s health ministry has issued a warning over a new “penis whitening” procedure that’s reportedly popular among gay men in the country.
A Facebook video by Lelux Hospital’s Skin and Laser clinic detailing the treatment, which breaks down melanin in the skin using lasers, reportedly went viral online with more than 19,000 shares in two days.
The hospital’s marketing manager Popol Tansakul told the BBC they had introduced vagina whitening services four months ago.
“Patients started to ask about penis whitening, and so we started the treatment a month later,” he said.
The clinic currently gets an average of 20-30 patients a month for the procedure, he said, and it was popular among gay and transgender people who “want to look good in all areas”.
But Thailand’s Public Health Ministry has issued a warning about the phallic fad’s possible side effects such as pain, inflammation or scars.
The procedure might even adversely affect sexual function and the reproductive system, the authority warned in a statement to the BBC.
“Penis laser whitening is not necessary, wastes money and may give more negative effects than positive ones,” Dr Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn of the ministry said.
But stopping the treatment would cause the skin colour to return to normal and may result in “nasty-looking spots”, the ministry said.
According to the BBC, Thailand’s controversial skin whitening trend is largely attributed to a lingering traditional perception that having fairer skin means not being part of the working class, but attitudes were slowly changing.