When did Botox become so popular?
It’s natural to want to look the best you can, as the face we present to the world affects the way we feel, boosting confidence and self-esteem. And in recent years, the popularity of less invasive non-surgical procedures has overtaken that of cosmetic surgery. In 2014 the demand for cosmetic surgery dipped for the first time in a decade, with non-surgical treatments now accounting for 85 per cent of the market.
There are a couple of reasons for this, the first being that an economic downturn means people want to spend less money, and secondly, I’ve noticed a wave of enthusiasm for more subtle, temporary treatments like Botox, that very effectively smooth out lines and wrinkles, such as frown lines and crow’s feet. The aim is to rejuvenate your looks rather than bringing permanent change or turning back the years, with the effects lasting from four to six months.
What’s more, there is only the discomfort of injections rather than pain involved with surgery, and no need for recovery time as results can be seen after three to five days, with full effects evident in two weeks. The aim is for your friends and family to notice that you’re looking fresh-faced and vital, without being able to put their finger on what you’ve had done.
Why you need to see a doctor for Botox
It does worry me a lot that some people are putting their health at risk by risking a botched job by having Botox carried out by amateurs in beauty salons, hairdressers or even by mobile therapists who come to your home to give Botox injections, instead of going along to a registered clinic or hospital.
Be especially cautious of Botox parties, where the practitioner may be distracted, your guard may be down and you could feel less inclined to speak up if you’re uncomfortable with the practitioner due to group pressure.
On the surface, these may seem convenient and sometimes cheaper ways to have Botox, but it’s important to understand that this is a specialist medical treatment and the delivery of cosmetic injectables should be given by a trained cosmetic doctor or nurse. This is because it involves tiny amounts of a toxin being injected into your face to relax facial muscles, and there are potential risks and complications with any procedure.
What are the risks?
Most of the time there are no side-effects involved with Botox if given by an expert in hygienic conditions. However, if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, you shouldn’t have Botox injections as the effects on the baby aren't known.
Like with any procedure there is always the small chance of something going wrong. Doctors know the risks, and have the training to swing into action if needs be.
- For instance, if injections are done in the wrong places, the medicine may move into areas of the face where it wasn’t meant to go, resulting in a temporary weakness or droopiness of your facial features, such as an eyelid or eyebrow.
- There may be bruising around the injections site.
- Some people experience flu-like symptoms, or headaches, for 24 hours after receiving treatment.
- In rare cases, more serious complications can develop in the hours, days or weeks after treatment, this might be blurred or double vision, if the area around the eyes is injected, or breathing difficulties if the neck area was injected.
- Of course, there is also the risk of infection and blood poisoning if the environment you’re in isn’t a clinical one.
Anyone who experiences problems should contact the clinic they visited immediately or see their GP or go to A&E.
Choose a specialist in cosmetic procedures
While many surgeons undergo extra training to ensure they know how to do cosmetic procedures properly, this is not required by law – and in many cases, doctors are not skilled in the procedures they offer.
Rather shockingly, in the UK you run the risk of unknowingly having a cosmetic procedure with someone who is not being properly trained. This is because even though Botox has to be prescribed by a doctor or nurse practitioner, they don’t have to have undergone any special training to administer it.
A Botox session usually involves about 10 injections into facial muscles, so ideally you should see someone who has an understanding of the anatomy of the face - a GP or a gynaecologist isn’t trained in all the different facial muscles, or have the same knowledge of bone structure, muscles and skin as a doctor with qualifications in plastic surgery and dermatology or a cosmetics nurse. It’s all about getting the balance of the face right, so you get the results you want, rather than ending up with a frozen forehead. The wealth of knowledge from years of training and consultations is invaluable for patients.
Lack of regulation in the UK - choose carefully!
Much tighter laws exist in other European countries, such as France and Denmark, where it’s illegal to give Botox unless you’ve undergone training, and in Spain only doctors are allowed to administer it.
The lack of regulation in the UK is a big problem. The government's view is that restrictive practices are counterproductive to the economy. Our view (as members of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, BAAPS, a voluntary professional body whose members adhere to strict standards) is that they are important for patient safety.
Can doctors delegate so someone else gives the injections?
In the UK certain nurse practitioners who work under a doctor can be qualified to administer Botox, but it needs to be in a doctor’s practice or clinic and under the guidance of someone who is medically trained. The responsibility for ensuring it’s given safety still lies with the person who’s written the prescription, a doctor, dentist, pharmacist or nurse practitioner.
Is there evidence things are going wrong with unqualified therapists?
Unfortunately, as more and more beauticians and other practitioners enter this growing market, we are seeing more mistakes being made, often by inexperienced practitioners. If a practitioner doesn’t have an adequate understanding of hygiene or how best to ensure the procedure works, there is more chance things will go wrong. And there has been an increase in the number of insurance claims against beauty salons for negligent treatment.
Although the risks will be minimal with a qualified cosmetic surgeon, if anything does go wrong they will be fully insured, and have the medical expertise to keep you safe.