The Last Word: Botox Parties

By Sharon Bennett / 01 Feb 2016

Sharon Bennett argues the dangers of at-home injectable treatment parties and why practitioners need to be aware of the risks

Tupperware, Avon, Ann Summers – home parties are common across the globe and millions of people enjoy the comfort of socialising, sampling and shopping in a relaxed home-setting. Nowadays, however, you don’t have to look very far to find a so-socalled ‘Botox party’. These events appear to be a growing trend; a trend that has many medical aesthetic practitioners furrowing their own brows with worry. Many critics are stressing that those offering these ‘parties’ are walking a fine line of medical ethics. I don’t believe any other landmark drug has had such a high public profile as botulinum toxin, and its 20-year journey has taken it from the ophthalmic clinic to the X Factor stage.

Naturally, there are many ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments, however I think it is imperative that we, as medical professionals, make a concerted effort to bring an end to this growing concern.

Bad practice

If you surf the internet for ‘Botox parties’, you will find pages of articles, links and advertisements on the subject. Even though the common theme of the search appears to be that of a negative view of ‘at-home’ parties, there does appear to be marginally fewer objections to parties of patients being treated in a medical environment, such as a clinic. 

Group treatments held in medical clinics might seem a more appropriate setting, but patients should be consulted and consented individually, something that doesn’t appear to happen at these parties

Group treatments held in medical clinics might seem a more appropriate setting, but patients should be consulted and consented individually, something that doesn’t appear to happen at these parties. The British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN) does not support their members in this area of practice. As all healthcare professionals should know, botulinum toxin is a prescription medication and it is prohibited to advertise it in the UK. The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) guidelines specifically state, “Advertising materials such as magazine advertisements and flyers distributed to the public, must not mention product names such as ‘Botox’ or ‘botulinum toxin’.”1 The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) also echoes this guideline.2 If those offering this service are breaking these rules, then it makes me wonder if other rules are being broken behind closed suburban doors. The concept of ‘Botox parties’ or ‘filler parties’ is wholly incompatible with the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) Professional Standards for Cosmetic Practice.3 The college rightly, in my opinion, argues that treatments should be carried out in licensed premises where practitioners have access to professional equipment for use in the event of an emergency.

However, licensing of medical premises in this country is the remit of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which does not cater for cosmetic treatments such as dermal fillers and botulinum toxin. I recall some years ago a TV programme in which actress Leslie Ash, following her own sub-standard treatment experience, arranged a Botox party with a phony doctor pretending to be a cosmetic practitioner.4 She wanted to see how much information the women sought out, and whether they would opt to go ahead with treatment. Ash was shocked by their lack of knowledge and interest in who was carrying out the treatment. The women, without question, assumed they were in the hands of an expert and, therefore, seemed quite prepared to go ahead with the treatment. In a group setting, with peer pressure, it appears to be easy to get carried away in the moment.

I’m sure you will agree that these women should have asked for and seen evidence of the practitioner’s qualifications. They should have been examined and consulted alone, without distraction or coercion from other members of the party, and asked to provide a complete medical history. They should have been advised on alternative treatments and discussed the risks and potential complications; thereby allowing them to make an informed decision and give consent to treatment.

Conflict of interests

Some may say that it is less intimidating and more comfortable to be with a group of friends for a treatment, as well as more convenient. Of course, there is also the unspoken fact that the hostess is likely to receive treatment at a reduced price or even free-of-charge. In addition, reduced overheads may allow favourable prices to be offered to the host’s guests.
Medical ethics and consumer desires can conflict frequently in the cosmetic and aesthetic industry. We are a consumer-driven specialty, working in the private sector and offering a service to the fee-paying public. It is enticing for some practitioners to ‘follow the buck’, but perhaps they do not see the bigger picture of the risks with doing so. Downgrading the procedure from a professional medical environment to a more social party setting moves it seamlessly into the beauty therapy treatment arena, and almost on par with a facial to many patients. Although botulinum toxin has less potential serious complications than dermal fillers, it may also set a precedent to introduce other non-surgical treatments into a party/group domestic setting, giving even more fuel to my argument.

Safety first

Cosmetic injectable parties may also affect any medical indemnity policies. Two of the leading insurance providers have told me that they would not wish to cover a practitioner who practices in this way. Claims arising from a ‘Botox party’ are not specifically excluded from an insurance policy, but they say it is highly unlikely they would pay a claim, as they would have breached their terms with their governing body. And going forward, it is unlikely they would obtain cover with a reputable insurer following a claim of this nature.
Keeping botulinum toxin in a clinical environment ensures the procedure remains firmly in the medical domain, where the practitioner will have all the necessary equipment and personnel to hand, and the patient will be afforded a safety net and a point of reference to return. If, as some patients may argue, they really do feel intimidated by entering a clinic, perhaps it is more a failing on the part of the medical professional and their staff. It is our duty as medical professionals to ensure patients feel safe, comfortable and cared for when considering an aesthetic treatment.
Most of us lead busy lives and convenience is always attractive, be it supermarket home delivery, mobile hairdressers or beauticians. Nevertheless, we don’t have dental procedures carried out at home, so why should we have aesthetic ones?

I hope that 2016 will put the spotlight on the new overseeing body for non-surgical practice – the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP)

I hope that 2016 will put the spotlight on the new overseeing body for non-surgical cosmetic practice – the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP). The BACN and British College of Aesthetic Medicine (BCAM) have worked at the request of Health Education England, and with approval from the Department of Health (DoH), on the establishment of the JCCP. With support from the DoH, MHRA, the regulatory medical bodies, colleges and other stakeholders, our commitment to ensuring patient safety could be realised.

Sharon Bennett will present on treatments for the lips and perioral area at the Aesthetics Conference and ExhibitIon 2016. Visit to find out more.

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