UK’s cos­metic in­va­sion comes un­der scru­tiny

The Star Early Edition - - HEALTH - KATIE FORSTER

THE LARGELY un­reg­u­lated Bri­tish cos­metic surgery in­dus­try is a “cause for se­ri­ous con­cern”, es­pe­cially for chil­dren tar­geted by ad­ver­tis­ing and on­line plas­tic surgery games, health ex­perts have warned.

A new re­port from the Nuffield Coun­cil of Bioethics high­lights in­creas­ing con­cerns over anx­i­ety re­lated to un­achiev­able ap­pear­ance ideals – with young peo­ple said to be “bom­barded” by the promotion of breast im­plants, nose jobs, and non-sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures such as bo­tox and laser hair re­moval.

The think tank called for all cos­metic sur­geons to be prop­erly trained and cer­ti­fied, for a ban on non-med­i­cal in­va­sive pro­ce­dures for pa­tients un­der 18, and for ev­i­dence of safety and ef­fec­tive­ness to be re­quired for der­mal fillers and im­plants. It said treat­ments such as lip and skin fillers, which can cur­rently be of­fered by prac­ti­tion­ers who have no for­mal train­ing, have grown in pop­u­lar­ity but should be reg­u­lated in the same way as tat­toos and sunbeds.

“Un­der18s should not be able to just walk in off the street and have a cos­metic pro­ce­dure,” said Jeanette Edwards, professor of so­cial an­thro­pol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Manch­ester, who chaired the en­quiry. “There are le­gal age lim­its for hav­ing tat­toos or us­ing sunbeds. In­va­sive cos­metic pro­ce­dures should be reg­u­lated in a sim­i­lar way.”

The coun­cil said there should be bet­ter reg­u­la­tion of the ma­te­ri­als used in pro­ce­dures such as der­mal fillers, used to plump up cheeks and lips or fill out wrin­kles and creases in the skin, which can cur­rently be bought in Bri­tain with­out a for­mal safety or qual­ity ap­proval. It also said the gov­ern­ment must bring for­ward leg­is­la­tion to make all der­mal fillers avail­able on pre­scrip­tion only.

The re­port urged app stores to bet­ter reg­u­late makeover apps and on­line plas­tic surgery games aimed at chil­dren as young as nine, with names like Plas­tic Surgery Princess, Lit­tle Skin Doc­tor and Pimp My Face. Mar­ket­ing th­ese games en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to “play” at hav­ing cos­metic surgery makeovers is “clearly in­ap­pro­pri­ate and ir­re­spon­si­ble”, it said.

Such games and ad­ver­tis­ing on so­cial me­dia may be con­tribut­ing to an epi­demic of men­tal health prob­lems among young peo­ple, fu­elled by the re­lent­less promotion of “un­re­al­is­tic and of­ten dis­crim­i­na­tory mes­sages on how peo­ple, es­pe­cially girls and women, ‘should’ look”, warned Professor Edwards.

So­cial me­dia com­pa­nies should col­lab­o­rate to carry out in­de­pen­dent re­search look­ing at the ex­tent to which their apps con­trib­ute to ap­pear­ance anx­i­ety, and to act on the find­ings, said the re­port.

Cos­metic surgery is big busi­ness, with one mar­ket re­search es­ti­mate putting the size of the UK mar­ket at £3.6bn (R59.06bn) in 2015. How­ever, there is lit­tle in­for­ma­tion avail­able pub­licly about the size and value of the in­dus­try and the num­ber of pro­ce­dures per­formed. An es­ti­mate from 2009 sug­gested that around 1.2 mil­lion sur­gi­cal and non-sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures took place each year in Bri­tain.

Prod­ucts and pro­ce­dures pre­vi­ously used in medicine are now be­ing re-pur­posed for cos­metic use with­out ev­i­dence to sup­port their ef­fec­tive­ness, the re­port pointed out. Th­ese in­clude blood plasma in­jected into a pa­tient’s face and breasts in a so-called “vam­pire” treat­ment, “fat freez­ing” as an al­ter­na­tive to li­po­suc­tion, and fillers and bo­tox in new ar­eas of the body, such as the ears, knees and feet. The Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons (RCS) warned of the risks of “botched” plas­tic surgery and said it was “par­tic­u­larly con­cerned by the fact that there is lit­tle to stop any doc­tor – sur­geon or oth­er­wise – from car­ry­ing out cos­metic sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures”.

“Most cos­metic sur­geons per­form their surgery with dili­gence and care, but the RCS has still been long con­cerned by some prac­tice in the UK,” said Stephen Can­non, the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s vice-president. “There are still too many tragic sto­ries of pa­tients re­ceiv­ing botched cos­metic surgery at a cost to the pa­tient or NHS.

“The RCS has pre­vi­ously called for new leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing reg­u­la­tory body the Gen­eral Med­i­cal Coun­cil to note on its med­i­cal reg­is­ter, which sur­geons were cer­ti­fied to per­form cos­metic surgery, al­low­ing pa­tients to check which doc­tor to use.” – The In­de­pen­dent

There are le­gal age lim­its for hav­ing tat­toos

Pic­ture: News­com

CAUSE FOR CON­CERN: Der­mal fillers to smooth fa­cial wrin­kles as per­formed in this file photo are very pop­u­lar in the UK, but the coun­try’s lax reg­u­la­tions in the mat­ter are cause for con­cern.

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