Blinded by beauty: The risks of Botox and fillers
We’re plumping and paralysing our faces for perfection in rapidly increasing numbers as appearance medicine goes mainstream – but the industry’s risky side is emerging, too.
This week I was approached by a company who wanted me to ‘have a non-surgical nose job treatment at half-price in return for an Instagram post’.
There were so many things wrong with this request – they hadn't had a consultation with me to find out if I needed this treatment, the company was being run by someone with limited knowledge from a two-day training course, and the marketing was aimed at young, impressionable women who follow their social media influencers relentlessly – regardless of the number of filters applied to their images.
You see, injecting filler near the nose, among the maze of blood vessels that lie under our facial skin, carries Russian roulette-style dangers. Hit a blood vessel that feeds directly to the eye and you risk causing catastrophic damage. Once filler enters that critical vein, there’s a window of just 90 minutes before irreversible retinal cell death occurs... I'll come back to that.
Cosmetic injections are becoming as commonplace as getting a mani-pedi and some girls are even opting for a new dress for a night out, a new lipstick and 4ml of jaw-line filler.
However, what I’ve quickly learned from working within the aesthetics industry is the stark contrast between the number of people opting for these treatments and the nonchalant attitude that many are taking when it comes to choosing their practitioner.
While there is a wide range of good surgeons, doctors, dentists and nurses who have the relevant knowledge of the facial anatomy and have received the appropriate training, the industry is bursting with beauticians and under-qualified practitioners performing this treatment.
As a young woman myself, I’m growing more and more concerned about the rising complacency about their potential danger.
Treatments such as non-surgical nose jobs are banned for use by non-medics in other countries but not the UK.
Ultimately, these treatments are surgical procedures – they’re not something that you should have done by a beautician.
It's 'just' lip filler - what are the dangers?
Well, let’s start with blindness. If you get inadvertent injection of filler in any part of the facial artery, that can travel along the artery all the way up to the corner of the eye and then that goes into the retina.
The blindness is instantaneous and permanent and can be one or both eyes. No one has been able to successfully fix that blindness to date.
As well as blindness, injecting filler into a facial artery can cause soft tissue damage, “killing” certain parts of the face.
If you inject it and it goes into your [facial] artery, it can kill the tissue and the cartilage of the nose.
There are images of people’s noses turning black and falling off. People have had their forehead, cheeks and lips all die just from having this treatment injected.
If something were to happen during the treatment, such as an anaphylactic shock or any adverse reactions, can a beautician with limited training care for you?
Aside from the medical risks, rogue beauticians could leave you permanently disfigured. And yes, I said permanently.
This is Russian roulette – it may go well a few times, but inevitably it will end in disaster. And those disasters will be life-changing injuries which I can't see happen to more and more young, beautiful women.
Visiting a qualified medical practitioner limits these risks dramatically.
How do I find the right doctor?
Working within the aesthetics industry I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the industry experts. Please do let me know if you'd like my advice and recommendation here and I'd be happy to help!
And yet some of my friends are proudly posting photographs of their treatment which has been carried out by someone with severely limited training. A training course can involve as little as half a day standing as part of a crowd watching someone else inject, yet everyone goes home with a certificate.
The term ‘appropriately qualified’ suggests the individual should be a cosmetic doctor, dermatologist, surgeon, dentist or nurse. They should be registered with their governing body, such as the General Medical Council (GMC), Royal College of Nursing (RCN) or General Dental Council (GDC). You can check their membership on the relevant websites.
They should also have training in cosmetic practice and be mentored by an expert until they have completed 50 to 100 procedures. It is desirable if they also have post-graduate medical qualifications.
Also look for membership of a professional body such as BAANDD – the British Association of Aesthetic Nurses, Doctors and Dentists.
Ultimately, do due diligence. Ask around. Take the time to check qualifications and training. Flashy websites mean nothing and this is your face and your safety – be careful.
Have you had a non-surgical treatment? Have you had anything go wrong - I'd love to hear from you with your thoughts below.