Cosmetic surgery inappropriate for teens – UK study
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 report from the Nuffield Council of Bioethics highlights concerns over anxiety related to unachievable appearance ideals with young people said to be “bombarded” by promotion of breast implants, nose jobs and non-surgical procedures such as Botox and laser hair removal.
The report urged app stores to better regulate makeover apps and online plastic surgery games aimed at children as young as 9, with names such as 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 Jeanette Edwards, professor of social anthropology at the University of Manchester, who chaired the inquiry.
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.
The think tank also called for all cosmetic surgeons to be properly trained and certified, for a ban on nonmedical 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 should be regulated.
“Under-18s should not be able to just walk in off the street and have a cosmetic procedure,” said Edwards.
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 be bought in Britain without a formal safety or quality approval.
It also said dermal fillers should be available on prescription only.Cosmetic surgery is big business, with one market research estimate putting the size of the UK market at £3.6 billion 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 about 1.2 million surgical and nonsurgical 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 said.
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.
Stephen Cannon, the Royal College of Surgeons’ vice- president, said the report highlighted the industry “is often at its worst when dealing with younger patients, particularly for non-surgical procedures”.
Medical Council guidance makes it clear that under-18s must only undergo a cosmetic surgery intervention if it is in their best interests, for instance if they are being bullied at school and wish to have an operation to pin their ears back or correct a cleft lip, he said.
Increasing numbers of young people are suffering anxiety, depression and low self-esteem as a result of a society-wide obsession with body image and celebrity culture, according to experts.
Summing up, Professor Edwards said: “We’ve got largely an unregulated industry that’s exploiting people including children, by promoting often untested and unproven products and procedures. We need better regulation of the quality and safety of these procedures, the people who carry them out and where they are carried out.”
The Nuffield Council inquiry largely reinforced the findings of the 2013 Keogh report on cosmetic procedures that spoke of a “crisis waiting to happen”. – The Independent