ANNA Russell only wanted to look like her pouting celeb idols for her 18th birthday.
Convinced her lips were too thin, like thousands of others she turned to fillers.
But the op spiralled into a nightmare, leaving her with bruised, uneven lips and lumps of “unknown” filler migrating across her face.
She cried every day from the pain — then learned from a doctor the “unknown substance” had been injected haphazardly.
Anna says: “The doctor said my lips had been completely botched.
“I’d had really thin lips and been so insecure about them.
"It felt like everyone was getting fillers — all the girls at school and celebrities.
"But it ended up destroying any confidence I had. I hated my face.”
But Anna’s story is just the latest example of a dangerous cosmetic filler craze sweeping schools, with numbers of botched ops soaring.
That’s why Fabulous launched The Sun’s Had Our Fill campaign earlier this year, calling for a crackdown on the unregulated industry.
IN 80 per cent of cases, fillers are injected by people with no medical training, and no safety checks at all, shocking new figures reveal.
As a result, women are risking complications including killer sepsis, rotting tissue, blood clots, lip amputations and scarring – and it is even estimated that 200 people have gone blind from fillers.
That is why Fabulous is calling for:
- Fillers to be made illegal for under-18s
- A crackdown on social- media sites advertising fillers
- A government-backed central register for approved practitioners
In a win for our campaign, a parliamentary bill that would ban the ops for under-18s was backed by the Government on Friday after being put forward by Sevenoaks MP Laura Trott.
'MY LIPS WERE REALLY BRUISED, I JUST CRIED'
She warns: “This is a largely unregulated industry, so the data we have represents the tip of the iceberg.
"There are huge pressures on young people to conform to the unrealistic and unattainable ideals they see on social media.
“Despite all the dangers, however, there is no legal age limit for dermal fillers or Botox procedures.
"This means any 15-year-old school girl can walk into a shop and get their lips injected, by someone with no qualifications.
“I am delighted the Government has now pledged its support for the bill, and I look forward to taking it to the committee stage so we can stop these dangerous, unnecessary non-medical procedures that can ruin children’s lives.”
Save Face, an organisation which promotes safe cosmetic procedures and guides women to trusted, qualified practitioners, says legislative change is urgent.
It reports a 73 per cent surge in complaints across all age groups in the last year, while the number of teenagers suffering at the hands of cowboy practitioners reached four times higher than two years ago.
In the last year, of those under-18s who had suffered, 42 had lip fillers, two had cheek fillers and one had a non-surgical nose job.
The youngest was just 15. Indeed, almost half of all complications reported to Save Face are from women between 18 and 25.
Save Face director Ashton Collins, who has campaigned for legislation since 2014, says of the new bill: “This is vital to protect young people from being exploited by unscrupulous practitioners.
"We have supported dozens of young people whose lives have been seriously impacted. It makes no sense that it is illegal to tattoo a person under the age of 18, yet not for these extremely high-risk treatments to be available to potentially vulnerable, insecure teenagers.”
Sadly Anna, who was inspired to get her op by celebs such as Kylie Jenner, is just one of thousands of young women falling victim each year.
She recalls: “I’d always liked wearing make-up and felt that I couldn’t wear lipstick because it would draw attention to my thin lips.”
Through social media, she found a local beautician who promised her perfectly plump lips, and she booked herself in.
It was a decision she would come to regret.
Taken to the back room of a salon in Edinburgh, Anna says she told the beautician she was 17 but was assured it was all fine.
Anna says: “She said it’s not illegal to get them done under 18, as long as my mum and dad are happy. I told her my parents were fine, which they were, but she just took my word for it.”
After the £160 procedure, Anna noticed her lips were asymmetrical but the beautician said it was just swelling that would go down.
Yet two weeks later, her lips remained uneven and painful to touch.
Assured that it would be easy to rectify, Anna returned to the salon to “fix” her lips.
But instead, she was reduced to tears.
She says: “This is when it all went wrong, my lips were absolutely awful. I was really bruised, I was just a mess. I was crying every day.”
Anna, who then worked at a trampoline park, was in too much pain to blow a whistle.
'BEAUTICIAN MADE THE MOST OF MY NAIVETY'
Turning to a doctor for help, she was told she had scar tissue in her lips, and that the filler had been injected “willy nilly”. But the medic was unable to tell what substance had been injected.
Filler should dissolve six months after injection but Anna’s was still in her lips two years later.
She said: “It was such a horrible couple of years. I hated my face.”
Anna, now 22, has since been to another beautician and had her filler dissolved — though it took a further two months to settle.
Her original beautician has now blocked her online, refusing to accept anything went wrong, but Anna is urging other young people to educate themselves before booking an appointment.
She said: “My lips are fine now, thank God. Now I’m more educated, I wouldn’t just naively trust the first person I found on Facebook.”
Similarly, Anna’s school friend Catrina Banks was 16 when left with bumps in her lips and cheeks after an appointment with the same beautician.
She says of her procedure: “Afterwards, I saw that my lips were very uneven and I had lots of lumps, to the extent I was struggling to speak.
"I sent the practitioner pictures but she told me it was completely normal.”
But there was nothing normal about the white lumps that appeared on her lips, and they got so bad the beautician eventually agreed to refund Catrina the £300 for her two appointments.
But still she could feel hard lumps in her cheeks, and she booked another appointment with a professional to try and get the foreign substance dissolved.
Catrina, now 18, says: “It’s frustrating she could make the most of me being so naïve.”
Both Anna and Catrina now hope The Sun’s campaign will make a difference.
Anna adds: “It’s important to raise awareness so other young girls know the risks. I was so naive. It’s really dangerous and people take advantage.”
Save Face director, Ashton Collins, added: "In 2019, we supported Anna and Caterina after they underwent treatment with the same practitioner and were left with unsightly treatment outcomes and side effects they were not informed could occur.
"Understandably, the girls were terrified when their lips became lumpy, swollen and extremely painful.
"Unfortunately, this behaviour is consistent - 97 per cent of the cases reported to us by under 18s found their practitioner on social media using celebrity pictures to promote discounted treatments with promises of unrealistic results.
"As soon as a complication or adverse reaction occurs, they are ignored and are left to fend for themselves which is daunting at any age but especially so for those under 18."
97 per cent of the cases reported to us by under 18s found their practitioner on social mediaAshton Collins
She added: "The Bill is vital to help protect young people like Anna and Caterina from being exploited by unscrupulous practitioners.
"Without it, it will inevitably reach the crisis point that the rest of the industry is in.
"If we can act now, all practitioners will be required to take more responsibility to verify the age and identity of young patients and those who break the law will be held to account."
Aesthetics specialist Dr Roshan Ravindran warns the lip-filler trend has been driven by social media and reality TV.
He says: “I would urge anyone in their teens who is considering dermal fillers to think beyond fillers and think about what might be driving their urge to seek aesthetic treatments.
"Is it the celebrities they admire? Trends move on.
“I’d encourage people to talk to someone they trust and think about what their aesthetic journey would look and feel like.
"This includes the consultation, cooling-off period, follow-up, aftercare and maintenance.”
Dr Rosh, the founder of the £4.5million KLNIK aesthetic and wellness centre in Cheshire, adds that the long-term effects of treatment on young people are still not fully understood.
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He says: “There will be many 18-year-olds who haven’t fully grown into their natural features.
“By trying to radically alter someone’s looks, you actually interfere with and impede that growth.
“While injectable treatments like dermal fillers might seem a simple, quick fix, in the wrong hands they can be dangerous.”