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.