The frequency of cosmetic surgery procedures in Australia has risen significantly over the past two decades. With more than 500,000 separate procedures performed last year, Australia has overtaken the United States as the most cosmetic procedures per capita, which may come as a surprise to many (Chan, 2021). In 2017, cosmetic procedures became a billion-dollar industry (Hakim, 2019).
With any growing industry comes business opportunity. “Injectables” (botox and filler) have become especially common. One of Australia’s largest providers of non-surgical aesthetic providers, SILK Laser Australia, was founded in Adelaide in 2009 with a single clinic and now operates over 50 clinics across the country (Marozzi, 2022). Injectables have become SILK’s most lucrative revenue driver, delivering estimated revenue of $627 million for the 2020 calendar year (Marozzi, 2022). The company also expects to achieve annual growth of 25% between 2021 and 2024 (Marozzi, 2022). To justify this, in a 2020 prospectus SILK told potential investors it had seen “increasing female acceptance of cosmetic injectables as a means of providing anti-ageing solutions, as well as the growth of celebrities actively promoting anti-wrinkle and dermal filler treatments” (Marozzi, 2022, p. 1). The prevalence of breast argumentation has also increased dramatically since 2000, with the number of procedures rising from 5,000 to 20,000 per year (Marozzi, 2022). Additionally, thepandemic has created a spike in demand, led by the “Zoom Boom”, a term developed by researches to describe the rise in concern of people about their appearance after looking at their face on screen for extended periods of time (Manly, 2022).
With the opportunity for market expansion within this type of industry comes responsibility. Unfortunately, it appears that cosmetic providers are failing to adequately address necessary risks while promoting such procedures. Potential clients are often shown a picture-perfect photo on social media and told the look can be achieved through anti-wrinkle injections and fillers in just 15 minutes for a few hundred dollars. They are not initially told about the side effects, which may include temporary facial weakness, drooping, slurred speech, trouble swallowing, unwanted lumps, or permeant blindness in extreme cases (Hakim, 2019). There has also been an alarming rise in corrective surgeries performed by surgeons on patients who now regret their decisions and were never made adequately aware of the risks (Aphra & National Boards, 2022).
Matters are further complicated by regulatory loopholes. In Australia, ‘cosmetic surgery’ is not yet a recognised specialty. Additionally, the title ‘cosmetic surgeon’ is not protected under the Health Practitioner Regulation Law (Aphra & National Boards, 2022).
On 30 November 2021 Aphra and the Medical Board of Australia announced they were (finally) commissioning an external review of the cosmetic sector, led by outgoing Queensland Health Ombudsman Andrew Brown (Aphra & National Boards, 2022). The review will focus on patient safety concerns and how to strengthen regulation of industry practitioners, including implementing a system of checks and balances (Aphra & National Boards, 2022). It has been widely acknowledged that state and territory authorities have a crucial regulatory role in licencing facilities, and that improved communication and cooperation between agencies involved in the current system is long overdue (Aphra & National Boards, 2022).
Such reform is in the wider public interest; however, it specifically addresses the most widespread concern, namely that cosmetic surgery providers are exploiting the insecurities of young people for profit. BodyMatters commends this review. This is particularly relevant for people who suffer from Body Dysmorphia, which is a crippling psychological disorder. Research has indicated that no amount of cosmetic surgery will result in improved body image for this group of people, who make up a significant portion of those undertaking cosmetic surgery, Indeed, people who experience this disorder are likely to be unsatisfied with their surgical outcomes. It is paramount that this vulnerable group of people are protected rather than preyed upon and are offered the opportunity to undertake an intervention that is far more likely to assist in helping improve how they feel about how they look- which is typically CBT that focuses on the symptoms of Body Dysmorphia.
Alpra & National Boards. (2021). Ahpra and Medical Board announce review of cosmetic surgery, viewed 3 March 2022, https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/2021-11-24-cosmetic-review.aspx.
Chan, G. (2021). Cosmetic Surgery Statistics, Australia and Around the World. Viewed 6 March 2021, https://www.thevictoriancosmeticinstitute.com.au/2020/01/cosmetic-surgery-statistics-australia-around-the-world/.
Hakim, L. (2019). From botox to breast implants: the dangers of cosmetic surgery. Viewed 13 March 2022, https://www.hcf.com.au/health-agenda/health-care/treatments-and-procedures/from-botox-to-breast-implants-the-dangers-of-cosmetic-surgery.
Marozzi, M. (2022). ‘Baby Botox’: Why smoothed skin Gen Z and millennials are getting anti-wrinkle injections’, viewed 8 March 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-10/baby-botox-why-gen-z-millennials-getting-anti-wrinkle-injections/100690518.
Manly, L. (2020). Cosmetic injectables on the rise as patients rush to fix their ‘Zoom-face’. Viewed 10 March 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/cosmetic-injectables-on-the-rise-as-patients-rush-to-fix-their-zoom-face-20200925-p55z8v.html.