Laura Trott: Government must step in to regulate dangerous and exploitative non-surgical cosmetic procedures
No child needs cosmetic Botox or fillers, yet thousands of young people, particularly girls, continue to undertake these dangerous and unnecessary procedures which have the potential to ruin their lives.
Last year, my Private Member’s Bill banning under 18s from being able to receive cosmetic Botox or fillers came into force. This was an important step forward, but only touched the surface of the wider action needed.
Today the Health and Social Care Committee has published our report on the impact of body image on mental and physical health. And, while it is welcoming news that government have agreed to introduce a licensing regime for non-surgical cosmetic procedures, what is clear from our inquiry is that change cannot wait.
Anxieties about body image are sadly growing. There is currently huge pressure on young people to conform to the unrealistic and unattainable ideals they see on social media and, as a result there has been a substantial growth in demand for non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as Botox and cosmetic fillers. You do not expect a treatment that leads to blindness, breathing difficulties, rotting tissue, lip amputations or lumps not to be regulated. But up to now this has been the case.
The total absence of mandatory education or training for those administering these procedures is putting patients at risk
As part of the Committee’s inquiry the evidence we heard was clear – vulnerable groups are being targeted, and they are almost entirely unprotected. One alarming piece testimony which stands out detailed how procedures were taking place in filthy rooms, no questions being asked about the patient’s medical history, and no explanation given about what can happen when dermal fillers go wrong. This must be stopped.
Social media is also sadly becoming a tool for unscrupulous providers to target customers with discounted treatments. According to figures from Save Face, 81 per cent found their practitioner on social media. The main reasons cited for choosing the practitioners were: cheap deals and time limited offers, celebrity treatment packages and number of followers. Notably not their medical track record or qualifications.
People rightly expect people providing these treatments to have the necessary training and qualifications. Yet currently anyone could legally inject Botox or dermal fillers into a patient’s face. The total absence of mandatory education or training for those administering these procedures is putting patients at risk, and minimum standards must be set and enforced.
While people of course have a right to choose what to do with their bodies, the Health and Social Care Committee is clear that a regulatory framework must be introduced to protect consumers – as well as the majority of the responsible providers in the industry. The regulator must remove unscrupulous providers from the sector, without punishing those who are already putting customer safety first.
Other recommendations from the report include making dermal fillers prescription-only (as is the case with Botox); a two-part consent process for non-surgical cosmetic procedures covering not just medical history but mental health history too; a mandatory 48-hour cooling off period before any procedure is carried; and a new safety taskforce of regulatory bodies to ensure that practitioners are complying with the law.
As policy makers we must make sure safety is paramount and sadly existing safeguards are not enough. The exploitation of vulnerable groups seeking non-surgical cosmetic procedures by unscrupulous providers must not be overlooked any longer, and as a Committee we look forward to working with the government to make this a reality.
Laura Trott is the Conservative MP for Sevenoaks.
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