The aesthetics industry is in turmoil, as a government consultation puts thousands of businesses under threat.
The beauty and aesthetics industry has been largely unregulated for many years, but it seems that this is set to change. The government has set up a consultation to look at how to better regulate the aesthetics industry, and there are some very loud factions calling for all non-medics to be banned from offering some important aesthetics treatments completely. So, is this true, and how likely is it to happen?
The Aesthetics Background
It is understandable that the spotlight has been thrown onto the aesthetics industry, as some of the treatments have the potential to be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. Practitioners are handling prescription medicines that are known to be toxins, and injecting substances into people’s faces. This means that there is the potential for medical complications or clients to be severely disfigured.
Currently, there are a range of different people working in the aesthetics industry, including doctors and nurses. There are also beauty therapists and aesthetics practitioners who have gone through other methods of training, and whilst they are not able to authorise the prescriptions needed for some of the products, they are able to administer them.
The desire for regulation has come about due to the occasional story which hits the news about treatments that have gone wrong, and so closer attention is now being paid to how the industry works and who is working in it.
The Department of Health & Social Care is bringing forward an amendment to the Health and Care Act 2022 which will bring a licensing scheme into effect in England for non-surgical cosmetic procedures. The proposals mean that practitioners will need to be licensed to perform particular treatments and their premises will also need to be licensed.
The government has therefore begun a consultation process, allowing the public to give their thoughts on the proposals. The consultation aims to find out more on what types of treatments should be included in the scheme, whether there are any procedures which should only be carried out by healthcare professionals, and whether there should be age restrictions imposed on those receiving certain procedures.
One of the suggestions in the consultation is to introduce a traffic light system, whereby green treatments are considered the lowest risk and red the highest. This would mean red treatment could only be performed by medical professionals. Amber treatment would require aesthetic practitioners to have relevant oversight by a healthcare professional.
It has been proposed that the system would work as follows (although they do stress that this is not a final or complete list):
- IPL and LED therapies
- Chemical peels that involve destruction only into the viable epidermis
- No-needle fillers
- Non-ablative laser hair removal
- Photo rejuvenation
- Botulinum toxin injections
- Semi-permanent facial dermal fillers
- Biorevitalisation or hyaluronic acid injections
- Vitamin and mineral injection procedures
- PRP therapy and Biofiller
- Injection microsclerotherapy (spider vein treatment)
- Weight loss injections
- Cellulite subcision
- Injection lipolysis with a prescription only medicine
- HIFU treatments
- Radio frequency treatments
- Plasma ablation or plasma fibroblast
- Non-ablative lasers
- Medium depth peels
- Prescription only medicine treatments applied topically for cosmetic purposes
- The combination of 2 or more technologies to create a hybrid device (for example, using microneedling and radio frequency together)
- Cryotherapy to remove skin tags, age spots and warts
- Thread lifting procedures
- Hair restoration surgery
- Augmentation of any part of the body using autologous fat or dermal fillers
- Hay fever injections
- The combination of ultrasound and large bore cannula for liposuction
- Deeper chemical peels
- The provision of any green or amber procedure where the circumstances meet the criteria to be classes as a CQC-regulated activity of treatment of disease, disorder or injury
- All intravenous injectables and infusions
What are the concerns?
There are many aesthetics practitioners who are extremely highly qualified but fear that their businesses could be ripped from underneath them overnight if some of these proposals become a reality.
The survey states that once the consultation closes, there will be work with expert groups to underpin the scheme, however, it is not clear who those expert groups will be or how the aesthetics industry will be represented. The fear that many in the aesthetics industry have is that the loudest voices are the medical professional, and that the government is more likely to listen to them and dismiss the arguments from the thousands of aesthetics professionals. There certainly seems to be a campaign from a number of medical professionals who are involved in the industry to now discredit the many highly trained aesthetics practitioners who do great work across the UK in order to push through the changes that they want.
The survey states that the government believes certain procedures are of sufficient complexity and invasiveness that they should only be performed by a healthcare professional, and a lack of restrictions leaves the public at risk. Any respectable aesthetics practitioner will have safety and client care at the heart of everything they do and would not want to take any unnecessary risks, but that does not mean that they should not be performing the treatments that they do.
There are many highly trained practitioners in the industry who have spent years learning, studying and updating their skills, and are often better at performing their treatments than their medical counterparts. Is it right that their businesses could be taken from them overnight? Absolutely not.
From a personal perspective, I have believed for a long time that the aesthetics industry needs some form of regulation as the treatments do carry risks and there are some cowboys out there. However, this is simply a case of punishing the many for the sins of the few and seems like a massive overreaction. Instead, the government should be setting the minimum standards for aesthetics qualifications, as many out there would already hold what was needed, and others could have the chance to fill any gaps they might have, allowing them to hold the qualifications that they need without starting from scratch. This ensures that everyone in the industry is working to a standard that the government deems to be adequate, medics are not pulled away from the NHS to be part of a more lucrative aesthetics industry and innumerable businesses are saved, which will only serve to benefit the economy.
The consultation period will close at 11.59pm on 28th October 2023, so there is not long left to submit your thoughts. If you wish to complete the survey, please click here and make sure that your thoughts are heard.
In addition to this, you could write to your local MP, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay, or the Prime Minister.
There is also a fabulous Facebook group called A VOICE FOR NON-MEDICAL AESTHETIC PRACTITIONERS for those currently working in the industry who might have concerns. This has tonnes of resources and support available.
It is important to remember that a consultation period is precisely designed to give everyone the chance to air their views, so they must be well thought out and professionally argued if they are to be taken seriously.