Popular in Japan for the past year and now gaining appeal in the USA, IV drip vitamin cocktails are the latest purported way to punch the aging demon.
The premise and claim? As we age, our bodies' natural nutrient stores deplete, leaving us tired and looking and feeling older. But injecting an individually tailored mix straight into the vein results in immediate application that gives you a sprightly energy boost and glowing, replenished skin.
"Skin is a mirror to what's going on inside your body," says Dr. William Lee, a board-certified cardiovascular physician at Patients Medical, a holistic wellness center in New York City, which offers the treatment, calling it a "Veinity Cocktail."
"I often prescribe vitamin and mineral drips to people who come to me with nothing seriously 'wrong' with them, yet who aren't feeling so great, either. They replenish and preserve your organ reserves, which give you higher energy and make you feel younger," adds Dr. Lee.
But some doctors vehemently disagree.
"In my opinion, this is quackery at a new level, but with potentially very dangerous side effects. The likelihood that there can be any real and meaningful improvement of your skin from injecting vitamins into your bloodstream violates our understanding of what vitamins do, how they do it and the actual physiology of the skin," says New York dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz.
"The risks of 'casual' intravenous therapy are great and far exceed any justifiable expectations of benefit. Veinity cocktails are in my opinion neither good nor real medicine and potentially far too dangerous," adds Schultz.
Meanwhile, Keri Glassman - nutritionist and author of The O2 Diet – believes younger looking skin is better supplemented with a diet rich in anti-oxidants and nutrients.
"Unless you have a condition that prevents you from absorbing vitamins, your digestive system is all you need to deliver nutrients to your body. That's what it was made to do! More isn't necessarily better, and it's possible to overdo it. If you want an anti-inflammatory effect on your skin, adding something like salmon to your diet will give you a glow, advises Glassman.
Despite the mixed reactions, IV drip therapy isn't anything new. Football players have been known to get a boost through IVs at half-time, though their drips contain elements super high in energy boosts like glucose, which the typical person doesn't need for everyday demands, says Dr. Lee. And hospitalized patients have used drips for hydration and nutrients for decades, which inspired the leap to vitamin drips for 'healthy' people.
But as with any procedure – particularly one that involves a needle – a well-informed patient is key to preventing a dangerous situation from occurring.
"I've heard of drips that claim to dissolve cellulite, relieve pain and so on. You've always got to ask: What's going into the mixture? Are these ingredients FDA-approved to be combined together? Is a board-certified physician overseeing it? And what's the actual evidence it'll do anything?" advises Dr. Loren S. Schechter, chairman of the patient safety committee for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The vitamin drips generally retail in the range of $195 - $250 depending on how souped up you want your mixture.
Now to try or not to try? That was my question.
I curiously decided to give it a go (and received the treatment gratis as a press sample) and was first physically examined for health by Dr. Lee at Patients Medical, where a waiting room with the soothing spa-like sounds of a rock fountain relaxed my city-induced tension. The holistic health center offers other alternative therapies like acupuncture and detoxification.
After getting instructions on the blend of nutrients to mix from the doctor, a nurse administered the vitamin drip therapy. I received a blast of Vitamin C, B6, B12, Zinc, Magensium and Calcium straight into my veins - a concoction called the "Myers' Cocktail, which was invented by Dr. John Myers in the '70s to treat patients with ills ranging from chronic fatigue syndrome to migraines and asthma, and was used by Michael Jackson to boost his energy while on tour.
An hour later, and all dripped up – I experienced a boost in energy that lasted about 24 hours until it gradually waned off. But most surprisingly, my skin appeared glowing and plumped with hydration for a week afterwards – no small feat in the frosty, wind-whipped days of February.
Placebo-effect or real result?
Depends on who you ask.