Teenagers should be banned from getting cosmetic procedures amid fears image-conscious schoolgirls are being left permanently damaged, experts say.
The Royal Society of Public Health said it should be illegal for under-18s to have lip fillers and other treatments, warning that existing regulation in the cosmetic industry is ‘not fit for purpose’.
Growing numbers of insecure young women are being targeted on social media and encouraged to have their lips injected with fillers to achieve the ‘Love Island look’.
But the treatments – often carried out in back rooms of hair salons and in customers’ living rooms – can lead to extreme swelling, infections and allergic reactions.
A major report by the RSPH warned a lack of regulation means anyone can set up shop offering cosmetic procedures such as Botox, fillers, tattoos and piercings.
They said this is putting members of the public at risk of developing serious infections including sepsis or suffering permanent damage from botched procedures.
The report said: ‘At the extreme end of the scale, botched procedures can result in infection, ulcers, tissue necrosis and even blindness.
‘There is currently no legal age requirement for receiving fillers in the UK, leaving it possible for vulnerable young people to access an invasive treatment with few controls.
‘There are already rules about not targeting gambling or alcohol adverts at under-18s, and it would be an important next step to extend this to cosmetic procedures.’
The RSPH added that all practitioners should be required to have infection control qualification before carrying out treatments that compromise the skin barrier, and that specialist tattoo and piercing equipment should only be sold to licenced individuals.
Duncan Stephenson, director of external affairs for the Royal Society of Public Health, said: ‘A desire to resort to quick-fixes among the “selfie generation” of young women has led to a massive increase in demand for non-surgical cosmetic procedures, especially lip-fillers.
‘There is huge pressure on young people to conform to the unrealistic and unattainable ideals they see on Instagram and shows like Love Island.
‘But at the moment there is not enough regulation of the cosmetic industry.
‘There are no age restrictions on non-surgical procedures – it means any 15-year-old schoolgirl could just walk into a shop and get their lips injected.
‘Not only does this put vulnerable young women under pressure to get cosmetic work done, it also puts them at risk of infections and side effects such as swelling.
‘We have necessary protections on things like alcohol and smoking and gambling, so it makes complete sense for the same protections to be put in place on cosmetic procedures.’
A survey found that one in five people who have had a tattoo, cosmetic piercing, acupuncture or electrolysis in the last five years experienced side effects, most commonly burning or swelling.
Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH, said: ‘The growing popularity of tattoos, piercings and cosmetic procedures is all part and parcel of people choosing to express themselves and their individual identity.
‘However, the legislation and regulation of providers of these services, which ultimately protects the public, is markedly different across the UK and in some areas is not fit for purpose.
‘This matters because one in five people are still at very real risk of sepsis and other complications.
‘With the surge in demand for tattoos, piercings and a growing variety of cosmetic procedures, such as fillers, we hope this report sparks a wider discussion about the need to provide safeguards and reassure those who seek to undertake body modification in all forms in the UK today.
‘Ministers were warned four years ago that the industry was “a crisis waiting to happen”.’
An official review by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh revealed that the industry was ‘almost entirely unregulated’.