Six months ago, a man walked into Lelux Hospital in Bangkok with an unusual complaint: that his penis was too dark, French news agency AFP reports. So, the doctors got to work creating a solution: laser penis whitening. Since then, news of the procedure has spread like wildfire, with around 100 guys a month coming in to get their penises whitened.
White penises don't come easy, though: You've got to pay $650 and come in for five sessions to achieve the look. But that hasn't stopped its popularity from growing. "Now, people need to book the treatment a week in advance," Popol Tansakul, Lelux's marketing manager, told German news agency DPA. "We are simply responding to our clients' needs."
And their partners', apparently: Women who have seen the procedure on Facebook have been tagging men in the comments, according to DPA. (The post has since been deleted.) The hospital also offers a vaginal whitening procedure, but only around 30 women have opted for it.
The racist implications behind such treatments haven't escaped people's notice. With skin whitening creams, pills, injections, and laser treatments gaining popularity in Asia, it looks like not even genitals are immune to the trend.
This isn't the first time Lelux has found itself amid controversy. Last year, employee Atittayapa Photiya promoted a treatment that involves injecting fat into the skin above the vagina for a "3D vagina."
Aside from promoting beauty standards, Lelux's procedures have garnered criticism from doctors for being potentially unsafe. Thailand's Ministry of Public Health issued a warning about the penis whitening treatment, in which Dr. Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn, deputy director-general of the Health Service Support Department, explained that "such laser services may cause irritation, allergies, and inflammation," according to a translation from Newsweek.
Dr. Keeratihuttayakorn also made a PSA that should hopefully be obvious to everyone already: "The skin of the private parts is sensitive."