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Life’s a botch: the government cracks down on unlicensed Botox and filler

TextAlex Peters

“Far too many people have been left emotionally and physically scarred” says Health Secretary Sajid Javid

The UK government has announced that it is cracking down on filler practitioners without a licence following an “unacceptable” rise in reports of botched cosmetic procedures.

Under new laws, people administering non-surgical cosmetic treatments will be required to have a licence. The government is hoping this will protect against rogue “cosmetic cowboys” after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said “far too many people have been left emotionally and physically scarred” when things have gone wrong. This move comes following last year’s ban on under 18s from receiving Botox and dermal lip-fillers for cosmetic purposes.

“We’re doing all we can to protect patients from potential harm, but I urge anyone considering a cosmetic procedure to take the time to think about the impact on both their physical and mental health and ensure they are using a reputable, safe and qualified practitioner,” the Health Secretary said.

“We are seeing an unacceptable rise in people being left physically and mentally scarred from poorly performed procedures.” – Maria Caulfield, minister for patient safety

As it currently stands, people don’t 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 only exceptions, requiring prescription by a doctor or a nurse. The lack of regulations has meant that there is nothing stopping someone with no training from buying filler online and administering injectables. 

Last summer, a Sky News investigation reported an unrecognised two-day training course had a woman injecting people within 30 minutes of arrival. 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.

Changes to Health and Care legislation will be made on Tuesday which will give the Health Secretary the power to introduce a new licensing scheme for these procedures. The scheme would bring in consistent standards that people carrying out non-surgical cosmetic treatments must meet, as well as setting out hygiene and safety standards for premises.

“We are seeing an unacceptable rise in people being left physically and mentally scarred from poorly performed procedures,” Maria Caulfield, the Minister for Patient Safety, says. She blames the recent rise in demand for Botox and filler on the spread of images online via social media.

The news has been welcomed by many in the industry. Dr Ahmed El Muntasar who runs The Aesthetics Clinic says it is “about time” for this legislation, pointing out that the UK is the only developed country in the world that allows non-medics to administer botox and fillers.

“It’s about dealing with the complications and this is where your medical training comes in,” he says. “It is so important to ensure anyone administering Botox or fillers has the knowledge and expertise to do so. You have to ask yourself, what if you block a blood vessel, what if you jeopardise the blood supply to someone’s eye, what can you do then?” 

The beauty industry 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 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 July, a group of MPs called on the government to address the absence of regulations around non-surgical cosmetic treatments. 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.

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