When I started working in the cosmetic industry in 2006, I was struck by the lack of regulation to protect the consumer (particularly in Britain). Later that year there was talk about introducing some proper legislation to protect consumers and that seemed to me, at the time, the correct action. There was an initial postponing of the introduction (put back to April 2007) and then as that deadline passed no real positive action.
Since then, and despite the outstanding campaigning and hard work on behalf of many of the responsible people and organisations in the industry, the sector remains largely unregulated and therefore a potential minefield for UK consumers. These consumers are rightly excited at the possibility of having a treatment that genuinely transforms their life, but are unaware or unclear as to how to ensure they get the best treatments, undertaken by the best practitioners, and in an appropriate environment.
I was hopeful but cautious last year when I was made aware of the Sir Bruce Keogh review. The independent review committee into cosmetic interventions, announced in April, has set out how it would like to see the sector better regulated, practitioners better trained, some regulation of premises, and people having proper redress if things go wrong. These recommendations have been made to the UK Department of Health (DH), who I hope accept them formally this summer and implement during the remainder of 2013. The key elements the review group feel would contribute to a successful and safe industry include: making all dermal fillers prescription only; ensuring all practitioners are properly qualified for all procedures offered (including those offering breast enlargement to injectables); and an ombudsman to oversee all private healthcare — including cosmetic procedures — to assist those who have been treated poorly.
The review reported that, despite the popularity of non-surgical procedures like Botox, dermal fillers or laser hair removal — which account for nine out of 10 procedures in the UK — there is almost no regulation. This is despite the fact that they can have major, permanent effects on people’s health and wellbeing. I believe that this clarifies the need for everyone to consider these treatments as health based, and not simply extensions of the beauty market. This is a critical distinction that we wholly support.
The review committee have focused their recommendations on invasive procedures and injectables. They have also mentioned lasers, the need for clinical professionals overseeing treatments, and a register for premises. This is very good news for the public; however, whether this is picked up by the DH remains to be seen. We are actively lobbying now for the inclusion of lasers in the recommendations.
Clearly there is still much work to be done, but we have to believe that finally we have a report that puts the needs of the patient at the heart of its recommendations and if properly implemented, will allow patients to realise that they can enjoy the benefits of life-changing treatments safe in the knowledge that the industry is appropriately governed and regulated.