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Fill Me In: We Team Up With VICE to Investigate the Dark Side of Cosmetic Injectables

People all over the UK undergo non-surgical treatments like fillers every year, but the industry operates almost completely unchecked.

Non-surgical cosmetic treatments are everywhere. You might have seen them on your feed, Love Island or the Mail Online sidebar of shame; at your best friend’s wedding, on the high street, or in your workplace. Nowadays, you don’t even have to go under the knife to get this enhanced look.

In the UK, non-surgical treatments like Botox and dermal fillers – known as ‘tweakments’ – are a £2.75 billion business. Nine out of ten cosmetic procedures performed in the country fall into this category. Though tweakments can include skin peels and laser treatments, the industry thrives off injectables like fillers, which seek to plump up volume in the face.

While these cosmetic procedures were once the preserve of the truly minted, they’re now so widely available that almost everyone seems to be at it. We spoke to cleaners, nursery school teachers, PAs, men, women – everybody. Age, gender and class didn’t seem to make a difference. But it’s also a completely unregulated industry. While great results can take years off your face, truly hideous ones can land you in hospital with your lip quite literally hanging by a thread.

Fill Me In is an editorial series from VICE in collaboration with Save Face, the national register of accredited aesthetic professionals, to dive into the shady industry of unregulated injectables and raise awareness of its dangers.

We went undercover with a child actor to find out if filler providers were checking people’s ages before they took a needle to their face (they weren’t). 90 percent of the salons and beauticians we visited didn’t even question their age. They operated out of leisure centres, gyms, dentists and even their own living rooms.

Over the course of the week, we’ll be looking at the so-called beauticians hawking cut-price fillers on social media platforms, the rise of men seeking out injectables and the tabloid phenomenon of Botox and filler parties. We’ll also investigate just how Instagram Face—the beauty ideal of big lips and puffy cheeks—became so popular and what happens when, in the pursuit of it, you end up having to seek medical treatment.

It’s human nature to want to look good. Nobody wants to shell out for a beauty treatment and end up in A&E with necrotising facial tissue. But the tweakments industry can’t operate as if it’s business as usual – especially not when children are able to access it. That’s why we’re backing calls from Save Face and Jackie Doyle-Price MP to introduce an age limit on these procedures.

As Doyle-Price puts it: “You need to be 18 to get a tattoo or use a sunbed. We should do the same for lip fillers and other cosmetic procedures.”

People all over the UK undergo non-surgical treatments like fillers every year, but the industry operates almost completely unchecked. Fill Me In is a VICE UK editorial series in collaboration with Save Face, the national register of accredited aesthetic professionals, that raises awareness of the dangers of unregulated procedures. Read all our stories here.

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