Coronavirus: Warning over 'back alley' cosmetic procedures during lockdown

·3-min read

Cosmetic practitioners are warning about the dangers of seeking "back alley" treatments during lockdown.

Professional clinics offering procedures such as lip fillers and botox are closed again, prompting concerns that some may turn to unregulated and often untrained practitioners.

Some doctors say the last lockdown resulted in large increases in people needing corrective treatments after botched procedures.

"Samantha" from Manchester was one of them.

She was feeling down and saw an advert for cosmetic procedures on Facebook, so went along for eye filler injections - carried out in a kitchen.

There were complications however.

The area got infected because the equipment wasn't sterile.

Luckily, the infection stayed in the skin and didn't go to the eye or brain - which can happen in severe cases.

"A couple of hours later my left eye started feeling achy, I felt tired," she says.

"I woke up in the morning and it was swollen, quite puffy.

"I phoned the lady to say my left eye's gone puffy, there's some reason for concern. But she said 'it's normal, it'll go down.'

"But the next day it got red and more swollen, and I got scared then."

She sought advice from Dr Ahmed el Muntasar, who divides his time between shifts in A&E in Manchester and private aesthetic clinics in Manchester, Leeds and London.

He says he's been approached by dozens of people like Samantha in the past few weeks.

"A lot of patients were still trying to get treatment at a time when they shouldn't, and so were getting work done when they really shouldn't have," he tells Sky News.

"And a lot of those patients were experiencing serious complications. So I have seen a 40% increase in the number of corrections of other practitioners' work I'm being asked to do."

He said a common complication is known as vascular occlusion.

It occurs when an injection is misplaced and blocks vital blood vessels. The blockages can mean that the part of the body supplied by that blood vessel is completely deprived of oxygen and nutrients and so can necrotise, or die.

It can result in blindness, loss of tissue, and in extreme cases of infection, even death.

The government-approved industry body Save Face has also seen an increase in complaints - 1,587 of them so far this year, including 381 during the lockdown period of 23 March to the end of July.

Its web traffic and consumer enquiries about treatments also increased by around 40%.

The group's director, Ashton Collins, says: "During the pandemic we have received hundreds of complaints citing procedures gone wrong, or where people have been on the receiving end of terrible service.

"That's come as demand for treatments is so high as a result of the pandemic.

"People have had more time to scrutinise their appearance, and the increase in video calls has led to an increase in demand as well. So as a byproduct of that, the number of unscrupulous practitioners has increased significantly as well."

The advice is for the public to remain vigilant when choosing their practitioner and to only visit those that are suitably qualified and reputable.

Dr el Muntasar says more regulation is needed to protect people like Samantha, and warns others in her situation to beware.

"Quite simply, visiting a 'back alley' practitioner is not worth it.

"With COVID cases rising I worry this latest lockdown may lead to another surge in people receiving botched jobs.

"I urge everyone to never be tempted by rogue practitioners and to wait until your usual practitioner opens and you can visit a safe and professional setting."