If you’re in the market for cosmetic enhancement in Texas—especially injections—be really, really careful, okay? Twice in the past weeknews has broken about someone offering injections that contain fatal substances.

The first case, down in the Rio Grande Valley, involves a woman offering bovine-based collagen implants and Botox, who is accused of actually injecting her clients with liquid rubber. The second, in Dallas, involves a woman offering illegal sillicone injections to people looking to “pump” their breasts and butts. 

There are a few obvious similarities—and a consistent theme. Namely, that the suspected criminals were offering their injections to particularly vulnerable people. The Monitor reported last week that the operation in the Valley seemed to be based out of Brownsville—the poorest city in the United States. The woman in Dallas, meanwhile, is transgender—and the blog Planet Transgender seems to suspect that most of her clients were too. 

Transgender women face stiff economic challenges. The New York Times wrote in 2008 that after transitioning, their wages can fall by up to a third, and the “young and poor women desperate for quick and cheap feminization of their faces and bodies,” as trans advice website Transexual Road Map describes them, are not necessarily in a position to afford safer injections. 

Miami Herald story about a similar case from 2004 (which left one young woman dead) describes what goes into these injections:

[T]he silicone used is the stuff sold in hardware stores as a sealant. It is not sterile and can cause infections, particularly in the lungs.

The silicone is often mixed with paraffin, oil, even peanut butter, said Dallas Denny of the transgender support group Gender Education & Advocacy. In Jeter’s case, it was probably mixed with baby oil, based on how it smelled to others who received the injections, said James Paulk, an investigator for the district attorney.

There was so much silicone in Jeter’s body that when incisions were made during the autopsy, a clear, brownish liquid flowed out, Paulk said.

It’s horrifying stuff—but the prices cited by the Herald, which describe multiple injections in multiple parts of the body that cost just a few thousand dollars, demonstrate the appeal. Safer, saline-based implants by board-certified plastic surgeons cost as much as five figures.

Cheap prices is no doubt what attracted many to the Brownsville woman accused of offering sillicone in place of Botox, too. A client who nearly lost her leg after an injection that she believed to be Botox says that she paid $150 for the treatment, according to Reuters; depending on the number of units required, Botox can cost considerably more. The operation marketed its procedures to Spanish speaking women, largely exotic dancers in the country illegally, according to that same Reuters report: 

A flyer in Spanish recovered by investigators when they arrested Gonzalez on Wednesday claimed that her treatments could help patients reduce wrinkles and add volume to their hips, buttocks, legs and nose. Treatments started at $250, it said.

We’re aware that women face unattainable beauty standards, and that trans women, in particular, have a number of good reasons for wanting to pursue hourglass figures. But please, if you’re in the market for implants, don’t get them on the black market. That can kill you. 

(image via Flickr)