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MPs are calling for fillers to be prescription only

Psychological pre-screening and regulated qualifications could also be introduced as MPs seek to make the currently unregulated non-surgical cosmetic treatment industry safer

A group of MPs have called on the government to address the absence of regulations around non-surgical cosmetic treatments including fillers, lasers, and microneedling. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics, and Wellbeing (APPG) condemned the “wild west” cosmetics industry and warned that the public is being put at risk of harm.

As it currently stands, a person does not need to hold any qualifications in order to carry out aesthetic procedures ranging from waxing and lash extensions to laser treatments and injecting filler. Botox is one of the lone exceptions, requiring prescription by a doctor or a nurse. This lack of regulations means that there is nothing stopping someone completely untrained from buying filler online and administering injectables, or unrecognised two days courses from selling themselves as reputable qualifications. A Sky News investigation earlier this month reported one training course had a woman injecting people within 30 minutes of arrival.

This absence of regulated training and standardised qualifications has led to serious harm being caused. When not administered correctly, dermal filler can cause complications including vascular occlusion which is when filler is accidentally injected into a blood vessel, causing it to become blocked and the tissue around it to die.

“For too long there have been next to no limits on who can carry out aesthetic treatments, what qualifications they must have, or where they can administer them,” said Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, co-chairs of the APPG which released its report yesterday (July 21) after a year-long investigation following an explosion in the popularity and availability of the sector. “We launched this inquiry as we were deeply concerned that as the number of advanced treatments on the market continues to grow, the regulation remains fragmented, obscure and out of date which puts the public at risk.”

Based on its report, the APPG has made 17 recommendations to the government which it believes will correct the lack of a legal framework of standards in the industry. These include the roll-out of a national government-backed licensing scheme, advertising restrictions for dermal fillers, psychological pre-screenings, and fillers to be made prescription-only.

The report also calls for an extension of the ban on under-18s receiving Botox and fillers to other invasive aesthetic treatments. Back in April, the Queen approved legislation banning under-18s from receiving both Botox and fillers in the UK.

Patient safety minister Nadine Dorries has confirmed that she will review the APPG’s report, which means that the recommendations could, at some point, become legislation. “Patients must always come first and I am committed to protecting their safety, making sure people have the right information they need to make informed decisions about cosmetic surgery, and ensuring the highest quality training is accessible to all practitioners,” she said.

This is sure to be welcome news to the beauty industry which has long called for tighter regulations to be put in place. Last year, the British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology (BABTAC) launched its Make Beauty Safe campaign which called the lack of regulation in the industry “seriously alarming”. Its petition has collected over 6,500 signatures. “Safety and professionalism should be at the heart of everything we do, and with so little accountability this currently just isn’t the case in far too many circumstances – to the detriment of our reputation and the wellbeing of our clients,” campaign supporter Caroline Hirons said.  

Last month, a BBC3 documentary, Under the Skin: The Botched Beauty Business, highlighted the ongoing problems with the unregulated beauty industry. The investigation exposed the substandard training many practitioners are receiving including undercover footage of a trainer accidentally puncturing a patient’s blood vessel and increasing the patient’s likelihood of infection through poor hygiene practices.