Cosmetic Treatments

The term cosmetic treatments covers a wide range of activities and procedures. It is generally taken to mean any procedure which is designed to change the appearance, colour, texture or structure of bodily features. Cosmetic treatments include so called ‘beauty treatments’ undertaken purely as enhancements to an individual’s appearance, and also remedial and camouflage treatments following surgical procedures or major trauma.

Nearly all cosmetic treatments can be performed safely and hygienically but where this does not happen action needs to be taken to protect the public.

In England and Wales there is a range of legislation available to deal with these procedures. Some of this is specific to particular procedures, for example the Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1982  which covers certain types of skin piercing procedures or, in London, the London Local Authorities Act 1991 which applies to businesses carrying out procedures known as
special treatments.  Other legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or the Health Protection Regulations 2010 has a more general application.

Over the past 20 or so years the range of novel treatments has increased significantly and now includes many highly invasive procedures which might more appropriately be described as medical, dental and even surgical procedures although they have no therapeutic purpose.
Some of these pose potential serious risks to the health of those who choose to undergo them. In some cases these treatments may also pose risks to those who undertake them, as well as risks of permanent disfigurement or even disablement if carried out incorrectly or in an unhygienic manner.

There are areas of practice where the application and enforcement of any law is uncertain or absent. As a result, the UK Government is currently reviewing the way in which certain types of cosmetic treatment are regulated. The CIEH is participating fully in this review and is campaigning for all cosmetic treatments to be appropriately regulated to protect the health of the public. We believe the regulatory controls should include:

  • Identifying who may lawfully administer the procedure
  • Specifying the training that person should have
  • The conditions in which the procedure should be carried out
  • The safeguards and restrictions that need to be in place, and
  • The information and advice that must be given to the participant.

In the absence of comprehensive legislation and guidance, we are working with health protection and other experts to produce a series of Health Protection Advice Bulletins to assist local authorities in controlling those treatments for which there is uncertainty over the appropriate legal controls.

For further information on our work in this area please contact the CIEH Policy Team.  

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