Did you know that practitioners who administer non-surgical cosmetic treatments aren’t legally required to have any qualifications? Surprising but true, as currently in the UK procedures such as botulinum toxin injections, chemical peels, and laser hair removal can legally be performed by anyone, whatever their level of training, medical or otherwise.

What’s most concerning though, is that this is in spite of the fact that, if performed incorrectly, these procedures can result in a range of complications such as burning, scarring, infection and even blindness.

It’s for this reason that it’s absolutely imperative for anyone considering non-surgical cosmetic procedures to understand the lack of laws surrounding the non-surgical cosmetic industry, and how difficult it is to differentiate between the good practitioners and the bad without using a regulatory body such as Save Face.

What legal rights would you have if something were to go wrong? Are there best-practice guidelines for practitioners to adhere to? Is there a regulatory body to ensure safe, high-quality procedures are being carried out throughout the UK?

If you’re thinking of undergoing a non-surgical cosmetic procedure, get informed before you make a commitment.

The Non-Surgical Cosmetic Industry

The non-surgical cosmetic industry makes a staggering amount of money in the UK. In 2010, the industry was worth £2.3 billion, and it is predicted that by 2015 this will have risen to over £3.6 billion. Non-surgical procedures count for 9 out of 10 of all cosmetic procedures carried out and make up 70% of the market.

Despite its popularity in the UK, there is a surprising lack of reliable data available surrounding these procedures and associated complications.

Laws and Regulations 

Whilst the materials and equipment used by good practitioners undergo strict product testing, the people using them do not.

Regardless of the societal expectation that such an industry would have strict regulations and guidelines, currently, only procedures requiring surgery (i.e. those involving a surgical incision) are required to be carried out by a qualified medical professional. Botulinum toxin injections, dermal fillers and other ‘minimally invasive’ cosmetic treatments can be administered by anyone, regardless of their qualifications. In addition to their lack of qualifications, untrained practitioners often purchase cheap, unlicensed products over the internet and the implications of this can be dire.

Whilst there are a number of recommended professional standards for cosmetic practice e.g. set by the Royal College of Surgeons, The General Medical Council and Voluntary accredited registers such as Save Face, those who uphold these recommendations do so largely on a voluntary basis.

The implications of this lack of regulation are severe and mean that patients undergoing non-surgical cosmetic procedures are currently protected by the same level of regulation as they would be when buying products such as ballpoint pens and toothbrushes. The reality is that if you have an issue with your treatment it is very challenging to find any redress or support from a regulator.

What’s Being Done to Protect the Consumer? 

An independent review of the cosmetic procedures industry in the UK, carried out by NHS Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh and released in April 2013, recommended that:

  • all practitioners should be properly qualified to carry out all the procedures they offer,
  • an ombudsman should be instated to oversee all private health care including cosmetic procedures to help those who have been treated poorly.

Unfortunately, the government rejected the recommendation to establish a register of licensed practitioners. In part, this is due to their belief that they shouldn’t have to fund a register for commercial cosmetic elective procedures when the NHS is already in such dire need of additional funds.

It’s fallen upon the industry itself to come up with an alternative solution, and this is where Save Face comes in. We are fulfilling the need for a centralised register of accredited non-surgical cosmetic industry professionals who have been individually assessed on-site by a Save Face Clinical Assessor, using a stringent set of Save Face Standards for Accreditation. Accredited ourselves, by The Professional Standards Authority (PSA), we are a government-approved voluntary register.

This register will enable the consumer to choose a practitioner who has been verified by Save Face, following a rigorous accreditation process, and know that the practitioner can and will be held accountable to the published Save Face Standards, should something go wrong. Using such a register, the consumer can be assured all the necessary checks have been made. Without it, the consumer remains vulnerable to the untrained and unaccountable.

So if you are thinking of undergoing a non-surgical cosmetic treatment, use Save Face to research treatments, ask questions, and find a reputable practitioner. This way, you can rest assured that the person carrying out your procedure is suitably qualified to do so.