Under-18s are no longer able to get botulinum toxin injections – often known as Botox – or dermal lip fillers for cosmetic reasons in England.
After years of attempting to regulate the non-surgical beauty industry, the new law aims to protect young people from harm.
Campaigners argue that the rules are insufficient.
The ban does not apply to other procedures, such as thread lifts, which some people use to achieve the popular ‘fox-eye’ look.
According to government estimates, up to 41,000 Botox-style procedures were performed on under-18s in England last year.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care’s analysis, up to 29,300 dermal filler procedures were performed on under-18s in 2017.
‘My lip was massive and black’
Laura Brooks, 34, decided to have dermal lip fillers done in December 2020 to make her lips appear fuller. However, the procedure went horribly wrong almost immediately, and she is still dealing with some of the fallout months later.
Laura says she chose the procedure partly because everyone else was doing it and partly because she found a good deal online.
But as the treatment began, she noticed the practitioner’s face and realised something was wrong.
“I just saw this panicked look on her face, and my heart began to race, and I could feel blood trickling down the side of my face.”
Laura says she could feel her lip swelling up, and her therapist tried massaging it and applying a cold pack to it.
“My practitioner panicked,” she added. She had no idea how to handle the situation.
“My lip was massive and black, and the underside was completely covered in blood.” I had no idea what to do. I wished it didn’t have to happen.”
Laura immediately contacted a medically trained friend, who explained that a vein had most likely been damaged during the procedure.
Although some of the swelling has subsided, some of the effects are still visible to Laura nine months later.
She applauds the change in the law, but adds, “It is critical that more be put in place to protect everyone.”
“These treatments are being used on women of all ages, as well as men, I believe.” It’s not just a matter of age. You should have medical training.
“And until that becomes law, this will just keep happening over and over.”
Prior to the new legislation in England, under-18s could have Botox-style procedures and dermal fillers with no age restrictions.
Wales and Scotland are expected to update their legislation in the near future, while Northern Ireland has no current plans to change anything.
Campaigners are urging other countries to act quickly to prevent young people in England from travelling across borders for treatment.
In the United Kingdom, there is no law requiring practitioners to have formal qualifications or training for this type of treatment.
“Far too many people have been left emotionally and physically scarred by their experience, needing medical treatment after botched cosmetic procedures,” said Maria Caulfield, minister for patient safety.
“Anyone considering these treatments should think about the impact on their physical and mental health, and make sure they’re working with a reputable, safe, and qualified practitioner.”
“No child needs cosmetic Botox or fillers,” said MP Laura Trott, who called for the legislation change in Parliament. “From today [Friday], they will no longer be able to walk into a clinic or someone’s home and get a dangerous and unnecessary procedure that could ruin their lives.”
“It will not solve all of the problems in this industry, but it will make a significant difference for under-18s.”
‘Invasive and dangerous’
However, Ashton Collins, director of Save Face, a national registry of accredited practitioners who provide non-surgical treatments, believes that the law should be expanded to include all non-surgical treatments, such as thread lifts (carried out to lift and tighten the face).
“We’re seeing a lot of women coming forward who have had these treatments and it’s gone wrong – because anyone can do these threads and they’re quite invasive,” she told the BBC.
Although medical professionals who provide these treatments are subject to regulation by the Care Quality Commission, laypeople and beauty therapists are not.”
While age restrictions are an important first step for the non-surgical cosmetic industry, campaigners say there is still a long way to go, with customers over the age of 18 as vulnerable as ever.
According to Save Face, limiting who can perform non-surgical cosmetic procedures, requiring mandatory insurance, and limiting who can establish training academies would create a safer environment.
Similar concerns were seen in a recent BBC Three documentary which revealed complicated aesthetic procedures being taught over the internet or on unsafe one-day courses.