Plastic surgeons warn against cosmetic products peddled illegally door-to-door

The injections being offered are not collagen and can cause serious health risks or disfigurement, doctors are warning UAE residents.

Dr Mazen Janabi says he deals with cases of people having trouble after using unlicensed injections at least once a month. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // Residents are being offered unregulated collagen injections to enhance the appearance of their buttocks by door-to-door promoters – with sometimes devastating effects.

Legitimate plastic surgeons have warned against taking up offers from random agents and beauty salons.

The illegal injections, they say, may seem like a quick and affordable option, but they are dangerous.

Doctors who spoke to The National said they dealt with problem cases arising from such injections as much as twice a month.

“Now it is quite common to enlarge buttocks,” said Dr Mazen Janabi, chief executive of Beauty Trick Medical Centre, in Abu Dhabi. “The substances used are unlicensed and their nature is unknown.”

A number of people have ended up in clinics and hospitals suffering from side effects, including infections, fibrosis, ulcers and other deformities with the shape of the buttock – including tumours.

Dr Janabi said he received such cases at least once a month.

“We have to admit them into hospital, we give them antibiotics and conduct a CT scan at first. Then we conduct operations and open the area,” he said.

While promoters of these products claim they contain collagen filler, it is mostly a mixture of industrial hardware substances and hardly medical.

“One of the patients who suffered infections was tested by my colleagues at Al Mafraq Hospital,” Dr Janabi said. “They tested the substance and it contained a mixture of medical silicon, bathroom silicon and glass splinters.”

If the substance was, in fact, collagen, as claimed, they would have to conduct an allergy test before injecting the body with it, or else fatal problems could occur.

Dr Qassim Ahli, a consultant plastic surgeon at Derma Laser Clinic, said he had about two cases a month, with patients suffering similar results.

“I am sure there are more cases who are too shy to come out and seek treatment,” he said, “and other clinics receive many cases as well.

“Those injections are unlicensed, hardly sanitised and used in non-hygienic settings; either at an apartment or they go to people’s houses and they use the same injections from person to person.”

The injection sellers are often from the Philippines, China, Iran or an Eastern European country.

“They sometimes use acrylic amide,” Dr Ahli said. “It comes in jars or containers. They take it, expose it to some type of heating and primitive purification, and then fill it into injections. And there is silicon as well.”

Some also provide injections for the cheeks, lips, back of the hands and, for men, biceps and other muscles.

The substances, however, once injected, are permanent.

“Which means it is unremovable from the body,” Dr Ahli said, adding that other types of medical fillers stay in the body for four months, “but this stays forever”.

“In the long run, some of them suffer lumps and the area hardens, causing pain,” he said. “Or sometimes the injected substance moves over the years from the backside to lower back or down to the thighs. And sometimes the skin changes in colour. It becomes red and darker than the rest of the body.”

But the biggest problem, he said, was infection.

“In this case we usually give them antibiotics. If it works, we continue with it, if not they have to undergo surgery ... the skin is scarred as a result.”

There are also psychological issues that evolve, “even if they suffer no physical problems, some of them start hearing from others what they suffered”.

Dr Ahli said if there are no physical problems, it is best to do nothing.

Dr Najeeb Jallad said since he started working in the UAE three years ago he has seen about 50 patients with bad reactions to illegal injections.

“Usually they suffer infections, or the substance drops to another area,” he said, adding that collagen is only recommended for injection in special cases.

The substance the door-to-door salesmen use is cheap and sold in gallons, he added.

“We either have to discharge the substance through suction, which is very difficult, or sometimes they require open surgery.”

Nevertheless, it is rare for patients to fully recover, even after treatment.

hdajani@thenational.ae