Cos­metic surgery in­ap­pro­pri­ate for teens – UK study

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - 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 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

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