Vampire facial anyone? Untrained hands push it as a ‘post-COVID’ indulgence


Doctors are witnessing a high number of patients whose wellness treatments have gone haywire

Doctors are witnessing a high number of patients whose wellness treatments have gone haywire

The post-COVID trend of many people seeking “immunity boost and a healthy glow” at wellness centers has left doctors worried about the quick-fix treatments that these centers promise.

As these remedies to “look good and feel fresh” treatment has been packaged so well by the centers so well that it has started gaining traction and drawing customers in huge numbers, doctors have cautioned against making a beeline to these centers, confirming that they are witnessing patients coming in with problems related to “magic treatments” going haywire.

What is adding to the worry is the fact that many of these services are now available at home. “So basically invasive healthcare procedures get done without the infrastructure of trained doctors and adequate equipment and safety back up,” they cautioned.

Popular treatments such as IV drips claim to contain essential vitamins and nutrients that get rapidly absorbed by the body and give quick results, vampire facials, repeated peels, etc.

Dr. Amit Bangia, associate director, Dermatology, Asian Hospital, explained that while the COVID-19 pandemic may be on a decline but post-COVID symptoms are persisting. Fatigue, dullness are among the most visible symptoms. The increased screen time during the pandemic too has caused premature aging. This coupled with the lack of exercise, poor skincare routine, use of steroids to treat COVID-19 is pushing people into wellness and skincare clinics.

Speaking about the ill-effects, he said that the market currently has a lot of quick fixes which get done without adequate checks and balances.

“We are getting patients with complaints of these cases gone wrong. Take for example a very popular treatment – ​​vampire facial. This involves using the customers own blood which is extracted and mixed with other nutrients and used in the procedure. But when offered by untrained and unqualified professionals, who neither understand the skin nor the sterility associated with it, problems and infections will definitely be seen,” he said.

Sale of supplement medicines

Chemists too state that supplements aimed at helping people tackle stress, sleep, anxiety and hair loss are flying off the shelves. “Post COVID-19, the days of taking Vitamin E, B, C and D supplements, using kitchen and alternative healthcare support or going by the age-old wisdom of eat-sleep-exercise and keep stress at bay prescription don’t seem to have the same appeal. We have seen a steady and growing market for supplements,” said a popular chemist at Central Delhi.

“Everyone wants results and they want it quickly. So what better than a pill or an IV drip? These should not be treated as walk-in, on demand procedures as each comes with its own set of drawbacks. There has to be proper protocol to be followed starting from giving the patients information, counsel them about the procedure and tell them up-front about the complications, after care and benefit of the treatment and the cost involved. We do get cases where patients come in with side-effects of botched up procedures done by people who are not qualified and with equipment that is not standardized. Quality control is a key factor in this field. Looking and feeling good should be achieved in a safe, sustained manner,” said Dr. Nivedita Dadu, skin specialist.

Worried about this, the Delhi Medical Council earlier this month took out a public notice (against salons etc doing hair transplants — another invasive procedure) warning that those performing highly technical procedures that require expertise and skill of a trained professional without the adequate people and infrastructure would invite legal action. “This is following the case of a person’s death in Delhi after a hair-transplant surgery gone wrong,” said Dr. Girish Tyagi, registrar, Delhi Medical Council.

Dr. Dinesh Kumar Devaraj, secretary general, Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists & Leprologist (IADVL) said that one of the major issues they are facing is that patients are over-promised or given to believe that unrealistic expectations would be fulfilled.

“Covid has left behind several issues. Acute and increased hair fall, chronic fatigue, weight gain after the initial loss are the most common issues. So then tagging invasive medical procedures as “wellness or salon service” exposes the patients to a lot of harm. Procedures which are not approved, procedures not done by qualified trained professionals, procedures not done under sterile, strict aseptic controlled conditions without following proper protocols or SOPs are a problem,” he said.

Popular wellness clinics, speaking about the concern among doctors, said that the “highest standards of patient care and training is offered.” “There is no question of laxity and we do provide counseling, evaluation, recovery support, trained professionals and the best equipment in the market,” said one such clinic staff in Central Delhi.

The overall wellness market in India is estimated at ₹490 billion (as per some estimates) and wellness services alone comprise 40% of this market. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry, a non-governmental trade association and advocacy group based in India notes that the wellness industry in India has evolved rapidly from its nascent unstructured beginning in the early 1990s to a comprehensive ecosystem today.

It states that the government faces challenges mainly due to the wellness centers being unorganized to a high extent. “There is difficulty in applying control over the unorganized sector, implementing a control mechanism for regular monitoring and auditing unorganized players is tough,” it notes.

It adds that hurdles in creating awareness in the consumers around the benefits and safety of the centers which are compliant and accredited further aggravates the problem.



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