Why some beauty treatments should never be DIY

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At bh, we are all for DIY beauty treatments, but at what point should you leave your look to the professionals?

A recent survey found 10 per cent of Australians admit to having non-surgical cosmetic treatments performed in a home setting – almost double the number compared with the same survey in 2015*.

It may seem harmless, but experts say the risk to patients of infection when being treated by unaccredited practitioners is alarmingly high. And with NSW Health now warning against these dangerous DIY practices, it’s clear this is a message that needs to be spread.

I spoke to CPCA spokesperson, Dr Catherine Porter; Privée clinic skin specialist, Ana Troccoli; and Privée clinic skin and cosmetic injectables specialist, Natalie Abouchar about why some beauty treatments should never be DIY…

What are the risks with DIY cosmetic treatments?

While the idea of a hair-free bod, smooth complexion or luscious lips for less might seem appealing, Dr Porter says the risk of infection as a result of getting “injectables, laser treatments and microdermabrasion administered in unsafe environments” is “incredibly high”.

In addition to “cases of unlicensed practitioners performing injections with the same needle for multiple patients” (resulting in risks for infection from cross contamination), Dr Porter warns non-registered practitioners have been found to be “illegally importing medication [including counterfeit fillers] via the internet.” This means the products aren’t TGA-approved, so in the case of injectables, “you will have no idea what is actually being injected.”

Alarmingly, Dr Porter has also heard of non-registered practitioners performing serious “cosmetic surgeries, including double eyelid suturing, rhinoplasties (nose jobs), thread lifts and liposuction, in their private residences.”

Ultimately, people who have cosmetic treatments in “unregulated, unlicensed premises” aren’t just putting themselves at risk of unsightly results. Dr Porter explains they’re also gambling with serious “blood-borne viral infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV”, as well as “skin necrosis, inflammatory reactions, anaphylaxis and blindness”.

The worst part? Unlicensed practitioners tend to “neglect their duty of care for the people they are treating”, which means “there is unlikely to be any recourse for the patient if a complication occurs.” Cosmetic doctors are increasingly seeing patients who have come from black market cosmetic ‘clinics’ with complications.

Natalie says that depending on the treatment, the aesthetic complications could include “major bruising, skin reaction[s], scarring and burns.” Correcting the damage can be costly, which means it’s well worth seeing a registered practitioner in the first place!

Which cosmetics treatments are best left to the professionals and where should you go for them?

According to Natalie, “Almost all cosmetic treatments that require recovery time” should be performed by a professional skin specialist, including professional laser, skin needling, peels and microdermabrasion treatments.

Dr Porter says this also includes treatment of serious acne scarring, as well as injectables including muscle relaxants and dermal fillers, which are classified as ‘S4 medications’ and must be prescribed and administered by either a qualified medical practitioner or a nurse under a doctor’s supervision.

Dr Porter stresses that seeing a registered practitioner ensures you are receiving care from someone who is “not only appropriately trained, appropriately insured, and held to account to national standards, but someone who sources their products from legitimate suppliers.”

Ana adds that an experienced clinician should have “in-depth product knowledge” of any active cosmeceutical ingredients and prescription medications being used, and depending on the treatment, offer “a detailed skin analysis” and “post-care advice”.

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With all this in mind, it’s essential you do your homework and look for the following before embarking on an invasive cosmetic treatment:

  1. Choose a doctor or nurse that is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
  2. Choose a doctor who is a member/fellow of the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA), as this means they will have post-graduate training in cosmetic procedures.  
  3. “Always look for TGA-approved products, as the safety of illegally imported products cannot be guaranteed.”
  4. Be aware that “some home clinics flout Australian laws and post videos of their procedures and before-and-after photos on social media.”
  5. Be mindful that unregistered practitioners may also charge the same rates as legitimate clinics, which means they can be difficult to identify.

Which cosmetics treatments are safe to perform at home?

The advent of handheld lasers for hair removal and skin improvement has been a game-changer for many women, but Dr Porter says DIY beauty pros should still “consult a doctor before using these home devices.” According to the expert, they usually cover less skin area than doctors’ lasers, which means that if you do decide to treat yourself, “it’s imperative that you follow the instructions to the letter”. Oh, and bear in mind that over-treating the same area can cause welts, blisters or scars (owch).

According to Ana, LED skin treatments in the form of handheld LED machines may also be safe to use at home provided the correct eyewear is worn, as “they are nowhere near as strong as the in-clinic LED treatment.”

Another treatment she considers safe to perform at home is skin needling, using a dermal roller. Although the DIY tool isn’t as strong as the in-salon equivalent, Ana actually recommends this treatment for her clients, as it can help with “allowing your prescribed skin care products to penetrate down into the dermis.”  

The bottom line? Put your health and safety first and always seek professional advice before performing DIY cosmetic skin treatments – and only see registered practitioners for professional treatments.

*NineRewards survey of 1020 Australians, commissioned by the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia, May 2016.

Patients interested in finding a qualified doctor with an interest in non-invasive cosmetic medicine can visit www.cpca.net.au.

Have you experienced complications from a beauty treatment? Do you perform treatments such as laser hair removal and skin needling safely at home?

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