Secretly retouched bodies should be banned in UK adverts, MPs say

ITV News' Victoria Grimes reports on the calls for legislation that would require commercial content to carry a logo to identify body images that have been digitally altered

Advertisers should legally be required to carry warnings if images of models are digitally altered, MPs have said.

It follows a report from the Health and Social Care Committee that identified a rise in body dissatisfaction as the driver behind the largely unregulated market.

According to MPs, more must be done to help prevent body image dissatisfaction, including putting logos on some filtered images and introducing new training standards for people who provide certain cosmetic procedures.

MPs on the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee said the impact of body image on mental and physical health is “wide-reaching” and that the government is “not doing enough to understand the scale of the risks” linked to body image dissatisfaction.

A new report from the committee calls for the government to introduce a law so “commercial images”, which feature bodies that have been doctored in any way – including changing body proportions or skin tone – are legally required to carry a logo to let viewers know they have been digitally altered.

MPs also called on ministers to discourage influencers from altering their images.

Meanwhile, the committee also called for action to reduce the “conveyor belt” approach to non-surgical cosmetic procedures – such as Botox injections or chemical peels – by bringing forward a licensing regime for providers.

This should also include minimum training standards for people providing these services and a “cooling off” period between consent and providing the procedure, MPs said.

Meanwhile, dermal fillers should be made prescription-only substances, in line with Botox, the group added.

They also called on the government to do more to understand the “rise in body image dissatisfaction across the population, including the impact of social media”.

Former Only Way is Essex star Charlie King, who suffered a botched nose job, spoke at the inquiry and told ITV News his story 'could have been different'

During the committee's inquiry on Monday, MPs heard from a range of witnesses, including former reality TV star Charlie King.

Mr King, who appeared on The Only Way is Essex, experienced body dysmorphia after suffering a botched nose job.

He told ITV News: "I do feel my story could have been very different if there had been more support around the mental health side of things when it comes to embarking on a a plastic surgery journey.

"Trying to live with the outcome of a botched result has been one of the most challenging things in my life.

"And there has been no support around that and I just had to get on with things and wait and this is something that I am really pushing for which is why I wanted to give evidence at the meeting."

Chairman of the committee, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The government must act urgently to end the situation where anyone can carry out non-surgical cosmetic procedures, regardless of training or qualifications.

“We heard of some distressing experiences – a conveyor belt approach with procedures carried out with no questions asked, procedures that have gone wrong, the use of filthy premises.

“It was clear throughout our inquiry that some groups are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in this growing market that has gone largely unregulated."

Mr Hunt called for the government to introduce a timetable for a licensing regime "with patient safety at its centre".

The report also calls for more to be done to tackle obesity and to help prevent children from developing body image issues in early life.

MPs urged the government to restrict multi-buy deals for foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar.

Meanwhile, the government should review the growing use of anabolic steroids for cosmetic purposes, the group said. MPs proposed a safety campaign for those at risk.

Victoria Brownlie, chief policy officer for the British Beauty Council, urged the government to take the committee’s recommendations forward, adding: “We want a beauty industry that stands as a beacon for body positivity with world-leading standards of care.

“Regulation for non-surgical cosmetic procedures can’t come soon enough and, while the government has committed to addressing this, current party politics means that such policy changes are in limbo. Timelines are unclear.”

MPs also made recommendations for tackling obesity. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, eating disorder charity Beat welcomed the committee’s proposal to ensure digitally altered images are clearly marked.

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at the charity, said: “Whilst viewing irresponsible advertising or social media images would not be the sole cause of an eating disorder developing, the pressure to conform to a particular body shape or size can have an incredibly detrimental effect on self-esteem and wellbeing, particularly in younger people.”

A government spokesman said: “We know the devastating impact issues around body image can have on a person’s mental and physical health, and we are continuing to take steps to support those affected.

“As part of our ongoing effort, we will be introducing a national licensing scheme to help prevent exploitation, improve safety and ensure individuals are making informed and safe choices about non-surgical cosmetic procedures.

“This will build on the existing support we have put in place, from expanding mental health services – including for those with body dysmorphic disorder – with an additional £2.3 billion a year by 2024, to changing the law preventing under-18s accessing Botox and filler treatments for cosmetic purposes.”