Welsh salon caught on camera using ‘black market Botox’ substitute in undercover investigation

  • WARNING - Graphic images.

The non-surgical and aesthetics industry is worth a staggering £3.6 billion in the UK alone, but there are calls for more regulation in Wales as more and more people are seeking this type of cosmetic treatment. 

In an exclusive investigation by ITV Cymru Wales current affairs programme, Y Byd ar Bedwar, an undercover journalist found that some practitioners in Wales are ignoring strict medical guidelines when offering Botulinum Toxin. There are concerns that the current guidelines, designed to keep patients safe, are inadequate.

Professor Iain Whitaker, a doctor who treated a patient in Morriston Hospital with severe side effects from this very treatment, has witnessed the true impact of this. He says there’s been an influx in the number of people needing corrective work over the last few years.

Professor of Plastic Surgery Iain Whitaker treated this patient after he received an unlicensed substitute toxin for a cosmetic procedure.

“This is a gentleman who had gone to see a practitioner who injected what they said was botox in a garage which was obviously unregulated and this is one of the complications that can occur."

The professor explained that the darker areas the show tissue loss and death.

He added: "It makes me sad to think of the long term effects. You can’t fix that, you can’t move the scarring, it’s an irreversible effect of a treatment that shouldn’t have been given."

Licensed brands of Botulinum toxin are prescription-only drugs. There are strict medical guidelines for practitioners who do botulinum toxin treatments to ensure patient safety. 

Practitioners must follow strict medical guidelines to ensure patient safety when administering Botulinum Toxin treatments.

Although beauticians can administer the injections, they have to be trained and legally their clients must first have them prescribed by a registered prescriber, such as a doctor or a nurse with an additional qualification. The prescriber must only do this after a face-to-face consultation. 

However, an undercover investigation discovered that this isn’t always the case, and some practitioners are ignoring these rules.

After receiving a number of tip offs, Y Byd ar Bedwar sent a member of their team to gather evidence of their own with a secret camera. Our journalist was able to make an appointment in a salon in North Wales for anti-wrinkle injections in just one day through social media.

Within seconds of entering the salon, the needle was ready to be used on our journalist. There was no consultation beforehand, no mention of a medical background check, not even a name check for the client, which goes against strict medical guidelines. 

Usually a licensed product which can only be purchased with a prescription, can cost between £120-150.

In the UK, there are three brands of licensed Botulinim toxin for cosmetic use, Bocoture, Botox and Azzalure. But this woman openly admits on camera that she’s using an unlicensed product called Botulax.

We showed our findings to Professor Iain Whitaker who has seen first hand the impact of using unlicensed products on patients. 

“I’m not sure what to say… It’s not something you’d associate with a medically providing service. Obviously you discussed the type of Botox products that were going to be used, she mentioned a couple that were licensed. The one she particularly mentioned she was going to use I believe isn’t licensed which is a big worry.” 

We asked the salon in North Wales for their response. And in an email the practitioner said she wasn’t aware that Botulax was an unlicensed product. Since we got in touch, she said they’ve got rid of the product and no longer offer Botulax as a treatment.

A spokesperson on behalf of the Welsh Government say it is aware of a regulatory gap in Wales in relation to these procedures and will be doing further work in this important area. 

  • Watch the full investigation on Y Byd ar Bedwar on Monday (May 9) on S4C at 8pm, english subtitles available.  

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