Advertising and cosmetic surgery

The recent warm weather has got us geared up for the summer silly season when less circumspect cosmetic surgery providers start promising ‘beach ready bodies’ or ‘bikini bodies’ with too-good-to-be-true offers. No other surgical sector would see advertising linking special offers with seasonal events – such as ‘Pucker Up this Valentine’s Day with our Special Lip Augmentation Deal’ – and we should not be seeing it in plastic surgery.

I am a member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) who have long campaigned for an end to irresponsible cosmetic surgery advertising, but a year on from the Keogh Review into Cosmetic Surgery and the Government’s response, it seems that little has changed.

To recap, the suggestions of the Keogh Report included the following:

the existing advertising and recommendations and restrictions should be updated and be better enforced
no financial inducements, including time-limited deals, should be allowed in the promotion of aesthetic treatments to avoid inappropriately influencing more vulnerable consumers

Currently, this is seen as ‘best practice’ rather than enshrined in law so it means that responsible, ethical plastic surgeons, such as myself, follow this advice to the letter, but others are free to subvert these recommendations and receive little in the way of censure.

All advertising in the UK, across all media, is monitored by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and any advertising that receives a complaint is investigated. However, even a cursory look at recent adverts from cosmetic surgery clinic chains that have been investigated and complaints upheld, show that the offenders are just instructed to remove the advert in question. By this point, data has been collected and potentially vulnerable prospective patients influenced and yet no more drastic action is taken.

Plastic surgery, well considered and appropriate, can have a life-enhancing impact on a patient’s self esteem and confidence. But it should never be rushed or motivated by a special offer or deal.