Fall in demand for cosmetic surgery as non-invasive procedures continue to gain ground

Leading cosmetic surgeons are calling for tighter regulation of non-invasive cosmetic treatments as new figures indicate some patients are choosing procedures such as Botox and fillers over surgical intervention.

The latest annual audit from the The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) found its members carried our over 28,000 procedures in 2018 – up just 0.1% on the previous year.

Despite increased demand for some procedures, such as liposuction which grew by 9%, there was a 15% fall in brow lifts for women and a 4% drop in the number of brow lifts performed on men. Male cosmetic surgery, which has been on the rise in recent years, dropped by 4.7% overall as non-surgical treatments gained in popularity.

Former BAAPS President Rajiv Grover, who compiles the audit on an annual basis, said the figures underlined the value of procedures such as Botox but warned that the non-surgical sector is rife with ‘lax regulation and unethical promotions’.

According to BAAPS President and consultant plastic surgeon Paul Harris, Further regulation of products, practitioners, procedures and premises is now urgently required.

‘The rise in high-street and DIY non-surgical cosmetic procedures is hugely concerning for a number of reasons, not least the potential for profit to be placed before patient care. Other issues are that it makes it easier for underage individuals to access, that unrealistic expectations may not be addressed, and that any emergency complications would need to be dealt with outside of a medical environment,’ he said.

Recent research by LaingBuisson suggests the non-surgical cosmetic market has burgeoned in recent years as increased affordability and access make treatment more socially acceptable. The trend away from dramatic results and towards ‘perfect and polish’ tweaks has also helped fuel demand, but the sector remains dogged by a ‘wild west’ reputation when it comes to regulation.

‘Undergoing a cosmetic procedure is never a decision to take lightly – that’s why the BAAPS always advocates that any procedure should be preceded by a robust assessment of the patient’s physical and psychological well-being, something all BAAPS surgeons do as standard,’ said Harris.

Breast augmentation remained the top procedure among BAAPS members in 2018 but at 7,745 was down 6% on 2017. Breast reduction came in second place – up 6% to 4,299. However, the third most popular treatment, blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) dropped by 4% to 3,153. Demand for fat transfer and otoplasty (ear correction) also declined while the total number of browlifts dropped by 14% to just 383.