Botox and Filler Banned for Under 18s in the UK: Does This Solve a Problem?

botox and fillers

Botox and filler have been highly common aesthetic procedures for the facially-conscious for many years. Be it to augment the face to get those ‘juicy’ lips, to reduce fine lines to try and turn mutton into lamb, or simply as a light, ageing-preventative upkeep method. In the 2019 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, of the 18.1 million cosmetic procedures carried out that year, 7.7 million were Botox and 2.7 million were filler. And that’s just in the United States.

While people have the right to modify their bodies to their own heart’s content, there have been some questions circling the matter of what age is appropriate for young people to be able to make the decision to get filler or Botox. With mounting pressure from Instagram filters that plump your lips and cheeks, and celebrities flaunting their coveted wealth and ‘idealised’ looks, it’s no wonder that young people are turning to cosmetic surgery in the hope to achieve self-validation.

While little has been done in online content creation circles to limit the influence of these people and factors on young people, the UK government has taken matters into its own hands. An announcement in April 2021 confirmed that legislation banning under-18s from receiving Botox and fillers in the UK has been approved. The “Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act” prevents anyone under the age of 18 to access either procedure. Further to this, according to a government spokesperson, even ‘medically necessary’ Botox or fillers will only be able to take place in the presence of “a doctor, registered medical practitioner, or a health professional”.

While this legislation does nothing to stem the steady flow of toxic body dysmorphia-inducing influence that social media inflicts on young people, it makes it more difficult for them to act on the feelings they cause. However, it will not prevent people from taking matters into their own hands.

botox and fillers

Imagery courtesy of: Kylie Jenner

There are many places performing ‘underground’ cosmetic procedures. These are high-risk, as there is no verification of the practitioner’s skills, nor the materials they are working with. The Government has an online process to report such backalley dealings. But one can’t help but wonder whether or not banning under 18s from getting these procedures is merely going to thrust them into the hands of unlicensed vendors who are looking to make a quick buck from those desperate to look like their favourite Hadid. 

One has to cast their mind back barely a few moons ago to the infamous ‘Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge.’ This 2015 viral trend saw kids bursting blood vessels and all sorts and we were all shown the immense power of viral influencer content on young people’s self-perception and body confidence.

Ironically, Kylie Jenner is now one of many celebrities that are dissolving their lip fillers. Back in 2018, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star announced via an Instagram post that she was dissolving her lip fillers. Molly-Mae Hague of Love Island fame has also recently dissolved her fillers, a change that is plain to see on her Instagram and will no doubt influence many young people. The volatility of fashion trends is reflected in the implementation and reversal of these procedures within the same decade. In this sense, banning under 18s from undergoing botox and fillers will prevent them investing both financially and personally into a trend that may fall out of vogue before they’ve even repaid the loan they took out for it.

However, facial modification is still a prominent discussion point when it comes to young people, especially when it comes to social media pressures. New research from natural cosmetic innovator Uvence reveals that over 3 million people are now considering a cosmetic treatment this year because of the impact of the pandemic on our appearances. Lockdown has caused us all to spend more time looking in the mirror and while it has given birth to constructive realisations for some, it has also been destructive for others. Not only are people critiquing their weight gain over lockdown, but also their faces.

Dr Olivier Amar, leading cosmetic surgeon and CMO of natural cosmetic treatment innovator Uvence, discusses the importance of enforcing legislation in the cosmetics industry to safeguard patients: “Recently we have seen a significant increase in the number of people seeking cosmetic treatments, especially as we come out of lockdown. As a result of this, it feels particularly pertinent right now to stress the importance of only going to qualified practitioners to administer treatments. As the demand for cosmetics treatments rises, ensuring that the industry is safeguarded and that legislation is enforced is vital.”

While this law will ensure that young people wait until they are of legal age to spend money on augmenting their faces, it hasn’t exactly solved a problem. What even is the problem? Are people turning to cosmetic procedures at too young an age? Is turning to these procedures at all a problem? This law seems to have only scratched the surface of the bigger issue of social media induced body dysmorphia. It seems like it’s about time for Instagram to step up and address this – if the UK conservative government can, then they certainly can.