Campaign to tackle 'botched' cosmetic procedures

By Adam Eley and Pete Walker
BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme

Rachael Knappier had lip fillerImage source, Rachael Knappier
Image caption,
There have been calls for more regulation of non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as lip fillers

A campaign to tackle "botched" cosmetic procedures is to be launched shortly by the government in England.

It follows a rise in people seeking surgeries such as a "Brazilian butt lift" abroad, which has led to deaths.

There have also been warnings about the rise in the use of self-injected dermal and lip fillers, with the risk of causing complications that then have to be treated on the NHS.

One expert welcomed the campaign, but said better regulation was also needed.

England's Department of Health told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme the campaign, scheduled to launch in the coming weeks, would look to ensure the public was fully informed about the importance of seeking professional advice regarding fillers, Botox and cosmetic surgery.

It said it also hoped to tackle the number of "botched" procedures, and the resulting impact on a person's mental and physical health, as well as the cost to the NHS of treatment following such procedures.

Nora Nugent, a member of the council of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps), said she welcomed the government campaign in principle.

She said the estimated increase in people seeking cosmetic procedures had not been matched by improved education on what the public should expect when accessing treatments, or what could go wrong.

While the rise of celebrities and influencers sharing their procedures online had led to increased uptake, she added, it was also due in part to "rising availability, better awareness of procedures and relatively more affordability".

It comes as an online survey of 1,033 women aged 18 to 30, commissioned by the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme and Newsbeat and conducted by Deltapoll, suggests 83% would change part of their body if money and health risks were not a concern.

Of those, 63% would change their stomach and 53% their breasts.

Of the 7% of those surveyed who had had a cosmetic procedure, mostly lip fillers and botox:

  • 69% felt more confident
  • 52% felt more attractive
  • 24% felt less attractive

'My face was very distorted'

"Greg" (not his real name) told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme he became addicted to using dermal fillers - injections used to fill out wrinkles and creases in the skin, although they are also often used to increase the volume and definition of lips and cheeks.

He bought them online - as well as Botox - and began self-injecting into his face three years ago.

"You can lose sight of reality of what your face looks like," he said.

Media caption,
'Greg' used to self-inject dermal fillers into his face, despite the dangers

"There was a point where I was doing it quite a lot and my mum was noticing that my face was very distorted, and I was losing a lot of my characteristics."

You do not have to be a medical practitioner to administer such treatments, as filler solutions are not regulated like medicines.

But self-injecting can cause swelling and infection, and in rare cases may need to be treated with surgery or medication if it causes lumps to form under the skin. It can also cause blindness.

'Incredibly painful'

One of Greg's self-injected lip fillers went wrong when he had an infection.

"I woke up the next morning, they were uneven - one side was bigger than the other," he said.

"I had blisters. It was incredibly, incredibly painful.

"I was embarrassed to seek help."

Greg said he would now advise people not to use fillers, as it is a "slippery slope".

"Knowing the complications now, you have to be incredibly careful."

Ms Nugent, a consultant plastic surgeon, said she had concerns regarding so-called "cowboy injectors", such as beauticians, who administer fillers without medical training.

This poses a risk, she said, as many are not qualified to suitably assess patients safely or to spot when complications do arise.

She called for restrictions as to who can perform injectable treatments to be brought in.

The Department of Health said: "Anyone considering a cosmetic procedure should take the time to find a reputable, safe, and qualified practitioner, and make sure they understand the impact of any treatment on their physical and mental health.

"We're working to improve the safety of cosmetic procedures, through better training and clear information so that people can make informed decisions about their care."

In March, the Welsh government said it "may be appropriate in the future" to consult on adding dermal fillers to the licensing system.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Celebrities like Kylie Jenner have helped popularise lip fillers

Save Face, a national register of accredited practitioners, said it received 934 patient complaints regarding unregistered practitioners in 2017-18.

Of these, 616 related to dermal fillers.

Ms Nugent said she was also concerned about people going abroad for cosmetic surgery - where patients may not see the surgeon until the day of the operation, and it is more difficult to have follow-up treatment that could be needed as a result of complications.

She said this included - but was not limited to - Brazilian butt lift surgery, from which two British women have died.

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