Ugly Face of Beauty Coverage of Dermal Fillers Angers Aesthetic Industry

Posted on the 06 August 2010 at 15:45

The final episode of the Channel 4 series The Ugly Face of Beauty, presented by TV Doctor Christian Jessen saw them take a look at the unregulated world of dermal fillers.

Specifically the show focused on the dangers posed by permanent filler products but failed to adequately explain the difference between permanent and temporary products available in UK medical aesthetic clinics in terms of the types of substances used and the way that the body interacts with them, and may or may not metabolise the materials over time. 

It is this lack of detailed explanations which has caused some anger within the aesthetic industry, and lead to criticism of the programme as out and out scare mongering.

The distinction in the severity of the potential side effects that can occur with both temporary and permanent  dermal fillers was not properly explored . It was highlighted that complications from permanent products could include migration, inflammation, scarring and lump formation, but it was not clarified that such side effects are significantly rarer with temporary products such as hyaluronic acid based fillers which are the most widely available dermal fillers that the public will encounter.

To the uninitiated, these omissions could lead to the assumption that all dermal filler products, from temporary hyaluronic acid and collagen based products to those with permanent synthetic compounds, are all the same and thus equally as likely to cause serious complications such as those featured extensively on the show.

During the programme Dr. Christian meet with two women, Vanessa and Julie, who had both received a permanent filler product which had subsequently migrated and caused lumps under their skin. The women were seen to be visibly distressed when talking about their experiences.  He also met with beauty clinic owner Sarah Payne who admitted to not having done enough research into the science of the product before offering herself up as a volunteer model; she also now suffers with migration of the product around her face and has had several operations to remove lumps.  Although the product itself was not named on the programme, these cases have been widely reported in the popular tabloids and consumer television shows so it is known that the adverse effects are as a result of Bio-Alcamid; a permanent dermal filler based on a synthetic alkyl-imide gel polymer.

Essentially, although the claims made about permanent dermal filler products had merit, it could be argued that the programme focused on the extreme end of the industry without covering the fact that most reputable medical aesthetic clinics use only temporary  filler products. Such products, like the market leading hyaluronic acid dermal fillers, Restylane® and Juvéderm® Ultra, have long term safety data and the more stringent U.S. FDA approval so pose very few complications to the patient.

One of our members, Helen Hannigan RGN at Waterside Aesthetics Ltd, who was angered at the approach taken by the programme, told us how she had received two cancellations for appointments for treatment with the temporary filler Juvéderm Ultra on the morning following the airing of the Channel 4 programme. No amount of reassurance about the product and its safety could persuade her clients to change their minds.

Helen said; “I was very disappointed to see this programme not explore the differences between permanent and temporary dermal filler products in more detail given its educational stance.”

Episode 4 of The Ugly Face of Beauty is available for 30 days in Channel 4oD.

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Blog Comment(s) [2]

Bio Alcamid victims were equally disappointed that the product wasn't named in the programme. Firstly of course it would have separated it from the temporary, safer products. Secondly it would have made public the name of a product which has made our lives a misery, and we would have wished that the manufacturer's name was made public also! Unlike the manufacturers of Novabel,who have been pro-active in their declarations of problems and seem to be doing their best to resolve them, Polymekon have denied responsibility for all of the complications since producing this awful product. They have changed their instructions on injection technique, needle size, placement of the product, almost everything you can think of, to blame the injectors. As their instructions have changed over the years, no wonder someone injecting it would have used what they describe as the 'wrong' technique. They also said their product was 'easily removable' which it most definitely is not, and never has been. We were injected by reputable people, mine was a GMC registered Plastic Surgeon. At the time of my injection (2005) I researched on the internet as far as I could, putting the name of the product in threw back many sites advertising it, and the 'scientific' testing and safety of the product, all I could find was glowing reports about it. But, had I been a savvy searcher then, if I had put in the words 'nightmare' 'migration' 'infection' or 'lumps' I would have uncovered much more, as there were stories around even then. This product has caused problems for people in the UK, US, in most of the European countries, even in Italy itself, where the manufacturer is based. There are forums in Italy where people are asking for help with their lumps. I do feel also that the surgeon who injected me should have done much more research before believing Polymekon's 'scientific research'. Something is going badly wrong here, and regulation is desperately needed so that these companies (and the injectors) have to show much more responsibility. Programmes like the Ugly Face of Beauty need to be clearer, not only to protect approved, tried and tested products we can trust, but to name and shame the products, manufacturers and injectors involved in the use of products such as Bio Alcamid, which can cause so many years of misery, pain from surgery, and permanent scarring.


I watched BBC this morning with interest as the guest was Sarah Payne talking about lumps that developed after facial filler was injected. I am in negotiations at present with a clinic regarding the removal of Bio-alcamid which has migrated from my cheeks to underneath my eyes. I have a significant lump under my right eye which the clinic have offered to remove using a lower eye lid lift. I have also developed inflammation of my joints over the past few years and following various internet links this morning I have discovered that Bio-alcamid could be the cause. I have been warned by the clinic that the removal of the lump may result in retraction of the lower lid so I am worried about further disfigurement. I too, suffer from self consciousness as a result of the lumps in my face and hate my appearance. I was asked by a friend who worked at the clinic if I would be a model for the surgeon to be shown how to inject Bio-alcamid. The clinic could find no written notes about this teaching session but have agreed to perform the operation free of charge, but I am worried about being even more disfigured if the procedure causes retraction of the eyelid. I do not know where to turn for the best solution. Do you know if it can be removed non-surgically, as I also feel small nodules on my cheek bones which appear puffy and look unsightly.