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Cosmetic treatments not 'trivial' say surgeons

British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons Challenge Government's Proposal, Warn Patients Can Be Permanently Disfigured

London, UK - 10 June 2008 - The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (, the not-for-profit organisation established for the advancement of education and practice of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery for public benefit, today announced their official challenge to the Department of Health's (DOH) proposal to deregulate lasers and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments for cosmetic use. The BAAPS have submitted their outraged response to the consultation, which closes today.

Laser therapy is one of the most common non-surgical procedures used in treating lines, wrinkles, scars and damaged skin. Hair reduction, treatment of vascular birthmarks, and tattoo removal can be achieved with lasers and IPL is suitable for hair removal from larger areas such as backs and legs (according to Mintel, laser hair removal is the most popular non-surgical treatment).

Mr. David Gault, consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS member specialising in laser treatments, who was the main contributor to the response says;

"The use of lasers and IPL devices in cosmetic treatments is increasing. In the past twelve months to date, I have seen more patients who have suffered adverse reactions than ever before: because they have been burned and require immediate advice, have suffered long-term changes in pigmentation, or because they are pursuing a medico-legal claim and require an expert witness report. If any change in regulation is to be made, it should be to control use more stringently, not less."

The proposed deregulation will mean that providers do not even need to register with the Healthcare Commission to offer these treatments. Although lasers and IPL can be safe if administered in an appropriate environment and by a properly trained clinician, the public must be aware that these procedures do pose risks, which can range from irritated skin and blisters, to burns, pigment scarring (black spots) and sores.

According to Mr. Gault;

"The outcome of treatment with lasers and IPL devices depends almost entirely on the skill of the operator. There is no 'one size fits all' setting, and for each treatment, the parameters must be carefully selected according to the patient's skin type and the problem for which they seek treatment. Allowances must be made not only for the colour of the skin, but also for the colour of the hair in depilation, for example, and for the depth of the lesion when treating pigment spots. The thickness of the skin, the age of the patient, their current medication and their medical history are also important. Inappropriate treatment, either with the wrong laser or with the right laser on the wrong settings, can result in burns and permanent and disfiguring changes in the skin."

Mr. Gault adds;

"Whilst so-called 'cosmetic' treatments might seem too trivial to merit regulation, the machines involved are powerful tools; their use in the 'beauty industry' does not make them less dangerous, especially when in untrained hands."

The DOH's proposal states: 'the levels of risk involved in the use of lasers/IPL equipment for non-surgical purposes lead us to believe that the current regulatory regime is not proportionate to the risk of harm to patients'. If the deregulation of lasers and IPL is indeed put into place, then the DOH anticipates that lasers and IPL will 'generate an extra 1700 – 3400 adverse incidents per year' which, at twice as many as there currently are, they appear to deem acceptable.

Douglas McGeorge, President of BAAPS and consultant plastic surgeon, states;

"Sooner or later more patients will suffer as a result of these political moves and the government will have to take responsibility for their actions."

For further more information on lasers and to find a qualified practitioner, visit or call the advice line on 020 7405 2234.


The BAAPS (, based at the Royal College of Surgeons, is a not-for-profit organisation, established for the advancement of education and practice of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery for public benefit. Members undergo thorough background screening before they can join. Information about specific procedures and surgeons’ contact details can be found on the website, or by contacting their office at 020 7430 1840. Further materials can be posted to members of the public seeking specialised information. BAAPS is also on Twitter:   and Facebook:

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