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18th Jun 2019

Forget banning Botox for under 18s, it’s nail bars offering lip fillers that are the real danger says doctor

Leslie Ann Horgan

“You can potentially do an awful lot more damage to someone’s face with a lip filler than with Botox.”

Last week, it came to light that the Department of Health was considering an outright ban on Botox and dermal fillers for under 18s. Coming in the wake of a similar ban on using sunbeds, Minister Simon Harris has asked his officials to examine tighter regulation of injectables, the Irish Times reported.

However, Dr James Cotter of SISU Aesthetic Clinics says that by touting a headline-grabbing ban, the Government is fundamentally misunderstanding the issue at hand. Putting aside the fact that Botox is a prescription drug that can only legally be administered by a doctor or dentist, Dr Cotter says that, in his experience, teenagers are not the ones looking for it.

“I have never had someone under 18 looking for cosmetic Botox. Botox is used to treat wrinkles and teenagers don’t have wrinkles. There are other medical reasons why someone under 18 might be seeking Botox treatment, but they are never cosmetic.”

Dr Cotter adds that he hasn’t seen demand for dermal fillers from those younger than their late 20s, the age that the face begins to lose volume. However, there is significant demand among young women for lip fillers – the administration of which is currently unregulated.

“Young women are going to beauticians, nail bars and other non-medical people to have lip fillers done. There’s been a huge increase in people presenting at A&E with complications from lip fillers that are badly placed or incorrectly administered. That can cause infection, or even block the blood supply to the lips and cause necrosis where the tissue dies. Not looking good is the least of the worries for these women.”

Across SISU’s clinics in Dublin, Cork, Kerry and Belfast, Dr Cotter says he is seeing at least one patient a month who has had a complication from lip fillers that they need fixed.

“When they go back to where they had the treatment done, there’s no aftercare. Someone working in a nail bar is not going to have the knowledge of how to treat them and can’t prescribe antibiotics or steroids or drain an abscess.”

Dr Cotter says that the Government could immediately solve the problem by bringing lip fillers into the same space as Botox, controlling who and where they can be administered. It’s speculated that products such as dermal fillers may be considered to be medical devices under EU law from next year, however Dr Cotter says that doesn’t automatically mean that there will be restrictions on who can administer them.

As for those looking for a Kardashian-worthy pout, Dr Cotter advises educating yourself before going under the syringe.

“In recent years, aesthetic treatments have been normalised to a huge extent in Irish society – but you have to be careful on what you accept as normal. The best advice is not to go to a nail bar for lip fillers, go to a qualified doctor at a clinic that is doing a high volume of these treatments.”