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Alberto Costa MP: Unregulated lip filler craze is endangering young people

3 min read

The Keogh Review stated that ‘dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen’, and with the numbers of complaints relating to these procedures increasing year on year, it appears we may be approaching that crisis, warns Conservative MP Alberto Costa.

A few weeks ago I raised the case of my constituent, Rachael Knappier, with the Prime Minister and the horrific injury she suffered after a botched lip filler treatment she received last year. Until meeting Rachael at a constituency surgery, I must confess to having little knowledge of the Aesthetics industry, dermal lip fillers and even Instagram. Since then, my horizons have been somewhat broadened.

Rachael attended a party with some friends who had hired a beautician to provide lip fillers to those in attendance; the beautician, who had no medical or professional experience, accidentally injected dermal filler into Rachael’s artery causing her lips to painfully swell three times their normal size. While my constituent’s experience was shocking enough, I was astonished to learn that those administering these types of treatments need no qualifications, no experience and crucially no medical expertise at all.

Thousands of these procedures take place each year, and with no age restrictions for those receiving these treatments, the recipients are getting younger and younger each year. While surgical cosmetic treatments are tightly controlled, and similarly you must be at least 18 years of age to receive a tattoo without parental consent, none of this applies to non-surgical cosmetic treatments.

Rachael’s case exposes a tremendously worrying gap in legislation in an emerging market that appeals to the youngest, and often, the most vulnerable in society. Much has been written of the effects of social media and its power to influence young people; however, the lack of regulation in this industry paints an increasingly stark portrait of the ease by which young people are exposed to these procedures on social media and just how simple they are to access.

While I appreciate that not all of us may have seen an episode of Love Island or have an Instagram account and, inexplicably, know the difference between Kylie and Kendall Jenner, I think we can comfortably assume that many young people do. These are staples of the young generation and are prevalent reminders, and in some cases advocates, of these types of procedures.

Of course while proper regulation over those able to administer these treatments is central to the cause, ensuring consumers have the information they need to make an informed decision is also a huge part of the battle. Of the complaints raised with Save Face, the Government’s voluntary register of accredited practitioners, the vast majority of those who had received botched procedures were reported to have found their practitioners on social media; often Instagram, a social media platform where a picture can easily advertise or promote a treatment, but may struggle to list all the information someone needs before they receive a dermal filler.

The Keogh Review, undertaken under the Coalition Government, stated that ‘dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen’, and with the numbers of complaints relating to these procedures increasing year on year, it appears we may be approaching that crisis, hence why I will be calling on the Government to act sooner rather than later.

In my debate in Parliament, I ask the Government to create an independent regulator for this industry; such a regulator should be tasked to ensure that practitioners are properly trained, qualified and licensed with ongoing professional qualifications. Further, each regulated practitioner should have professional indemnity insurance to ensure that there is financial compensation for consumers when things go wrong. This new regulator should be financed by the industry ensuring that there is no cost to the taxpayer.

The regulator should allow for a healthy, diverse and competitive non-surgical cosmetic treatment industry offering choice for consumers whilst providing maximum safety for those choosing these procedures. 

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