MILLIONS of women are putting themselves at risk of permanent deformity and lethal infections - by having cosmetic fillers.
Dermal fillers - which fill lines and wrinkles and plump up thin lips and cheeks - were once the privilege of the few who could afford to visit high-end clinics.
But now Botox and fillers are on every high street in Britain, with beauticians, dentists even hairdressers are offering cut-priced jabs for as little as £50 - while 70 per cent of people choose their 'practitioner' from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
While Botox is classified as a medicine - and so subjected to rigorous clinical trials - dermal fillers are not covered by ANY laws.
Stark figures show in 80 per cent of cases fillers are injected by people with no medical training with no safety checks at all.
As a result women are risking complications including killer sepsis, rotting tissue, blood clots, lip amputations, scarring - and it's estimated 200 people have gone blind from fillers.
Nor is it just adult women worried about ageing who are resorting to the dangerous jabs.
A staggering 52 per cent of 18 to 34-year-old women are tempted, while the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) estimate two in three young people know a friend who has had fillers.
Incredibly there is no age limit for fillers in the UK, meaning that teenagers desperate to emulate their idols are pumping their faces full of filler.
We've Had Our Fill
For too long the issue has been ignored, with women dismissed as vain and shamed into not seeking help.
That's why The Sun's Fabulous brand is today launching the Had Our Fill campaign to crackdown on rogue injectors and raise awareness.
We're calling for:
- fillers to be made illegal for under 18s
- a crackdown on social media sites plugging fillers
- a Government-backed central register for practitioners with accredited qualifications
In a major review of the industry, Sir Bruce Keogh, a surgeon and former medical director of the NHS, highlighted: "A person having a non-surgical intervention has no more protection and redress than someone buying a ballpoint pen or toothbrush."
'Public health crisis'
Now, leading doctors have told Fabulous we face a "public health crisis" as women treat fillers like hair cuts or a manicure.
No regulation means official figures are not collected, so it's hard to know the true scale of the problem - but Botox and fillers make up 9 out of 10 treatments undergone in the UK and the industry is worth £2.7billion.
In 2018, a Mintel report estimated one in three Brits are keen on having a non-surgical cosmetic procedure.
It is right that The Sun is shining a light on this important issueEngland’s top doctor Professor Stephen Powis
Most dermal fillers injected by doctors in the UK contain a natural substance called hyaluronic acid.
But back-street clinics source 'fillers' online from places like China with no way of knowing what they are injecting.
We've uncovered horrific cases of women having illegal silicone, even beef gelatin in their faces.
When it goes wrong, rogue traders disappear leaving the NHS to pick up the pieces and patients facing extortionate repair bills running into the thousands.
'The tip of the iceberg'
The Sun's campaign has been backed by leading medical experts, including consultant plastic surgeons Niall Kirkpatrick from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Dan Marsh who's based at The Royal Free in London.
Along with the Royal Society for Public Health they agree, this is a "public health crisis waiting to happen".
England's top doctor Professor Stephen Powis said women can be left with "permanent scarring".
The NHS national medical director, told The Sun: "The way that lip fillers and Botox are projected on social media by celebrities and influencers might make it seem like they are no different to a manicure or a massage, but they are unregulated, often unsafe and come with serious health risks.
"It is right that The Sun is shining a light on this important issue."
FILLERS BY NUMBERS
£2.75bn - estimated value of UK’s non-surgical cosmetic industry
59% - 13 to 24-year olds see lip fillers as routine as getting a haircut or manicure
68% - young people say friends have had fillers
160 - different types of dermal filler available for use in Europe, compared to only 10 in the US where they have tighter regulations
1,617 - complaints received by Save Face last year regarding unregistered practitioners
1.2m posts for #lipfillers on Instagram
3.9m - Google searches for ‘lip fillers’ in UK last year
40% - 13 to 19-year-olds say images on social media cause them to worry about body image
Mr Kirkpatrick, BAPRAS spokesman, who dedicates his time to repairing the faces of women who suffer botched ops, urged the Government to take action.
"Only appropriately trained and qualified people should be allowed to inject fillers," he told The Sun.
"Non-qualified injectors have almost no knowledge of human anatomy, pharmacology or the medical risks, and they can't treat complications if they arise.
"They don't have medical indemnity protection to cover patients financially if something goes wrong."
I fear the stories of swollen lips and more serious complaints we hear of are just the tip of the iceberg, with many women left scarred for lifeDan Marsh, consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS spokesman
Dan Marsh, a spokesman for BAAPS, echoed the concerns backing The Sun's campaign and joining the call to improve safety of this unregulated sector.
"People are taking advantage of the easy availability of dermal filler injections and are treating vulnerable young women, with little regard to their safety," he warned.
"I fear the stories of swollen lips and more serious complaints we hear of are just the tip of the iceberg, with many women left scarred for life.
"For too long the issue has been ignored with women left feeling shame and embarrassment when procedures go wrong.
"The BAAPS fully support The Sun and want to see an end to injections carried out by non medically qualified ‘practitioners’."
'Gob-smacking increase' in fillers
Experts have said that social media is fuelling the fillers crisis, both making young women want to look like the carefully shot and edited pictures they see, and actually flogging the jabs to users.
Duncan Stephenson, deputy chief executive of the RSPH added: "Perhaps it is no surprise in our image conscious world that we have seen a gob-smacking increase in the number of people having procedures such as lip fillers in recent years.
"Demand is no doubt fuelled by reality stars who have had work done, and the pressures to look flawless in our social media feeds.
“Around 2 in 3 young people these days know someone in their social circle who has had fillers.
WHAT ARE FILLERS?
DERMAL fillers are a popular cosmetic procedure where substances are injected into the body for different aesthetic purposes.
Fillers are normally made from hyaluronic acid - a naturally occurring compound in the skin.
The acid stores moisture, making skin look more hydrated and plump.
When it's injected as a gel-like substance, it integrates into skin and draws moisture into the tissue, creating volume.
Fillers are commonly used to enhance facial features by making sharper cheekbones, stronger jawlines or bigger lips, but they can be used all over the body - they're even used in penis enlargement treatments.
The effects of fillers usually last between six and 18 months depending on where they've been used on the body.
Fillers are different to Botox, which blocks nerve signals in the muscles where it's injected to restrict movement and prevent 'expression lines'.
"The law of the land has struggled to keep pace with this relatively recent phenomenon.
"“Dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen. Anyone can set themselves up to give these procedures and there is absolutely no requirement for knowledge, training or previous experience.”
Working with Save Face, a national register for accredited practitioners, and backed by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) and British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), we want anyone considering non-surgical cosmetic ops to be aware of the dangers to help them make safe decisions.
Meanwhile celebs from all corners of the industry have backed the campaign, from Lorraine Kelly and Lizzie Cundy to reality stars Amy Childs, Abbie Holborn, Shelby Tribble, Jemma Lucy and Samira Mighty and Arabella Chi from Love Island.
We must stop botched ops
Over the coming weeks we will share horror stories from brave women who have suffered at the hands of cowboy injectors, celebrity stories and advice from medical expert to arm you with the tools to make informed and safe choices.
Save Face director Ashton Collins praised The Sun for highlighting the issue - and said it's vital women are armed with the information they need to make safe, informed choices.
"Raising awareness is the only way we can hope to reduce the number of people who suffer botched procedures," she said.
MOST READ IN HEALTH
"When it is perfectly legal for anyone to pick up a syringe and inject anyone with anything in any setting, navigating your way to a safe pair of hands can be much like playing the lottery."
She urged anyone considering having dermal fillers to choose a practitioner on the Government-approved Save Face register.
Save Face inspect each clinic listed on their register, and collect evidence to verify that practitioners meet stringent standards.