A guide to cosmetic clinics online

Knowledge is power when choosing a cosmetic practitioner. Lorna Jackson offers a guide to navigating the internet and making the right choices online

Before the internet, tablets and smartphones, anyone thinking of cosmetic enhancement would have talked to their GP for referral to a reputable practitioner. Nowadays though, the first port of call is more likely to be Google.

It’s easy to start your journey by using search engines to find the websites of local clinics offering the treatment you’re interested in. However, this is not always the best way to begin.

The trouble with the internet is that a flashy-looking website doesn’t necessarily mean that the cosmetic surgeon or clinic being advertised is as skilled as the web designer and marketing team behind their online presence. It’s important to look beyond what is no more than a virtual glossy brochure and research more about the practitioner you’re considering visiting.

Be cautious of content in community-based forums or social networking groups that may have a hidden agenda or bias towards (or against) a clinic or practitioner. Not everyone commenting online is who they claim to be so, while comments can be helpful, you should not rely on them to make your decision.

The April 2013 Keogh report, an expert review into the regulation of cosmetic interventions in England, noted that “people need to be able to identify and choose a practitioner with the appropriate qualifications, and be able to ascertain in advance their skills and experience in performing a given procedure”.

UNETHICAL

It also raised concerns about certain “unethical” marketing tactics, so be careful of websites littered with time-limited deals and discounts, such as buy one get one free and cosmetic procedures given away as competition prizes, as these go against current UK advertising standards.

On your journey through the internet, it is also important to steer clear of websites that seem to overly glamourise cosmetic procedures, perhaps by using celebrity endorsements or offers of photo-shoots and makeovers as incentives to sign up.

Similarly, claims that attempt to play on your insecurities by making assertions that you’ll be “happier” or “more confident” after a procedure at their clinic should sound alarm bells. Wording that makes light of the serious medical nature of cosmetic surgery or the risks involved and tries to make it seem like an “easy option” should really make you think twice.

The mark of a good cosmetic clinic website is one that encourages you to learn more, with details of each procedure, clearly laying out the key points to consider

The mark of a good cosmetic clinic website is one that encourages you to learn more, with details of each procedure, clearly laying out the key points to consider. It should have easy access to more information about the skills and qualifications of its practising medics. A reputable website lays the foundations for your journey towards a proper consultation and possible treatment (or not, if recommended). If it looks too good to be true, it probably is and you’ll end up disappointed with your choice.

So, if aimlessly wandering through the search engine results is not the answer, how should you go about finding a practitioner online?

Although there are a multitude of online cosmetic surgery directories, all purporting to find you a clinic that can meet your needs, most of these sites don’t actually check the regulatory compliance for the practitioners and clinics they list.

You should ensure the website lists practitioners whose qualifications have been checked and, where applicable, national regulatory certification has been obtained.

SPECIALIST REGISTER

If you’re considering a surgical procedure, such as breast augmentation, face lift or tummy tuck, then seek a plastic surgeon with FRCS(Plast) after their name. Ideally they will also be on the specialist register of the General Medical Council (GMC). Look at the website for the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (www.baaps.org.uk) for a surgeon specialising in the specific procedure you’re seeking.

In England, clinics and hospitals that deliver private cosmetic surgery procedures must be registered and inspected by the Care Quality Commission. Visit www.cqc.org.uk to check a clinic’s certification and to read inspection reports. Similar regulatory registrations are required in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If you’re considering a non-surgical, medical aesthetic treatment, such as cosmetic injectables (botulinum toxins and dermal fillers), laser treatments or non-invasive body contouring procedures, then the field of potential reputable practitioners will be much broader.

Depending on the medical nature of the aesthetic treatment, it may be required to be performed by a doctor or nurse, but some procedures, for example microdermabrasion or laser hair removal, may be performed by a trained beauty therapist or aesthetician. Look for clinics that have a clinical lead and ensure the team is overseen by a doctor, independent nurse prescriber or dentist.

Look for medical practitioners who are members of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine (www.bcam.ac.uk) or aesthetic nurses registered with the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (www.cosmeticnurses.org).

With the government choosing to reject the Keogh recommendation for an independent, statutory register of cosmetic practitioners, a new self-regulatory scheme has been launched called Save Face (www.saveface.co.uk). The Save Face register will allow you to find, compare and rate non-surgical practitioners – doctors, nurses and dentists – who have successfully completed their rigorous accreditation process.

Choosing to have a cosmetic intervention is a big, possibly life-changing decision. Pick the right online resources from the examples listed here. Empower yourself and find a reputable practitioner.