'Surely that's illegal already?' is the most common reaction I’ve had to my Private Members' Bill, which bans Botox and dermal fillers for under 18s. Well today, thanks to cross party support and unwavering commitment from the Department of Health and Minister Nadine Dorries, finally it is.
Grazia readers know the pressure that young people are under from social media to conform to aesthetic ideals, which are simply not attainable without cosmetic surgery or interventions. These interventions are not only completely unnecessary – no child needs cosmetic Botox – but potentially dangerous.
Complications from Botox and fillers can include, but are not limited to, blindness, breathing difficulties, infection and the filler moving away from the intended treatment area into other areas of the face. Many people, mainly women, have been left with rotting tissue, lip amputations and lumps.
In such cases it is worth remembering that if any of these complications occurs, the practitioner injecting the substance needs to currently have no medical training whatsoever. In practice this means they will neither be able to deal with the potential complications, nor are they required to have insurance, so they do not have to pay for the very expensive cosmetic surgery that may be required to fix the problem.
Alarmingly, until now, this has been an unregulated area, so the data we have on prevalence is very thin. However, analysis by the Department for Health estimates that as many as 41,000 Botulinum toxin procedures may have been carried out on under-18s in 2020 and more than 29,300 dermal filler procedures may have been undertaken on under-18s since 2017.
The new Act requires that only a doctor, registered medical practitioner, or a health professional may administer such procedures to under 18s and only where there is a medical need
This is worrying not just for the mental health of our young people, but for their physical health too. We do not expect something that we can easily, and very legally, get done in the comfort of our own home to be something that can blind us - but shockingly, that is the case. That is why I am delighted that my Bill has been made into law.
The new Act requires that only a doctor, registered medical practitioner, or a health professional may administer such procedures to under 18s and only where there is a medical need. It's a requirement that was not in place until now. The requirement can be enforced via the police and local authorities through a similar system already in place for tattoo parlours.
While I believe people should have the right to choose what to do to their own bodies, it is vital that the regulatory framework around the cosmetics industry protects consumers, particularly vulnerable consumers, and allows them to make informed and safe choices. There are already statutory age restrictions in place for tattooing, teeth whitening and sun bed use. It made little sense that there were no similar protections for invasive injectable cosmetic procedures.
The vast majority of people undertaking cosmetic interventions are women and there has been a historical lack of oversight on women’s health issues over decades
The vast majority of people undertaking cosmetic interventions are women and there has been a historical lack of oversight on women’s health issues over decades; it’s something I have followed closely both since becoming an MP and before. From PIP breast implants to vaginal mesh, we have simply not seen enough focus on these matters.
The Minister for Patient Safety, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Nadine Dorries has thankfully started to change the trend and I know the Department is currently exploring a range of options for increased oversight of Botox and cosmetic practitioners, including a system of registration or licensing.
My Act hopefully marks the start of progress in this space, and I look forward to working with the Department to ensure further improvements are made.
I am delighted that today my Bill finally becomes enforced in law. No child needs cosmetic Botox or fillers. They are dangerous and unnecessary procedures which can ruin children's lives. We do not expect something that we can easily, and very legally, get done in the comfort of our own home to be something that can blind us - but shockingly, that is the case, if not carried out by a registered practitioner.
I hope today marks the start of much needed change, where a 16-year-old can no longer be given dangerous and unnecessary cosmetic injections that have the potential to ruin their life. This is something I am immensely proud of; however, the job is not done. I look forward to working with the Department of Health to ensure further improvements are made.
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