Health Timebomb Warning On 'Completely Unregulated' Skin Filler Injections
Injectable skin fillers could be the next cosmetic scandal after PIP breast implants, leading surgeons said yesterday.
Plastic surgeons warned of a ‘timebomb’, saying fillers are ‘completely unregulated’, with anyone who has completed a half-day course allowed to inject them into patients. Fillers, a gel-like substance used to smooth wrinkles and plump up cheeks, were once the preserve of the rich and famous. But they are becoming increasingly popular in the mainstream among women hoping to emulate stars with naturally striking, sculpted features, such as Angelina Jolie.
As well as being offered by hairdressers and beauticians for about £250 a time, fillers are also widely available on the internet for self-injection. In the US, where they are regulated, only seven types have been cleared for use – yet more than 150 are offered on the British high street. They are sold legally without safety checks.
Nigel Mercer, former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said there had been an ‘inexorable’ year-on-year rise in demand for skin fillers. In a study of cosmetic surgeons in 2009, one in four reported seeing patients who had received botched jobs. Experts yesterday warned skin fillers could become the next cosmetic disaster after the PIP furore, in which it emerged 47,000 British women were given breast implants filled with non-medical grade silicone.
Mr Mercer said: ‘It is a ticking timebomb. We believe [fillers] should be a prescription drug only injected by a doctor. We are contacted by patients who have ended up with unsightly lumps under the skin which can only be removed with surgery, people left with scars after one of their arteries was injected and people can even go blind if it is injected too close to the eye.
‘There are reputable providers, but you see all the emails offering dermal fillers from China and we have no idea what they contain. You can make this stuff using a chemistry set.’
Most fillers contain substances found naturally in the body such as collagen or hyaluronic acid, but it is unclear what else is inside, Mr Mercer said. The association yesterday also called for a crackdown on advertising for plastic surgery such as facelifts and tummy tucks, saying they lure children and the vulnerable to go under the knife.
In a 12-point plan submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority, it called for a ban on such promotions on billboards, in magazines and online, aimed at under-18s or using celebrities.
Association president Fazel Fatah told its annual meeting in London: ‘Some providers take advantage of people who seek surgical treatments for psychological reasons, with unethical and very aggressive marketing and advertising.’