How Young is Too Young? Avoiding Bad Practice in Aesthetic Medicine
Whether you have recently started practising aesthetic treatments, or have been a practitioner for years, you will have noticed the recurring debate within the industry: how young is too young to receive cosmetic treatments?
With aesthetic medicine becoming widely accessible, and acceptable, increasing numbers of people in their teens and early 20s are turning to cosmetic interventions in a bid to correct or even prevent perceived age-related flaws. However, not all procedures are being administered in line with best practice, which is a constant concern within the industry.
‘Preventative Botox’ has also become a popular idea recently, despite there not being sufficient evidence to evaluate the long-term effects of the treatment. Might persistently paralysed facial muscles begin to atrophy or droop after decades of Botox?
Some doctors such as Dr Darren McKeow believe believe premature Botox could even make patients look older:
“The face is an ever-evolving structure that changes over a lifetime. Botox aims to halt the decline, but long-term overuse of the drug can lead to atrophy of the muscles, which can be particularly noticeable around the eyes, where the face can appear inadvertently aged – despite the lack of wrinkles.”
Dr Darren McKeow
Truthfully, we cannot yet know the long-term effects of early Botox use. Young people seeking to avoid the effects of aging in the future should be made aware that it is not an evidence-based practice, and should not be administered ‘preventative Botox’ under false pretenses.
Perhaps with the rise in celebrities admitting to having aesthetic procedures, from Kim Kardashian’s early Botox or her sister Kylie’s infamous lip fillers, the concept is being normalised without an equivalent increase in longitudinal research or risk assessment. Our job, as practitioners, is to assess the patient’s perspective on treatment through individual consultation, where the risks, psychological evaluations, consent and reflection are all scrutinised.
To avoid bad practice, here are a few points to consider when faced with a young patient seeking cosmetic intervention:
1. Pre-treatment consultation
It is immensely important that you assess the psychological maturity of your patient:
Are they seeking treatment voluntarily?
Do they show any signs of Body Dysmorphia, such as a disproportionate preoccupation with a perceived deficit?
Are they fully aware of the risks involved?
Have they been given sufficient time and information before moving ahead with the treatment?
2. Consult and treat patients in-line with the new GMC rules and HEE guidelines:
Avoid poor practice and follow the guidelines outlined by General Medical Council (GMC) and Royal College of Surgeons (RCS). GMC guidance maintains that Botulinum Toxins should not be administered to individuals under the age of 18 nor should treatments be sold to children or used to incentivise them.
3. At what point should you turn a young patient away?
Consent must be sought by the doctor or practitioner who will be performing the cosmetic treatment. If you are unhappy with your assessment of the patient after the pre-treatment consultation has taken place, it doesn’t matter whether they say that they will go elsewhere — you must make a professional decision to decline their request for cosmetic treatment.