A top cosmetic surgeon has said that teenagers who are travelling from England to Wales to get Botox treatments are under pressure to look a certain way due to social media trends.
Dr Elizabeth Hawkes, head of oculoplastic surgery at the Cadogan Clinic in Chelsea, tells Yahoo UK that she wants to see Wales introducing the same ban on cosmetic Botox and lip fillers on under-18s that England put in place in 2021.
It comes after campaigners from Save Face, a group that has a register of qualified aesthetic practitioners in the UK, said it received reports of teenagers under the age of 18 going to Wales to get treatment as a way to get around the ban in England.
Ashton Collins, director of Save Face, told BBC Wales that the organisation has received calls about under-18s who "literally just crossed the border and come to Wales and had these treatments done".
"People only report to us when something goes wrong, so what we’re seeing is literally the tip of the iceberg," she said. Collins, who worked with MP Laura Trott to bring the ban on some cosmetic treatments for under-18s into place in England, said she had thought it would be a "no-brainer" for Wales to do the same.
Dr Hawkes says she still hears of teenagers contacting practitioners for treatments, although they don’t carry them out.
"Demand for injectable treatments such as anti-wrinkles injections and dermal fillers is higher than ever and sadly, young people are feeling the pressure to follow the trends they see on social media platforms, such as TikTok," she says, adding that teenagers "need support to help distinguish between social media and reality" and that people taking selfies fuels the demand.
"Aesthetic work for under-18s is completely unnecessary. It can cause mental harm if things go wrong. Physical complications include infection, lumps, bruising and scarring. Sadly, this law only came into effect in England in 2021 and is still to come into place in Wales," she says.
"Women under the age of 30 often view Botox as a preventative step. However, I do not advise treatment until at least mid-30s, depending on the case. Some people do have more significant lines in their 20s and it is down to the individual. I will always undertake a thorough consultation with a patient to ensure it is the right step forward for them. It would never be suitable for someone under 18," she says.
Aside from the medical complications young people could face if they use Botox and fillers, there have been further concerns about how components in popular fillers could affect the body.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) recently raised caution that hyaluronic acid, a key compound in most fillers, may block lymphatic channels in the body. The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system and helps protect from infection and disease.
But a US research team has found that cosmetic fillers - which have gained popularity partly because of reality shows like Love Island and social media - have been found to block the lymphatic system and have been linked to cysts, lumps, swelling and facial pain.
The researchers, who presented their findings in September, said further research is needed to see if fillers affect the risk of diseases.
Dr Spero Theodorou, director of the leading bodySCULPT plastic surgery practice in New York, said at the annual conference of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons: "Under-eye filler is one of the biggest problems. You see women everywhere with swollen eyes… You have young women having fillers in their faces. It’s never going to go away. It’s very hard to remove and it blocks lymphatics in your face. This is a very important system. Not all patients will have swelling, but evidence suggests all will have some degree of lymphatic blockage."
The Welsh government told the BBC it was aware of the regulatory gap with England and would carry out further work in the area. It added that Botox was a prescription-only medicine and qualified prescribers are "responsible for ensuring the product is given safely and in accordance with accepted professional standards and in the patient’s best interests".
Read more on cosmetic treatments:
Is Botox in your 20's too young? Courteney Cox says it was 'a total waste of time' (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)
Consultation launched on how to make Botox and other non-surgical cosmetic treatments safer (Sky News, 3-min read)
Considering Lip Fillers Or Botox? Here's How To Check They're Safe (HuffPost, 4-min read)