New to Aesthetic Legislation? Here’s What You Need to Know to Stay Compliant

With new aesthetic regulation treatment laws and legislation on the horizon, prioritising patient safety and ensuring your practice is legally compliant is more important than ever. The rise in non-surgical cosmetic treatments across the UK has also seen an increase in poorly executed procedures due to unqualified and inexperienced ‘practitioners’ and the use of unregulated products in unsuitable premises.

By understanding and adhering to aesthetic legislation, you’re establishing the integrity of your practice and ensuring the safety of your patients. Whether you’re a new aesthetic practitioner or starting an aesthetic practice, find out everything you need to know about aesthetic practice regulation and legislation to stay legally compliant. 

The Basics of Aesthetic Legislation

The purpose of cosmetic procedure legislation is to protect patients and prioritise their safety. It’s also designed to elevate practitioner standards and build confidence in the aesthetic industry while encouraging technological innovation and respecting consumer choice. 

Overview of Relevant Laws and Regulations

To achieve aesthetic legislation compliance, you need to understand and adhere to the most relevant laws and regulations. While there are certain standards in the non-surgical aesthetic industry set out by the National Occupational Standards (NOS), there are no mandatory training requirements for practitioners. Due to growing concerns from the public, practitioners, and representative bodies in the field of aesthetic medicine around the lack of regulation, the government introduced the Health and Care Act in April 2022. 

This Act allows the government to introduce a licensing scheme for aesthetic practitioners who operate in England. Why? To make non-surgical cosmetic procedures safer for patients and to ensure they receive a high standard of care. With a current lack of restrictions as to who can legally perform aesthetic procedures, tighter regulations are required to ensure public safety and to minimise the potential risks associated with non-surgical cosmetic treatments. 

While the Health and Care Act in April 2022 applies to England only, Scotland has also determined that further regulation of non-surgical cosmetic procedures is necessary, including the restriction of who can administer dermal fillers

Current regulations in the aesthetic medicine industry across the UK are fragmented and the need for legal consistency on a national scale is imperative. For example, a small number of local authorities in England, including Nottingham, Essex, Birmingham, and London, have introduced local licensing schemes which vary in the type of non-surgical cosmetic treatments they cover. 

While this is a step in the right direction, more must be done to elevate standards across the country and to ensure that only highly skilled practitioners administer aesthetic procedures.  

Consent and Patient Rights

As an aesthetic professional, navigating and considering ethical issues are essential to ensuring patient safety, health, and well-being. Aesthetic practitioners are obligated to work within a legal framework that requires thorough record-keeping. Having detailed records enables practitioners to carefully monitor a patient’s progress, check for adverse reactions, and make informed decisions about potential further treatments. 

Ethically, keeping detailed records emphasises a practitioner’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Legally, these records provide proof of informed consent and demonstrate an adherence to protocols. Extensive record-keeping also shows that the practitioner acted in accordance with the industry’s standard of care.

By maintaining accurate documentation, practitioners are upholding a code of ethics that respects patient rights, including confidentiality, privacy, and the right to be informed about their treatment options and potential risks.

Advertising and Marketing Compliance

When advertising and marketing aesthetic services, there are certain ethical issues to consider and standards to adhere to. For example, when describing your aesthetics services, terms such as “best”, “renowned”, “specialist, “leading”, and “qualified”, need to be supported with solid evidence. Similarly, if you describe a particular procedure as “scar-free” or “pain-free”, you will need to provide hard evidence. In a nutshell, you should always substantiate any claims with proof. 

In terms of patient testimonials and photos, make sure the patient has provided written permission for you to use any related materials for marketing purposes. All before and after photos of patients must be genuine and unaltered. To achieve medical aesthetic compliance in your advertising and marketing efforts, always be clear and honest in any promotional material you create. 

Handling Complications and Complaints

In general, reported complications in aesthetic procedures are low, with most cases involving either non-medical practitioners or self-injection. Again, this highlights the need for stricter regulations in the aesthetic industry, specifically concerning who can perform these treatments. 

Although rare, complications and complaints can occur, even for highly skilled practitioners. In these scenarios, practitioners should have appropriate referral networks in place and should refer to existing guidelines from reputable organisations in the industry including Aesthetic Complications Group (ACE) and Complications in Medical Aesthetic Collaborative (CMAC). These authorities specialise in complication management to support medical professionals in using safe and regulated products.

In the event of legal proceedings following complaints, practitioners can provide records and patient documentation as evidence. This is why keeping well-maintained records is so vital. Having appropriate professional indemnity insurance in place is also important, not only to protect you but your patients too. 

Staying Updated with Aesthetic Regulation Changes

To help you keep up-to-date with the most important legislation changes in aesthetic medicine, there are plenty of reputable organisations, recommended resources, and further education opportunities to explore, including:

  • Save Face: A voluntary register for regulated healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists who provide non-surgical cosmetic treatments. Save Face is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), an organisation designed to protect the UK public by overseeing the regulation and registration of healthcare professionals.
  • The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP): As a PSA-accredited organisation, JCCP is another voluntary register open to all practitioners working in the field of aesthetic medicine.
  • Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH): A registered charity tackling environmental health issues and promoting standards in the training and education of environmental health professionals.
  • British Beauty Council (BBCo): An authoritative industry body that works with the beauty industry, government, and other companies to drive excellence and growth across the sector.
  • Acquisition Aesthetics: An award-winning training provider in aesthetic injectables that offers a plethora of training courses to help practitioners elevate their skills and keep in line with the most recent industry legislation. 

FAQs for New Practitioners

When will the new law for regulating non-surgical cosmetic procedures be passed?

According to the government, “From the date the consultation closes and throughout 2024 and 2025, the government will work with expert groups on the elements that will underpin the licensing scheme, including education and training standards, insurance, infection control and hygiene qualifications and a fees model.” 

In short, the government has committed to introducing and implementing robust legislation under the Health and Care Act, however, no timeline has been given.

What cosmetic procedures will be licensed?  

Under section 180: Licensing of cosmetic procedures in the Health and Care Act 2022, a cosmetic procedure is defined as “a procedure, other than a surgical or dental procedure, that is or may be carried out for cosmetic purposes; and the reference to a procedure includes—

  1. the injection of a substance;
  2. the application of a substance that is capable of penetrating into or through the epidermis;
  3. the insertion of needles into the skin;
  4. the placing of threads under the skin;
  5. the application of light, electricity, cold or heat”

What will change for practitioners? 

The legislation will need to be drafted before we find out what will be included within the licence and what level of training will be required for practitioners. That said, we can theorise that for practitioners to receive a licence, they will need to demonstrate that they possess a certain standard of knowledge and skill to perform aesthetic procedures effectively and safely. These exact requirements will be set out in the new regulations (yet to be released). 

A bright future for aesthetic medicine

With the new licensing scheme to be released under the Health and Care Act 2022, new practitioners must get ahead by consulting with legal consultants or professional organisations specialising in aesthetic medicine to review their practice’s compliance and address any gaps. 

All practitioners should have extensive knowledge of aesthetic legislation to ensure they’re adhering to all the legal requirements in aesthetic medicine and to provide their patients with the best-in-class care. With tighter aesthetic regulations and better standards being introduced, we can only hope for a better and brighter future for the aesthetic medicine industry in the UK.


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