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Injectables Advertising Banned for Under 18s

Adverts for cosmetic surgeries and for treatments such as lip fillers, wrinkle relaxing injections, micro-needling, chemical peels and non-surgical nose jobs are to be banned from targeting anyone under 18.

When Does The New Rule Come In?

The new targeting restrictions will come into effect on 25 May 2022.

What Do The New Rules Mean?

  • Ads for cosmetic interventions must not appear in non-broadcast media directed at under-18s;
  • Ads for cosmetic interventions must not appear in other non-broadcast media where under-18s make up over 25% of the audience; and
  • Broadcast ads for cosmetic interventions must not appear during or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to under-18s.

What Are Cosmetic Interventions?

Examples of “cosmetic interventions” that the new rules are intended to cover include (but are not limited to) : breast augmentation or uplift procedures, breast reduction, abdominoplasty (‘tummy tuck’), blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), rhytidectomy (face lift), labiaplasty, hair restoration surgery, dermal fillers, skin rejuvenation treatments such as injectable treatments (wrinkle relaxing treatments and Profhilo, for example), chemical peels, micro-needling, non-ablative laser treatments, laser or light treatments, micropigmentation (for example, permanent makeup tattoo) and teeth whitening treatments.

But That's Not All That's Happening.

Interestingly, the advertising regulator also seems to be tackling the issue of who is qualified and who isn't and what terminology people can use in their advertising for non-surgical treatments.

For non-surgical practitioners, the ASA says that anyone advertising treatments should hold proof of their qualifications from a reputable, independent source (before making claims that relate to those qualifications). It hasn't gone as far as defining what it considers to be a reputable source (all the dodgy training schools will say they are reputable!) and doesn't mandate they must be medically qualified or trained.

It does state that people can't make claims which exaggerate their skills, so arguably if someone is positioning themselves as an 'advanced aesthetics practitioner' yet has limited qualifications, there could be cause for complaint.

The ASA also stipulates that anyone advertising their services should not misleadingly claim or imply that they are a medical professional or regulated by a professional body if that is not the case, they should not claim or imply they have professional systems of complaint or redress if they do not and they should ensure that they do not misleadingly imply that they operate in a regulated clinical environment, if that is not the case.

Before And After Photos

The regulation also sets out new guidance for before and after photos.

  • There must be evidence before and after photos used in any marketing are genuine and the practitioner must hold signed and dated proof from the person shown.
  • While practitioners might be able to show that before and after photographs are genuine they still need to hold evidence which substantiates the level of efficacy implied by the photos.
  • Before and after photos illustrating the claimed benefits of Botox are unlikely to be acceptable because this could amount to advertising of a POM (prescription only medicine).

So if you see a before and after photo now that seems too good to be true, you know who to complain to, and before and after photos of Botox as an advertisement are most likely to go against the new rules.

Reviews and Testimonials

The ASA has also stipulated that anyone using a review or testimonial must hold documentary evidence that it's genuine and hold contact details for that person (hooray for Glowday!)

Is This Good News?

Yes, it is of course a positive step and it's clear the advertising regulator is fully aware of the proliferation of dangerous, unsubstantiated and unqualified advertising and is making some gestures to clamp down on it. But it will turn into a damp squib.

It will not solve the crisis we have with 'tweakments' in the UK. The ASA is simply unable to police the sheer volume of social media accounts and groups. By the time the regulator even becomes aware of someone who is flouting the rules (assuming that someone even knows of the rules in the first place) the damage will be done. Indeed, the worse that will happen is the person/business is asked to remove the advert and unless they're a well-known brand and it gets a couple of lines in the newspapers, nobody will be none the wiser. The situation still remains that for non-medics, it doesn't matter. They aren't answerable to statutory body, they won't lose their medical licence, and they care less about their reputation. As we have seen with the advertising of wrinkle relaxing treatments, they'll just carry on regardless.

But People Have To Prove They Are Qualified Now?

No they don't. They just have to prove their qualifications IF they say they are qualified in their advertising and someone has to challenge this - it's almost impossible for the ASA to monitor it. They can still advertise lip fillers and wrinkle relaxing treatments without any mention of being competent to do so (and many people will just assume they are).

Let's not forget also, that many non-meds who do complete training in lip fillers, wrinkle relaxing treatments and other treatments do so in good faith. They are also victims. The landscape is confusing and if they're presented with a training school/business which claims to be reputable and give them the qualification they need to carry out treatments, many people will trust this and assume it's credible.

There is no law stipulating what qualifications they must have or no law that prevents anyone from offering treatments. Remember, these are just advertising rules. The guidance is vague and wishy-washy. How will the ASA determine what is appropriate training and what constitutes a reputable qualification? Many training schools don't even know their training is bad!

What Should Happen?

Away from the surgical side of boob jobs and tummy tucks, there is extremely dangerous underworld of non-medics performing lip fillers, face threads and liquid nose jobs that are leaving young women disfigured and unwell.

The Government can just make this all go away very easily. It simply needs to regulate the non-surgical market so that only medically qualified practitioners can offer non-surgical aesthetic treatments. Training in aesthetic treatments will only then ever be completed by someone who has a medical degree, the dubious and dodgy training schools will disappear, beauticians will get back to doing what they do best, and fewer women will suffer at the hands of botched injectables.

The advertising of these treatments - to anyone of any age - is just the tip of the iceberg. Cracking down on what you can and can't say in marketing, is (while obviously not a bad thing to do) not going anywhere near enough to prevent harm. Professionalise the industry, regulate the industry, get the base level of safety sorted first: then focus on how people are selling those treatments.

See the full code for the advertising for cosmetic interventions here

If you're interested in a consultation for a treatment with a medically qualified professional, search for someone near you here.

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