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HomePolicy and LawBotched botox and the UK’s legislative crackdown on ‘cosmetic cowboysʼ

Botched botox and the UK’s legislative crackdown on ‘cosmetic cowboysʼ

In response to an increase in botched non-surgical cosmetic procedures, the UK is introducing legislation to curb “cosmetic cowboys” through new licensing regulations, writes MedicalBrief. It follows on a ban on cosmetic procedures for under-18s, which takes effect in May.

The ban comes after 41,000 procedures, such as “Love Island lips” were carried out on kids in 2020 alone, reports The Telegraph. It follows complaints about those cosmetic procedures rising tenfold over the past five years, with Save Face,  a government-approved register of accredited practitioners, receiving 2,083 complaints about botched procedures over the past year, with some victims having to be treated for blood clots, partial blindness and necrosis of the facial tissue.

However, reports The Guardian, organisation  like Save Face say the legislation does not go far enough. “We’re very disappointed that the government has ignored the evidence we gave them about these ‘ghosts’ and the serious and permanent damage they do to their clients,” said Ashton Collins, director of Save Face.

During lockdown, said Collins, there was a dramatic rise in adverts for “at home” cosmetic procedures on social media. The only contact clients have with these practitioners is their social media account and a mobile number.

“These laypeople have literally no idea what they’re doing: at best, they might have watched a few videos on YouTube,” said Collins, who submitted evidence to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) on what should be in the new legislation.

“After a couple of days, when things start to go wrong and the client needs their help, they disappear, shutting down their social media accounts and disposing of their untraceable pay-as-you-go phone,” she said. “They disappear, leaving clients, who have quite often suffered serious and permanent harm at their hands, to desperately seek help from someone who might be just as unscrupulous.”

“They, of course, simply open a new social media account and get a new mobile phone – then go on to target further clients. They have no fear of being caught, because they can’t be.”

Health Minister Sajid Javid’s proposed  amendments to the Health and Care Bill will set out new powers for the Health Secretary, requiring those who offer such services to meet specified standards. The scope and details of regulations would be determined via public consultation.

Minister for Patient Safety Maria Caulfield said “The spread of images on social media has contributed to an increase in demand for cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers. “While these can be administered safely, we are seeing an unacceptable rise in people being left physically and mentally scarred from poorly performed procedures.”

Javid announced that anyone offering services like Botox and wrinkle fillers would now need a licence. He said said the new licensing regulations would protect the public from “cosmetic cowboys”.“While most of those in the aesthetics industry follow good practice when it comes to patient safety, far too many people have been left emotionally and physically scarred after botched cosmetic procedures.  I am committed to protecting patient safety by making it an offence for someone to perform these cosmetic procedures without a licence.”

Currently, while Botox can be prescribed only by a doctor, it can be administered by anyone without training or qualifications. Other procedures, like fillers, can also be performed by unqualified practitioners, despite years of concern about the damage that can result. Health officials said.

Under the plans, licences would only be granted to individuals carrying out non-surgical cosmetic procedures who meet consistent professional standards, as well as hygiene and safety standards for premises.

Last month, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency began an investigation into the use of “black market” Botox, amid concerns that practitioners without medical qualifications were injecting clients with products not licensed in the UK. It is also weighing whether dermal fillers without a medical purpose could be subject to the same regulations as medical products.

The UK’s Committee for Advertising Practice has placed a ban on all forms of media including Instagram, TikTok and Facebook on any cosmetic procedures which target under 18s. The rules will bar ads on all media – ranging from social media sites to billboards and posters, newspapers, magazines and radio as well as social influencer marketing – that are aimed at under-18s or likely to have a particular appeal to that age group.

Javid’s announcement was welcomed by medical practitioners and the cosmetology industry, with the British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology (BABTAC) last year launching a Make Beauty Safe Campaign which called the lack of regulation in the industry “seriously alarming”.

Dr Ahmed El Muntasar, who runs a aesthetic surgery clinic, said it was “about time” for legislation, given that the UK was the only developed nation in the world that allowed non-medics to administer Botox and fillers. “It’s about dealing with the complications and this is where medical training comes in,” he said.


The Telegraph article – No more botched Botox as government cracks down on cosmetic cowboys (Restricted access)


Full The Guardian article – Botched cosmetic procedures on the rise (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Botched cosmetic procedures lead to calls for better legislation


UK crackdown on beauty clinics: '1 in 5 put clients at risk'


Demand for cosmetic surgery continues to grow



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