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Earlier this year we team up with cosmetic-practitioner register Save Face to launch our appeal to the government to do more to help young and vulnerable people on social media platforms. We launched this petition as part of our ambition to improve patient safety and ensure that no one feels pressured into undergoing cosmetic surgery or a cosmetic treatment that they may not be physically or emotionally ready for.

In this interview with Ashton Collins, Director of Save Face, we found out more about what Save Face does, why its work is so important, and what their advice is for anyone considering a cosmetic procedure.

How and why did Save Face come into being?

I formulated the idea for Save Face in 2013 after reading the Keogh report and it really shocked me how vulnerable people seeking non-surgical cosmetic treatments were.

At the time I was working in the health and safety sector and had a lot of experience in managing accreditation models. It seemed like an independent verification was really lacking in this sector and so I started writing a business plan, overlaying my experience in accreditation and assessment and applying it to this sector.

As soon as we had the model, we started engaging with key stakeholders within the industry and met Emma Davies who, at the time, was the Chair of the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses. She then came on board as our clinical director and we set to work writing our standards for accreditation, practice standards and policies. We then appointed our advisory board, which was key for us, to get a cross representation of key stakeholders that represented all of the professional backgrounds that we accredit as well as a lay person to review and sign off on all our governance output.

The register launched in 2014, and in 2016 we became the first register in this sector to be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PS). We now have more than 600 members across the UK and our register is used by over 20,000 people every month.

What is the current situation with regulation and the non-surgical cosmetic industry?

The landscape is complex and very difficult to navigate for those seeking treatments. Legally, anyone can administer treatments from any environment. Botox is a prescription-only medicine, which requires all patients to have a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare professional who is qualified to prescribe the treatment. However, Botox itself can be injected by anyone.

The sector is unique in that you have plastic surgeons and dermatologists practicing on one end of the spectrum, and complete lay people who have no medical background on the other end. Despite this, the consumer is expected to navigate their way to a safe pair of hands. This is a huge undertaking and, in reality, the majority of people don’t know what to check for or how to check it and are largely reliant on what their practitioner is telling them, which unfortunately, cannot always be relied upon.

These are the core principles behind the Save Face register - when a person uses our register, they can be assured that we have undertaken all of the necessary checks on their behalf. Their practitioner is who they say they are, the qualifications they claim are genuine, they are insured and accountable.

Why did you decide to get involved with the Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors petition to protect young people on social media?

It is a cause we feel hugely passionate about. We are at the coalface and see first-hand the adverse events and complications that can arise when patients are targeted by tempting social media offers, cheap deals and competitions.

Last year we received 934 reports of complications and procedures gone wrong from patients, 62% of which found their practitioner on social media and were ignored or blocked when they reported their concerns. There are a huge number of young women who are being targeted by posts and adverts promoting cosmetic procedures, which is fuelling an unhealthy dysmorphia whereby overly-injected lips and cheeks are vastly becoming normalised and sought after, meaning increasing numbers are taking to social media to find a practitioner - and so the cycle continues.

Why results would you like to see from the petition?

I’d like for the social media companies to be more accountable and do more to protect young people from having unfiltered access to content that can undermine their self-esteem and stimulate interest in surgical procedures that are unlikely to be suitable for them.

We want to work with the UK government and Instagram to find a practical and effective long-term solution. Our ideas are:

  • Instagram could implement an age restriction of 21 on content from verified ‘blue tick’ celebrities and influencers who advertise, feature or demonstrate the effects of cosmetic surgery and procedures.
  • Account holders to place a sensitive content warning over specific images that depict cosmetic enhancements, which can only be lifted by users who are aged 21 and over.
  • Until the legislation is changed, introduce a dedicated hashtag #CosmeticFilter for account holders to voluntarily use to let followers know that the image advertises, features or demonstrates the effects of cosmetic surgery and procedures.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering using social media to find a cosmetic practitioner?

Use Save Face to find a practitioner who has been assessed and verified to ensure that they:

  • Are appropriately trained and insured
  • Use safe products
  • Have clinics that are safe and fit for purpose

In addition:

  • Always visit a trained healthcare practitioner such as a doctor, nurse, dentist or a prescribing pharmacist. Non-surgical cosmetic treatments are medical treatments that can cause complications and it is important that your practitioner is competent enough to identify and manage any complication should it occur.
  • It is important that you know the full name of the person treating you and that you have all relevant contact details. Do not visit a practitioner who only operates on social media that will not disclose this information.
  • Research your chosen practitioner, visit their website to check the testimonials and see examples of their work.
  • Arrange a consultation and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Discuss your concerns and desired outcomes. Ask what products they use and what aftercare will be available.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away if you do not feel comfortable.

What other campaigns are Save Face working on?

We are currently working on several educational campaigns to enable the public to make informed choices when selecting a treatment provider. The campaigns will be run across a variety of different mediums including TV, press and media, online and radio.

Visit Save Face for more information.

Sign our petition

If you’ve been the victim of a cosmetic treatment that has gone wrong due to medical negligence, then get in touch with Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors today. You can call freephone on 0808 274 6721, or arrange for us to call you back by using our online contact form.

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