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Nine years ago, Rishi Baveja survived a fatal bungee fall in Phuket. The Cambridge grad hit the waters of a lagoon at 80mph when the bungee cord tied around his feet unfastened. The Guardian reported, “He took the force of the impact on his chest, suffering a ruptured spleen, torn liver, collapsed lungs and massive bruising.” Baveja has also undergone two shoulder and hip operations in his eclectic medical history. “I have had a lot of medical things occur to me, so I know how horrible and painful it can be to have an IV put incorrectly,” he says. Today, IV drips are a part of his wellness routine.
Whether delirious and cranky from miserable hangovers or anticipating a flu or just plain dog-tired with work, Baveja, 31, has often gone for IV fluids to recover, not in a hospital but at a skincare clinic in Delhi called Isya Aesthetics. These IV fluids are a blend of vitamins and electrolytes that go directly into the bloodstream and ensure higher absorption of nutrients, claim its adherents. Baveja, who is now starting a chain of boxing-only gyms in Delhi, was introduced to IV fluid infusions in the UK. He swears by Isya’s hydration drips—just water and vitamin C. His IV shots at times also include B complexes, magnesium, calcium and glutathione, considered the mother of all antioxidants. “It is like a warm sensation coursing through your body. It is no more painful than getting a massage,” says Baveja.
IV drip vitamin therapy is the latest health fad, endorsed by celebrities like Rihanna, Kate Upton, Adele and Khloe Kardashian. “When I went to med school in America, we would get ourselves drips when we needed energy, if we had not slept well or were working long shifts,” says Kiran Sethi, celebrity dermatologist and founder of Isya Aesthetics. She then saw clinics offering IV drips “as jobs” coming up in the US and Europe, and thought “why can’t I do something similar in India?”
Sethi introduced Delhi to IV fluid therapy two years ago, and has around 35-40 clients trooping in every month at Isya. While the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved drip infusions for aesthetic purposes, Isya offers these services in a special segment called ‘Drop Bar: IV Infusions and Boosters to promote overall health and wellness’, which is not openly advertised. The basic shot for dehydration prevention comes with high doses of vitamin B12. There are shots for building lean muscle mass, treating general malaise associated with partying and travel, boosting immunity and skin glow and the gold-star Magic Markle, costing Rs 17,000 a pop, for “limitless energy and glow” à la Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, Sethi’s icon. It comes with 2l of fluid and high doses of electrolytes with large portions of glutathione.
Glutathione is seen as the magic booster. But, Dr Sujit Shanshanwal, consultant dermatologist, Apollo Clinic, says that glutathione is approved only in liver damage, and is off-label for skin glow purposes. “As per the recent Drug Controller General of India guidelines, only 600mg of glutathione is allowed at a time. The doctor will not be medico-legally protected for giving high doses that are not approved,” he says.
Sethi says her clinic does not exceed the 600mg limit for glutathione, and normally recommends IV infusions when oral supplements fail to achieve results. She clarifies that clients with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular issues or a history of allergic reactions are not prescribed IV drips.
Sethi’s latest offerings at Isya include Aquagold. “This is Kim Kardashian’s favourite,” she says. Aquagold uses needles finer-than-a-hair-strand to inject a mix of Baby Botox, Hyaluronic Acid, PRP (platelet rich plasma), fillers and vitamins directly into your skin through micro-channel needling technology. “When you apply creams, you get only 5-10 per cent absorption. When you create channels in the skin, the rate improves by 60 per cent,” assures Sethi. “It basically makes you look poreless, iridescent and glowy.” Then there is PicoSure, which costs around Rs 40,000 per session. “This is the strongest laser in the world for pigmentation and I was the first person to bring this to India,” says Sethi.
Yet another entrant in the wellness industrial complex is colon hydrotherapy, wherein a tube is inserted into the rectum and up the colon to pump successive doses of water that sometimes contain additives like soapsuds, herbs and coffee grounds. This apparently cures freckled skin, helps lose weight and also flushes out harmful toxins. But there is no conclusive medical research to prove how colon hydrotherapy can promote gut health.
And, how do you reverse the ravages of motherhood? Mommy Makeover packages are specialised, single-stage cosmetic surgeries for new mothers. Mummy tuck procedures now on offer include “facial recontouring for double chin fat”, “genital rejuvenation for hymen reconstruction”, “breast reduction”, “breast lift or augmentation” and “reshaping sagging, deflated, breasts”. A number of clinics in India offer these combined procedures at about Rs 2,50,000. Surgeons say the demand for such packages started picking up since 2017 in the metros.
Avantika (name changed) went for a tummy tuck and breast uplift procedure last year as part of her Mommy Makeover package. “I could carry off a belly ring with a crop top once. But after my child was born, I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror with my clothes off. I felt ugly,” says the 37-year-old homemaker from Delhi. Previously, she had dabbled in botox and thread lifts—a cheaper, less complicated alternative to the usual facelift surgery to address jowls and drooping cheeks—wherein threads with small cones are passed under the skin through a large needle. “You don’t know thread lifts? It’s like facial. It’s very normal. Even the teenagers get it done now,” informs Avantika, a touch surprised. The Mommy Makeover surgery has left a scar like in a C-section operation, which she plans to hide with a tattoo. But her pregnancy-induced fat is gone. “See you can’t have everything,” she says. “But compared to earlier, I feel much better when I see myself in the mirror today.”
Last year, supermodel Kendall Jenner’s vitamin IV drip misfired just a day before her Oscar night appearance, landing her in a hospital instead. Even Baveja had a spot of bad luck with his infusion once in a Mumbai skin clinic when a nurse did not inject the needle correctly into his vein. A quick Google search will throw up many banana skins for glow drips—bruising, infection and swelling being the least damaging of the lot. It is one of those things easily available without a doctor’s prescription. Like recreational oxygen treatment and genetic testing. Or, getting high on Benadryl. How safe is it? And, who is listening?
Mummy tuck procedures now on offer include “facial recontouring for double chin fat”, “genital rejuvenation for hymen reconstruction”, “breast reduction”, “breast lift/ augmentation” and “reshaping sagging, deflated, breasts.”