New proposals to regulate cosmetic procedures were widely reported in the papers today, with the Daily Mail reporting the need to "rein in cosmetic surgery cowboys", and The Daily Telegraph warning that anti-wrinkle treatments are "a crisis waiting to happen".
The stories are based on an independent review of regulations governing the UK cosmetic industry, which is worth an estimated £3.6 billion. The review was chaired by the NHS medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, who said anyone having cosmetic procedures should be better protected than at present. People carrying out cosmetic procedures should be trained to a high standard, Professor Keogh said.
The review particularly highlights concerns about non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as:
Under current regulations, all of these procedures can legally be performed by anyone, whatever their level of medical training. This is in spite of the fact that, if performed incorrectly, these procedures can result in a range of complications such as burning, scarring, infection and even blindness.
The review proposes that much tighter and rigorous regulation is required for these types of non-surgical cosmetic procedures to ensure their safety.
The review into the regulation of cosmetic ‘interventions’ was commissioned by the government following the scandal over faulty PIP (Poly Implant Prothesis) breast implants, which came to light at the end of 2011.
The report says the scandal exposed “woeful lapses in product quality, aftercare and record keeping” in certain sections of the global cosmetic industry.
The French-made PIP implants caused global concern after it was revealed they contained industrial-grade silicone rather than medical-grade fillers, and that they were more prone to rupture and leakage. It is estimated that nearly 50,000 women in the UK had the implants, most of which were provided privately.
The events surrounding the PIP implants scandal, says the new report, raised wider concerns about the regulation of cosmetic interventions. These concerns led to troubling questions, such as:
The report points out that cosmetic interventions are a “booming business”. Cosmetic interventions include both surgical interventions such as face-lifts, tummy tucks and breast implants, and non-surgical procedures such as Botox, dermal fillers and the use of laser or intense pulsed light (IPL).
The review committee gathered evidence from those working in the cosmetic procedures sector, the public, academics and international policymakers.
Their review report says that cosmetic interventions have become “normalised”, with men as well as women increasingly likely to consider them. It says advances in technology mean there is a growing range of – mainly non-surgical – interventions available.
The report also found that the industry is highly fragmented, with a range of different interest groups, product manufacturers and practitioners. It makes the case that the rapid growth of the sector means that quality control is hard to police. The existing laws have been developed in piecemeal fashion rather than systematically, the report says, with previous attempts at self-regulation by the industry deemed to have largely failed. As a result, someone having a non-surgical cosmetic procedure “has no more protection and redress than someone buying a ballpoint pen or a toothbrush”, the report points out.
The review found that dermal fillers are a particular cause for concern because anyone can set themselves up as a practitioner, with no requirement for knowledge, training or previous experience. There are insufficient checks in place on the quality of the products used during the procedure, the report says, pointing out that “most dermal fillers have no more controls than a bottle of floor cleaner”.
The report also found a need for greater protection for vulnerable people – particularly girls and younger women. It quotes a Guide Association survey that suggested younger people “see cosmetic procedures as a commodity – something they might ‘get done’”, this is attributed, in part, to the influence of “celebrities”.
The report also points out that:
The review committee’s report concludes that there are three key areas in which change is needed:
The report outlines the need for safer products, more highly skilled practitioners and more responsible providers. It calls for:
The report highlights the need for people to be given accurate advice and for vulnerable people to be protected, specifically calling for:
The report wants clear ways for people to be able to take action if anything goes wrong with their cosmetic intervention, calling for:
If you are considering a surgical procedure, such as breast implants, your GP is often the best person to contact first. As Professor Simon Kay, consultant plastic surgeon and member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) explains, “your GP knows the local situation, such as who is a well-established surgeon”.
Make sure you get as much information as you can about the surgery, its potential risks, its perceived benefits and any other relevant information before consenting to surgery. Read more about choosing a cosmetic surgeon.
If you are considering a non-surgical cosmetic procedure, it is important to realise that some people offering these types of treatment may not be medically qualified.