Lip (dermal) fillers are an increasingly popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure, some would say, much encouraged by the prevalence of social media, “celebrity culture” and social media influencers, attracting large numbers of followers online.

One of the most notable influencers in relation to lip treatments is American media personality Kylie Jenner, who, with a staggering 187 million Instagram followers, has built her fortune on her lip kit brand, promoting fuller lips. It is reported that Kylie Jenner’s confession to having undergone lip filler treatment herself, after repeatedly denying she had, led to a 70% increase in enquiries regarding the procedure.

In the UK, lip fillers are legally allowed to be administered to anyone over the age of 16. “Botox and filler parties” are a growing trend, both here and in the US. Online deals for injectables and fillers are commonplace, putting the option of lip fillers within easy reach of an ever increasing and younger market. A reported 72% of consumers find their Botox or dermal filler injector via social media. Consumers are often attracted by the lure of competitive pricing, even if it means sharing needles with a stranger, for a reduced price.

Dermal fillers are used to inject volume into the lips or cheeks, for fullness, using a natural substance, called hyaluronic acid. They are not permanent, meaning that top up treatments are common. The fact that they are not permanent, may lull consumers into a false sense of security. However, when administered incorrectly, dermal fillers can have devasting consequences, including severe swelling and bruising, necrosis (death of skin tissue caused by lack of blood supply), nerve damage, anaphylactic shock, blindness and permanent scarring.

What’s worse and what may come as a surprise, is that despite a soaring demand for dermal fillers over the past few years, the provision of these and other non-surgical cosmetic services remain almost entirely unregulated in the UK.

This is in contrast to cosmetic procedures involving invasive surgery, which are regulated by the General Medical Council (GMC), the public body responsible for setting the standards and regulating doctors in the UK. The GMC requires all practising surgeons to be enrolled on its own specialist register, with the exception of some private cosmetic surgeons, practising since before 2002, provided they meet certain criteria. Invasive cosmetic surgery and laser treatments are also regulated under the Care Standards Act 2000.

However, non-surgical cosmetic services, including dermal fillers, are not covered by these regulations or the GMC. What this means is that the treatments can be administered by anyone, in any setting. No qualifications or minimum period of training is required and treatment providers who are not regulated or on a register are under no obligation to warn consumers of any of risks, prior to undergoing the treatments.  If things go wrong, without any requirement for insurance to be in place, the only recourse consumers may have, is to claim against the individual who performed the procedure. If such individuals have insufficient funds or cannot be found, it will not be possible to claim any compensation for injuries or other associated losses sustained.

There have been successive failures of UK governments to regulate non-surgical cosmetic procedures, despite a worrying rise in complaints. Between 2017 and 2019 the number of official complaints in the UK about non-surgical cosmetics procedures rose by 328%, the majority of which related to dermal filler treatments. The number is expected to rise again in 2020. The real numbers are likely to be higher than this, when unreported complaints are accounted for.

It is now over 7 years since the Department of Health published an independent report addressing the regulation of non-surgical cosmetic treatments in the UK, entitled “Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Interventions” available here.

At the time, the report labelled the non-regulation of dermal fillers in particular as a “crisis waiting to happen”. Putting it bluntly, the Review Committee concluded in the report that given the known risks, it is not appropriate that the public has “no more consumer rights when receiving a dermal filler injection than when buying a toothbrush”. Despite the concerns raised in this report and the growing number of complaints regarding non-surgical cosmetic treatments, this large section of the cosmetic industry in the UK, remains unregulated.

If you are considering having dermal fillers or any other non-surgical cosmetic procedure, be sure to do full and careful research in advance. The NHS recommends that you check that the person administering your treatment is on a register, to prove that they meet set standards in training, skill and insurance. Appropriate registers include the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners, Save Face and the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses. Before undergoing any non-surgical cosmetic procedure, the NHS also advocates the following helpful checklist.

Ask about:

  • the practitioner’s experience and qualifications
  • the name of the product and how and where it’s made
  • any risks or possible side effects
  • what will happen if things go wrong
  • what insurance cover they have

We can help

If you have any concerns about cosmetic treatment you have received, regarding the treatment itself, the outcome of the procedure and/or the risks (or absence of risks) advised, please feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to chat through this with you. We have a highly experienced clinical negligence team, with exposure to a variety of cosmetic surgery cases, and can offer our services on a “no win no fee” basis.

Contact the Medical Negligence team on 01522 561020 or email

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