The cosmetic treatments industry faces its biggest shake-up in a generation, according to the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP). A major government consultation, launched on September 2, is seeking the views of members of the public on a new licencing scheme for non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as botulinum toxin (Botox) injections, chemical peels and dermal fillers.

According to Save Face, which operates a register for healthcare professionals who provide non-surgical cosmetic treatments, these treatments account for “nine out of 10 of all cosmetic procedures” and 70 per cent of the overall market.

A July 2023 analysis of the injectables industry identified that 24 per cent and eight per cent of practitioners were dentists and dental nurses, respectively. While dental professionals have to be trained and insured to do these procedures, “there is no set training for beauty therapists and other non-professionals.”

Maria Caulfield, minister for the Women’s Health Strategy, said, “Whether it’s Botox, dermal fillers or even a chemical peel, we have heard too many stories of people who’ve had bad experiences from getting a cosmetic procedure from someone who is inexperienced or underqualified.

“There’s no doubt that the popularity of cosmetic procedures is increasing, so it’s our role to ensure consistent standards for consumers and a level playing field for businesses and practitioners.”

The new licensing scheme will involve a practitioner licence and a premises licence and will make it an offence for anybody to carry out non-surgical cosmetic treatments without a license. It will also make it illegal to treat anyone under the age of 18 with such treatments.

An estimated 900,000 Botox injections are carried out in the UK each year. Save Face received almost 3,000 complaints in 2022, with over two-thirds of those complaints relating to dermal fillers and almost a quarter relating to Botox.

Ashton Collins, director of Save Face, added, “Whilst we appreciate that we are still at very early stages of any potential licensing scheme being implemented in England, we are delighted to have been invited by the government to contribute our thoughts and ideas ahead of the release of this public consultation.

“Being involved in the process has enabled Save Face to actively contribute to roundtable discussions with ministers, policymakers and key stakeholders.

“As the largest and longest established Professional Standards Authority accredited register, we are able to provide a unique level of insight based on 10 years of gathering data from practitioner and clinic audits as well as patient reported complaints, adverse reactions, and complications.

“This will enable us to help develop a fit for purpose scheme that has public safety as its primary focus. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the government and key stakeholders during the next stages of the process.”

The scheme seeks to ensure that people who administer cosmetic procedures are properly experienced, trained and qualified, have the necessary insurance cover and operate from premises that are clean, hygienic and suitably licensed. The scheme will be administered by local authorities across England.

Professor David Sines CBE, chair of the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners, said, “In recent years, we have seen a massive growth in the number and types of non-surgical cosmetic procedures. Alongside this growth, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of complaints about substandard treatments, unregulated cosmetic products and unsuitable treatment premises.

“All too often, it is the NHS – and therefore the taxpayer – that has to pick up the pieces when a cosmetic procedure goes wrong. The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners has seen a 400 per cent increase in complaints in the last year alone, so we warmly welcome this important step towards proper regulation. Nothing is more important than public protection and patient safety.

“The recent explosion in cosmetic procedures has been fuelled by social media, the proliferation of high street beauty outlets and a dramatic increase in the range of cosmetic procedures, including those involving botulinum toxins such as Botox, dermal fillers, chemical peels, vitamin injections or infusions and laser treatments. All these procedures carry the risk of serious harm if they are not administered by suitably trained professionals operating from clean and hygienic premises.

“I warmly welcome the government’s decision to consult on this new, proposed licensing scheme. It will help to ensure that people who undergo non-surgical cosmetic procedures receive treatment from practitioners who are properly trained and qualified, have the necessary insurance cover and operate from premises that are safe and hygienic.

“I would urge everybody to seize the opportunity provided by this consultation and support the move towards sensible and proportionate regulation in this important sector.”

References available on request.