To the Heat/Cheryl Cole/Katie Price and Made in Chelsea generation, success is measured by your appearance. Where make-up used to do the trick, nowadays, every woman is looking for immediate enduring perfection, whatever the cost, and there are plenty of unregulated companies willing to gamble with our looks for cash. Are these companies, unchecked, preying on the insecure?
In the UK, it's perfectly legal to call yourself a beauty practitioner and start injecting people's faces with a variety of dermal fillers without any medical training. You can even buy syringes and fillers online, you don't need to be qualified, adhere to a code of conduct or use approved products. Adverts for these treatments feature heavily in health and beauty magazines, showing airbrushed fairytale results.
Yet recent statistics by the FDA show that one in three people are unhappy with the results of these products. There is no regulatory body, or way of warning unsuspecting people of what can happen. Unless you have the presence of mind to do some research on the internet, you will be unaware of how badly wrong these procedures can go and even with some Googling, you can dismiss the horror stories as unlucky anomalies. Leslie Ash's 'trout pout' springs to mind as a standout event, and more recently, Emanuelle Beart has been famously campaigning against such procedures, claiming that fillers have "destroyed" her looks permanently. Katie Price too seems to have done damage to her face with heavy botox and filler use that has given her a 'chipmunk' look. But because these procedures are not classed as 'plastic surgery', most people aren't as wary as they should be.
In the US, only six fillers are licensed for use, because they are classed as medicines by the Food and Drug Administration, but in the UK there is no such regulation, and roughly 130 different fillers are available.
The UK cosmetic filler industry operates without any regulatory framework to ensure approval of products or best practices. According to research by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), they've revealed a rise in complications related to the use of such filler products. In the study, the number of surgeons seeing problems with permanent fillers was found to have doubled in the past three years, with issues related to temporary products also tripling. One procedure, known as 'tear trough filling' is considered so risky that most companies will not do it, yet it is possible to have this procedure from one large cosmetic company with no warning about this. One young lady who is suffering devastating consequences of this procedure (that is now requiring cosmetic surgery to the eye area to correct) is unable to even get a refund, let alone compensation. There is no consumer protection.
Overall, 69% of surgeons saw cases related to problems with temporary fillers, with 28% also revealing that between one and three patients required surgery to correct damage caused by the products.
An overwhelming number of BAAPS members (98%) stated that fillers should be treated as a medicine when they go through the approval process and said that current regulations were inadequate.
The PIP breast implant failures last year led to many people being compensated and corrective surgery offered. Is this next? I worry for youngsters or vulnerable people who are lured by perfect images and suffer as a result of the lack of information about the possible negative results. Having your face damaged is a devastating experience to these people using these products, who are often insecure about their appearences anyway.
There needs to be a governing body to protect people from paying large amounts of money to damage their bodies. Equally, we need better information about other procedures such as cosmetic dentistry which can leave people in agony. Porcelain veneers can be a very painful indeed, and thousands of pounds to fix when they go wrong. Chemical peels are the newest fad, and yet research apparently shows that they permanently thin the skin. Liposuction can leave bumps and hollows. The more money and vanity you have, the more vulnerable you are. I'd rather age naturally and accept wrinkles as they arrive than look like an expressionless, inflated, horse toothed and bumpy skinned weirdo. How lucky I am to be a poor dog walker!
Follow Annabel Burn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@gonzogonzo1