Cosmetic treatments have been unregulated for far too long, which is why urgent reform is needed not only to protect the beauty industry, but the general public

Following years of increased demand and rocketing popularity, non-surgical cosmetic treatments like fillers are still largely unregulated, posing a threat the public health and threatening the industry’s reputation. It’s an issue that can affect anyone, even those who seemingly can afford to go to the best professionals at the most sought-after clinics. 

Last month, Kylie Jenner’s best friend Stassie Karanikolaou, 24, spoke with refreshing honesty about her shocking experiences with cosmetic procedures like fillers on the Call Her Daddy podcast with host Alex Cooper. According to the social media influencer, her journey with plastic surgery and injectable treatments has been filled with “mistakes”, including her first ever appointment, which was to receive lip fillers. “I looked like [she pouted her lips]. I looked not cute, I had to dissolve it all and get it all redone,” she said. “I did it so early, I should have waited…I was so insecure.”

Medical professionals and beauty experts alike have been calling for stricter regulations on cosmetic treatments for years, and just last week, proposals were presented to parliament to make dermal fillers a prescription only medicine, only able to be administered by a trained medical professional. While the government expressed plans to introduce a licensing scheme for practitioners in the UK earlier this year, currently, practitioners do not require any mandatory qualifications to administer dermal fillers.

The imminent clamp down follows a historic report published last summer by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing (the APPG), it seems their calls might finally be answered soon. The first of its kind, the comprehensive report includes findings from a year-long inquiry into practitioner standards and qualifications, licensing, ethics and mental health considerations as well as the implications of advertising on social media, concluding that “maintaining the status quo is not an option” and the current situation “not only puts the general public at risk, but undermines the ability for responsible practitioners and operators in this ever-expanding industry to develop.”

Calling for urgent reform, the APPG laid out 17 recommendations to help the government shape new regulations. Some of the suggestions include setting national minimum standards for practitioner training, extending the ban on under-18s receiving treatments, advertising restrictions on fillers and other invasive treatments and making fillers prescription only (unlike Botox, fillers currently do not classify as a medical product and therefore can be administered by anyone).

The group also urged the government to require social media platforms to do more to curb misleading adverts promoting invasive treatments, which follows the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling earlier this year banning influencers from using ‘misleading’ filters on beauty adverts.

Co-Chairs of the APPG, Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, said in a statement, “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. We were also particularly concerned about the advertising and social media promotion of these treatments and how to make sure vulnerable people, such as children and those at risk from mental ill-health, are protected. We strongly urge the Government to implement the recommendations in our report and to take action to improve to improve the situation for the benefit of the industry and public safety.”

Minister for Patient Safety, Nadine Dorries added, “Far too many people have been left to live with the emotional and physical scars caused by their experience of cosmetic surgery. Anyone considering Botox, or fillers, should pause and take the time they need to consider the potential impact of surgery on both their physical and mental health.”

Suggestions have already been made for ensuring practitioners are adequately trained to administer treatments. Dr Tristan Mehta founder of Harley Academy and STORY is advocating for all practitioners to take a Diploma in Botox and Dermal Fillers in association with the The Joint Council For Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP). “Being Level 7 qualified shows you have been trained to be a safe and ethical injector – that you have received Master’s level training from experts in the field,” he says. “It shows you have studied not just injecting techniques but also anatomy, facial ageing, skin ageing, preventing and managing complications.”