Leeds Beckett academic contributes to cosmetic procedures report
Shirley Anne Tate, Professor of Race and Education in the Carnegie School of Education, was part of the Nuffield Institute for Bioethics Working Party, who have published a report, Cosmetic procedures: Ethical issues, which makes a series of recommendations that highlight areas of concern for the practice and promotion of invasive cosmetic procedures in the UK.
The report highlights that new developments and marketing have made an increasing range of surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures – including botox, dermal fillers, implants, and skin lightening, as well as newer techniques such as ‘fat freezing’ and ‘vampire’ treatments – big business and widely accessible.
The report suggests that under 18s are bombarded by social media and popular culture that focus on body image and the work of the group found that young people feel the need to conform to appearance ‘ideals’. These expectations are exacerbated by apps that present cosmetic surgery as a game.
Professor Tate said: “This work was long overdue because of the prevalence of these procedures and the possibility of harm that flows from them because of the profit motive. My area of expertise on the Working party was race, culture and beauty and my work on skin lightening was helpful in our deliberations.”
Jeanette Edwards, Professor of Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester, who chaired the Council’s inquiry, added: “We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including makeover apps and cosmetic surgery games that target girls as young as nine. There is a daily bombardment from advertising and through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that relentlessly promote unrealistic and often discriminatory messages on how people, especially girls and women, ‘should’ look.”
The report also recommends that social media companies collaborate to carry out independent research to better understand how social media contributes to appearance anxiety, and to act on the findings.
Taking into account appearance pressures on young people, the Council also recommends a ban on providing invasive cosmetic procedures to people under 18, unless a team of health professionals, including specialists, GPs and psychologists, are involved.
The Council’s report calls for a complete overhaul of the regulation of products used in cosmetic procedures – particularly dermal fillers. Fillers that have no formal quality or safety approval can currently be bought freely in the UK, and there are no limits on who can inject them. The report recommends that the Department of Health should make all dermal fillers prescription-only, which, as well as placing limits on which fillers can be used, will mean that those prescribing them need to take professional responsibility for their injection.
The Council says that the Department of Health must work with professional bodies to ensure that information on the number and type of cosmetic procedures carried out in the UK is collected and made publically available, as well as data and research also being needed to improve the very poor evidence base on the outcomes of procedures.
In addition the Council believes: that it is unethical that there is nothing to stop unqualified people from providing risky procedures like dermal fillers; that anyone offering invasive cosmetic treatments should be trained and certified before being allowed to practise; that there should be an awareness campaign to help people check their practitioner’s credentials and that the Government should fully implement recommendations made by the Keogh report in 2013 so the public can be assured that those providing cosmetic procedures, the places where they are carried out, and the products used are all properly regulated.
Professor Tate joined Leeds Beckett University in April 2017 and has written widely on topics including the body, mixed-race, beauty, and the cultures of skin. The focus of her research is Black diaspora politics and she will begin a new international collaboration this summer, looking into what needs to be done to tackle racialisation across the UK, Sweden, South Africa and Brazil and how National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) play a vital role in national approaches to countering racism.
To read the full report, Cosmetic procedures: Ethical issues, click here.