The drip of beauty: Should you opt for vitamins through IV?


Model Kendall Jenner faced complications after an IV drip session held just before the Oscar 2018 night went awry.

Since the last few years, several celebrities have opted for hydration therapy also known as the IV drip vitamin therapy. Some of its hardcore patrons include singers Rihanna, Adele, model Chrissy Teigen and reality star Khloé Kardashian. This is a therapy in which multiple vitamins and antioxidants are administered intravenously and it is touted as a quick fix for multiple lifestyle issues such as dull skin, exhaustion, hangover, jet lag, etc.

However, reportedly, Kendall Jenner ran into complications after an IV drip session — held just before the Oscar night — went awry. This has made everyone sit up and question not only the safety of these procedures but also their validity.

How it all began

The trend began after a “collateral effect” experienced by patients who were being treated for liver failure. Dr Rinky Kapoor, dermatologist and skin laser specialist, SL Raheja Fortis Hospital, Mahim, explains, “Those patients who were injected with high doses of the master antioxidants, in particular, glutathione and vitamin C, exhibited changes in the skin. Their hyperpigmentation cleared and there was a general improvement in the skin texture and appearance.”

Several injectable combinations of antioxidants and vitamins are now doing the rounds in the market, in any and every dose. All experts agree that none of them were approved by FDA to this date for aesthetic purposes.

Ideal cause for an IV drip

Drips are recommended if the benefits outweigh the risks in case of limited options in treating a skin problem, or in cases of genuine deficiency. When and if medically required, it is an efficient way to hydrate patients and administer essential nutrients.

According to Dr Saurabh Shah, dermatologist, Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo, mostly IV drip is given to patients who have “acute and chronic illness”, those low on minerals and nutrients, and have chronic fatigue syndrome.

Dr Sujit Shanshanwal, dermatologist, Apollo Clinic, echoes the same thoughts. He says, “Vitamin drips should ideally be used when there is a need for it and it would be best assessed by testing the blood levels of the suspected deficiencies and then supplementing them as needed. Blindly pumping your body with things that are not needed is never a good idea.”

Singer Ricky Martin posted this picture on his social media handle saying he was ‘hooked’. (Facebook/RickyMartinOfficialPage)

The fad of ‘gluta’ shots

A popular trend these days is the glutathione drip aka gluta shots. Glutathione is supposed to be the mother of all antioxidants and gives the skin a glow. Therefore, almost all the celebrities opt for this drip.

“This is FDA approved for patients with liver diseases and hence a controversial topic (for beauty treatments),” says Dr Shah, adding, “There are cases of thrombophlebitis at the site of injection especially in men and women who are smokers and alcoholic.”

Famous fake promises

Most people in metro cities are fatigued and ill-nourished due to their erratic lifestyle and eating habits. The fact that an intravenous replacement can cure this instantly is catchy for those running against the clock. Therefore, they opt for this quick-fix instead of investing long-term in diet and exercise.

“Words like detoxifying, skin glow, instant rejuvenation, immune boost, etc. are immensely attractive. Anything that promises these is taken up by the masses without giving it a second thought about the genuineness of the product, and the science backing the results. Sellers ar making the most of this human instinct,” says Dr Kapoor.

She further adds, “One must especially beware of medical spas and quacks offering intravenous therapies in ‘hangover clinics’, where promised immediate relief from the symptoms of a hangover (tiredness, headache, nausea) and hooked up to a drip of fluids and medication, with the idea of immediate recovery. A cocktail of vitamins like this can risk reaching toxic levels.”

Singer Rihanna and reality star Khloé Kardashian have popularised such therapies. (Facebook/Rihanna, AFP)

As per Dr Kiran Naik, plastic and cosmetic surgeon, Global Hospitals, Parel, following are the probable side effects of IV drips for aesthetic purposes:

Bruising, infection and painful swelling at the IV site

Excessive vitamin B can cause liver damage

Glutathione can cause patchy skin

With multiple drugs in the same IV, there can be drug interactions

Rarely, may cause a life-threatening allergic condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

The takeaway

The human body has a systematic way of functioning. When it receives a high amount of vitamins or minerals in a single dose, it filters out the majority of them via kidneys or liver. That is because they can’t be stored in the body for use at a later time. So unless one has a medical deficiency, it logically does not justify the fact that these IV drips are beneficial.

“The benefits being observed by those propagating it or receiving it may be peer-driven or psychological. There are studies going on across the world on some of these molecules, and until a documented, placebo-controlled, proven study establishes the results and side effects scientifically, they are being taken at the patient’s own risk,” says Dr Kapoor.