Women regret botched lip fillers at home
Experts have warned of a rise in botched cosmetic procedures carried out at home or by lay people as teenagers increasingly book treatments on social media to deal with rising pressure to look like celebrities and influencers.
Britt Ekland, 78, the former James Bond actress, is the latest celebrity to express regret that she ever used dermal fillers, saying in an interview with Platinum magazine that they “ruined” her face.
Molly-Mae Hague, 22, the most followed former Love Island contestant on Instagram, earlier this year documented the process of having her lip fillers dissolved and other non-surgical procedures she had done as a teenager reversed to opt for a more “natural” look.
Complaints about adverse effects to non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as botox and lip fillers, have risen tenfold in five years, according to campaigners. Doctors have said they are carrying out almost 300 times the number of corrective procedures they did in 2013 as rising numbers of young people book treatments from unscrupulous providers.
Ashton Collins, the director of Save Face, a directory of registered practitioners of non-surgical cosmetic procedures, said there was no regulation of the industry because it was not anticipated that it would become so popular. “If you imagine when these treatments first came to the UK around 20 years ago, they were very much reserved for the rich and the famous,” she said.
“Fast forward 20 years, the regulatory landscape is still the same, but the demand is much much greater. Because of things like social media and reality TV, they are everywhere and you’d be hard pressed to find a situation or a place where you couldn’t find these treatments… Because the regulatory landscape has remained the same, these treatments can and are being injected by literally anybody.”
Non-surgical cosmetic procedures include dermal filler and botox injections, which are designed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles; laser hair removal and chemical skin peels. When administered incorrectly, they can cause blindness, blood clots or necrosis, where facial tissue dies. In the most extreme cases, patients must have parts of their face removed to stop it spreading.
There were up to 41,000 botox procedures carried out on under-18s across the UK in 2020, according to analysis from the Department of Health and Social Care.
Save Face received 2,083 complaints relating to botched procedures in 2020, up from 217 in 2016.
Dr Tijion Esho, a cosmetic doctor, said: “In 2013 I would see one corrective case every two months. Now a third of my daily list, five patients a day, are those who are coming to me for corrective treatment due to a procedure that has gone wrong when carried out by an under qualified practitioner.”
Many credit the lip filler trend of the mid 2010s to Kylie Jenner, the youngest member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, whose signature pout inspired the first product in her makeup line, a range of “lip kits”. In the UK, reality TV personalities including Love Island’s Megan Barton-Hanson and Geordie Shore’s Charlotte Crosby have spoken publicly about their use of lip fillers.
Naomi Ward, 26, from Oxfordshire, spent around £300 to order three sets of lip fillers online when she was 17 and ended up injecting a substance that was not suited for use as a lip filler and cannot be dissolved. It left her lips swollen and bumpy for years and she is now seeking corrective treatment.
Since the age of 13 Ward has suffered from body dysmorphic disorder, a mental health condition which causes sufferers to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.
“I thought if I were to look a certain way then my life would be ok and I’d be free of anxiety and all of these horrible suicidal thoughts I had a lot.
It just took over my whole life. I couldn’t really leave my house. My school suffered because of it. I didn’t really go to school that much and it just spiralled out of control really.”
Ward used to search on google for the world’s most beautiful women and noticed that they typically had big lips. “There was a big thing about ‘if you’ve got Angelina Jolie lips, that’s attractive’. So it started off with me looking online and I found a website that was selling injectables. You didn’t need an ID or anything, you didn’t need to be a medical professional.”
Ward self-injected two fillers, restylane and juvederm, neither of which inflated the size of her lips but left her with bruises and swelling. She raised her concerns with the salesperson, who sent her Radiesse, a dermal filler that is not for use in the lips. “She said I can try a more permanent solution. She said it wouldn’t be her fault if anything went wrong but she is happy to send it to me,” Ward said.
After injecting herself with the third filler using YouTube videos, Ward noticed her lips instantly became bumpy and swollen. “It was instantly really swollen and it was really hard. My lips were really hard to touch and painful,” she said. “Initially I thought it’s swollen but at least they’re bigger and at least I don’t have those small lips anymore.”
Ward said she now “deeply regrets” injecting the lip fillers and she felt “ashamed” at the time. “Over time, it has affected me because I’m really self-conscious of [my lips], especially if I don’t have any lip liner or lipstick on I feel like you can really see the scarring… I don’t think anyone should be allowed to do that. It was so easy to just go online and buy something without any ID checks or qualification checks. You need to really really research and get a proper doctor or medical professional to do it if that’s what you want to do but I think people need to be aware of all the complications that come with it.”
A bill was passed in parliament in April to ban under-18s from receiving botox or fillers in England, unless a doctor could attest that it is for a medical reason such as to treat a migraine. The bill, which was sponsored by Laura Trott, Conservative MP for Sevenoaks, Kent, will be made into law this autumn.
Trott said the bill was the “starting point” of a wider conversation about how to regulate the industry. She said: “Social media is both providing the pressure on young people to think they need to change their appearance and that is where they’re also finding the providers. It’s providing the pressure to change and it’s also providing the means by which they do that.
“This bill will protect children from some of the consequences of that but it won’t solve the root cause. A wider conversation about social media and the pressures young people are under is very important.”