Cosmetics sector still in need of tighter regulation

The cosmetics industry is more stable than it has been in the past but still needs tighter regulation, according to Sally Taber, director of the Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service.

Speaking at the LaingBuisson Private Acute Conference last week, Taber said that despite moves towards a better regulatory landscape for cosmetics, she remained unconvinced there had been genuine efforts to clamp down on bad practice in the sector.

‘There’s a lot of money out there and I think we need to recognise that,’ she said.

According to Taber, just 25 surgeons have so far signed up to a training scheme set up by the Royal College of Surgeons encouraging providers to show evidence of their competencies.

However, in LaingBuisson consultant Liz Heath’s overview of the market, she said it had become clear during the course of her research that there is more stability in the market, as well as a greater focus on quality and outcomes.

She told delegates that the sector was ‘segmented’ between cosmetic surgery offered by hospitals and surgical procedures carried out by independent specialists.

Cosmetic surgery is worth around £273m, with minimal growth in the last few years, according to Heath, but she put the value of the non-surgical market at £2.75bn.

‘I’ve said the non-surgical industry ‘could’ be worth some £2.75bn because obtaining reliable data on that side of things has been a challenge, but it’s clear that there is a real boom in the market’, she added.

However, Taber remained doubtful that ‘any knowledge whatsoever’ could be collected on the exact size of the non-surgical cosmetics markets.

‘Non-injectables are everywhere … you only need to look at the beauty therapist on the high street … we’ve got absolutely no knowledge of the exact size of the market,’ she said.

Joanne Easterbrook, senior partner at law firm Bevan Brittan, said the cosmetics industry had enjoyed comparatively higher growth than other areas of private healthcare such as IVF because of the scale of the industry. However, she said its scale presented a challenge in managing governance in the industry to ensure there are good processes around consent.

She said: ‘I think the buying practices of the individual is significant because those seeking cosmetic enhancement have a certain amount in common with IVF in that both consumers very much want the procedure and therefore have some appetite to take on risk’.

However, she said consumers may have a lower threshold or low engagement level with researching and understanding what risks are involved in cosmetic procedures, which combined with other factors, can turn into a high number of cosmetics claims.

Breast augmentation is the world’s most popular cosmetic procedure, according to Heath. However, with 80% of searches for the procedure taking place online on a mobile or a tablet device, she said the challenge for providers will be adapting their styles of engagement with customers to grow the market.