Botox and fillers to be banned in the U.K. for under-18s over ‘Instagram Face’ craze

The UK’s Health Minister Nadine Dorris has announced a ban on Botox and fillers for under-18 year olds. Set to come into force on 1 October, the ban follows almost a decade-long campaign by various groups to introduce an age limit for what they consider potentially dangerous cosmetic treatments. 

Until now, cosmetic procedures have been allowed for teenagers under 18 in the U.K. without parental consent.

The soon-to-be introduced policy will herald in a new form of regulation for popular procedures including Botox and dermal fillers, with practitioners set to face prosecution if they fail to conduct age checks before carrying out the cosmetic augmentations.

Although campaigners are welcoming the change as an important step in the right direction, the change only now brings the United Kingdom into line with the US, France, Italy and Germany, where the legislation relating to cosmetic surgery has been far more stringent for years.

In the eyes of some campaign groups and concerned onlookers, the ban has been too slow in coming.

Last year, a staggering 41,000 such procedures – including face and lip fillers (rapidly boosted in popularity largely thanks to Instagram) – were carried out on children under 18 across the U.K. The number of cosmetic procedures taking place has risen tenfold over the last five years.

It is widely reported that the meteoric rise in cosmetic procedures taking in the U.K. has been directly fuelled by the ‘Instagram face’ craze and reality TV shows like Love Island. The exotic, filtered, full-lipped look popular with celebrities, reality stars and online influencers has exploded in global popularity thanks in no small part to the social media giant.

 

CREDIT Instagram / @ Mollymae

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A 2018 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the “angle and close distance at which selfies are taken may distort facial dimensions, and lead to dissatisfaction”, adding to a desire among social media users to enhance their features in real life.

While people used to visit a plastic surgeon with a photo of a celebrity they wanted to look like, practitioners have reported that more people are now bringing in filtered selfies and asking to look like unrealistic and digitally enhanced versions of themselves.

The new legislation set to come into force in the U.K. follows an increase in complaints from victims of botched procedures, with campaign group Save Face receiving 2,083 complaints about botched procedures in the past year alone.

Those suffering painful repercussions have reported being left with injuries from blood clots and partial blindness to necrosis of facial tissue. In the most extreme cases, some patients have had to have parts of their faces removed to halt the spread of the necrosis according to Save Face.

The failure to legislate on the issue sooner has led to an epidemic of cosmetic cowboys across the U.K, the campaign group said.

Ashton Collins, Director of Save Face said: “It’s like the Wild West out there with unlicensed practitioners targeting young people on social media, buying their products illegally online and even doing house calls, so that they’re effectively ghosts when it comes to policing.”

She also argues that the new legislation falls short, and is not nearly broad enough to tackle the increasingly widespread problem.

“Yes, fillers have been a big area of concern because of a boom in young people wanting to get those ‘Instagram lips’, but there are still plenty of other ‘tweakments’ available that are entirely unregulated,” Collins told The Telegraph.

Commenting on the change in legislation, Health Minister Ms Dorries also drew attention to the dangers rife in the industry.

She told the UK Daily Mail: “It is not right that children can be so exposed – particularly if they use some of the cowboys who operate in the industry.

“No child needs cosmetic procedures unless for medical reasons,” she added.

“That’s why the Government is making it illegal to carry out such procedures for cosmetic purposes on under-18s in England. Of course, where there is a medical need, a doctor will still be able to approve treatment, but this must be administered by a doctor, nurse, dentist or pharmacist,” she said.

Witnessing an increased demand driven by a growing acceptance and desire toward cosmetic augmentation, the Irish Industry has also expanded, with clinics offering fillers all over the country. It has been reported that a largely unregulated industry meeting that demand has left patients similarly vulnerable in Ireland.

Various Irish media reports suggest that some vendors offering fillers are not properly qualified to do so, meaning botched jobs may become disturbingly common. While dermal filler products can be injected by practitioners without a medical degree, legally in Ireland, Botox must be administered by a doctor, which explains why bad Botox jobs are generally rarer.

A swift Google search of “lip fillers Dublin” will produce more than 500,000 results. A quick scroll through social media, one glance at the cast of the much-loved ITV2 series Love Island, or simply a walk through any city in Ireland will show you that botox and fillers are everywhere.

Moreover, research from Cork University Hospital in 2017 found that Ireland was the global leader in online searches for lip fillers.

Ireland also came third worldwide for Botox searches. Significantly, the study noted a correlation between online searches for cosmetic procedures and the number of people getting cosmetic work done.

The “Fox-eye” look is another cosmetic procedure that has been driven by social media giants like world’s highest-paid model and socialite Kendall Jenner. It can be achieved through a procedure called ‘thread lifting’, whereby threads are inserted under the skin with a cannula and then tightened to lift the area.

CREDIT  Instagram / Kendall Jenner

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The procedure is currently popular with teens, along with laser treatments and chemical peels, Collins, Director of Save Face, told The Telegraph.

According to Collins, such procedures can have drastic consequences.

“All of these things are still legal for under-18s, despite the fact that they can have severe complications if done incorrectly.”

In an interview, Collins referred to the sad case of a 17-year old girl who had contacted Save Face after a facial needling procedure called ‘mesotherapy’ went horribly wrong. Rather than leaving her with the “thinner face” she’d requested, she suffered a severely swollen right eye and cheek. Because of the UK law, she had no legal recourse.

“So this fragile young girl who was already suffering from body confidence issues was left distraught,” Collins said.

In June, Manchester Love Island star and social media sensation Molly-Mae Hague highlighted the issue; calling for an end to cosmetic fillers following fears she didn’t look anything like herself.

@lauzyfaulks/ TickTok

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22-year-old Hague, who had the fillers in her face and lips dissolved recently, told Cosmopolitan UK that it shouldn’t be considered normal for young girls to alter their appearance with cosmetic procedures.

Ms Hague, who boasts 6 million followers on Instagram, admitted she was worried she resembled someone from the reality show ‘Botched’ which sees doctors remedy extreme plastic surgeries gone wrong.

The reality star said that a personal turning point came when she took a selfie during a nightclub appearance and was shocked by what she saw: “I remember staring at [the selfie] and thinking ‘I don’t know what I’ve done to my face,’” she said.

“I went from looking like a teenager to someone on Botched. I’ve never thought of myself as insecure, but I must have been to do that.”

She added: “We need to stop normalising filler, with things like ‘Kylie Jenner (surgery) packages.’ I was 17 when I first got my lips done, and it scares me to think that if I have a daughter in 10 years’ time, what it might be like for her.”

Pleased with the outcome of her journey to revert back to a more natural look, she told her followers: “I’ve had things done all throughout my face I feel like I’m starting to go back to the way I used to look before I had filler and I’m really, really happy about it.”

In Ireland, some cosmetic surgery centres  have a policy of refusing treatment to anyone under the age of 18, however there is currently no law preventing children from accessing cosmetic treatments such as lip fillers and Botox.

In 2019, it was reported in The Irish Times that a ban on Botox and dermal fillers for under-18s was being considered as a ‘matter of priority’ as part of plans to tighten up regulation of cosmetic procedures here. The new U.K. legislation is likely to reignite discussion on the issue.

 

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