88% of London clinics flout Botox advertising regulations, study finds

By Julia Wray | Published: 17-Apr-2023

UK law prohibits the advertising of prescription-only medications like Botox

The majority of beauty clinics in London are breaking UK law by advertising Botox, research by University College London has revealed. 

Under the UK’s Human Medicines Regulations 2012, the advertising of botulinum toxin is prohibited, as is the case for all prescription-only medications. 

The ban encompasses references to brand names such as Botox, Vistabel, Dysport, Bocouture and Azzalure, as well as the term ‘anti-wrinkle injections’.

Published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, UCL’s analysis identified that – between December 2021 and January 2022 – 206 out of a total of 233 (88%) independent clinics sampled were non-compliant with Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines through advertising a prescription medicine.

In all, 142 (61%) of the 206 premises were advertising ‘Botox’ or other brand names, while the others used wording such as ‘anti-wrinkle injections’ or similar banned phrases.

The paper, which was led by Dr David Zargaran, added: “Advertising prescription-only medication may pose a potential risk to patients and will be an important consideration in proposed legislation to introduce licensing to the industry.”

At the start of 2020, the UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which works alongside the ASA, published an enforcement notice reminding practitioners that the advertising of prescription-only medications is prohibited. 

The notice stated that, after Friday 31 January 2020, targeted enforcement action using monitoring technology would be performed where problem posts online were identified. 

Recent months have seen pressure put on the UK government to introduce a promised licensing regime for non-surgical cosmetic procedures to avoid a ‘wild west’ situation. 

In August last year, the Chair of the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt, commented: “The government must act urgently to end the situation where anyone can carry out non-surgical cosmetic procedures, regardless of training or qualifications.”

In the meantime, industry associations are working to help consumers identify safe beauty services and professionals. 

This year, the British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology (BABTAC) launched its T.I.M.E. campaign, which aims to educate consumers on the key things to ask about when booking beauty treatments to better protect themselves from ‘botched’ jobs.  

T.I.M.E. stands for: training, insurance, monitoring and evidence.

At the time of the campaign’s launch, a survey by Beauty Backed Trust found that more than half (56%) of UK consumers currently believe the industry is regulated.

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