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Green Flags when seeking your Aesthetic Practitioner

  • Every few weeks of late, it seems, we are seeing posts on social media of young women with rare complications due to injectables, namely, dermal filler.
  • Not that long ago, it was a young woman who posted of her experience on TikTok.
  • Shortly after, well known influencer Lily Ghalichi posted of her own experience with a blocked blood vessel, ie a vascular occlusion, a well known, if rare side effect of dermal fillers, to her Instagram and how it was treated when caught (early).

Yesterday another young woman from the USA posted and what stood out to me this time, was the way she presented her story and the red flags present within it, to anyone who knew what to look for. It got me thinking, why are more people not aware of what red flags to look out for and by the same token, what green flags to indicate you are in safe hands? 

So I posted on my own IG, to try and educate those who choose to have dermal fillers.

What are some safety features, or GREEN flags you should be looking out for in your aesthetic practitioner?

  • their qualifications - in Australia currently, injecting S4 drugs (anti wrinkle treatments, dermal fillers and other related drugs) are limited only to AHPRA registered medical practitioners - nurses, doctors, dentists. Is your practitioner registered and of good standing with AHPRA?
  • their experience? How many years post graduate are they? Injectables flooded the market a decade or more ago, and it is becoming more and more common to see people taking up the briefest of training simply to be able to go into aesthetics, often without much or any post graduate experience.
  • do they take their time with you in the consultation or is it designed to convert you? Do you feel pressured to proceed with the treatment on the day? Do they cover complications in a way that is designed to be realistic or simply to get you to proceed?
  • when, not if, when, something does go wrong, do they have a safety net in place to help you until the concern is resolved, or a way to refer you to someone else who can help? Do they have the necessary drugs stocked and ready to go? Do they practice in a location whereby if you had an emergency at 11pm, they can open the clinic or salon to see you if needed?
  • do they have a clear aftercare plan and system to check all is well and a means for you to contact them if you have concerns?

When and if there are complications, can you rely on them to be there with you and to refer you appropriately if it is out of their skillset, until the issue is resolved?

Beauty and Aesthetics especially, is a multi-billion dollar industry and it feels some days like everyone wants in because the demand is so huge. Unfortunately even though we are not like the UK, where literally anyone can inject and buy drugs off eBay, we are still a largely unregulated industry and people are frequently sold the illusion that it is “just beauty” and the “customer is always right”. 

Many practitioners seem to undersell the gravity of rare but serious complications when talking to and consenting patients. It is often sold as “fun”, “sexy” and with minimal complications.

Patients are often shocked when they’re told about the rare but serious risk of vascular occlusion or even blindness, even though they have had filler elsewhere before.

Others report feeling pressured into it on the day due to hefty consultation fees redeemable only with treatment on the day.

It is worth remembering that as AHPRA registered practitioners, doctors, nurses and dentists have a duty of care, which includes “first do no harm”, to act always in the patient’s best interests, to not be seen to be inducing vulnerable people (incentives, specials, posting testimonials and even using drug names are all prohibited in Australia) even and especially if that means saying no and not placing undue pressure on the day to “convert” regardless of whether that is what the patient wants or expects.

I tend to tell patients not to rush, that aesthetic treatments, by their very nature, are entirely non essential, and to take the time; I tell them they should not feel or be rushed especially if doing so will lead to regret.

  • at best these patients may report feeling rushed, pressured or unhappy.
  • at worst, they may end up with an avoidable complication (which can occur in the best, most experienced hands) that is missed due to rushing or inexperience. 

It is time we begin to reassess our relationship with medical aesthetics - they aren’t usually a one-size-fits-all, they aren’t without risks including severe complications, especially when missed and they are not something that should ever be taken up on impulse. Unlike other aspects of beauty such as hair, nails and makeup, breaking the skin barrier carrier risk every single time and your skin and your face deserve the necessary diligence before you proceed. 

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