This week another major complication from an injectable beauty treatment appeared in the news. In a day spa in Florida, a woman had vitamin solutions injected into her face which ultimately resulted in infection, scarring and as yet to be determined facial deformity. Besides the issue of what facial vitamin injections are and how they could remotely make your skin more youthful or reduce wrinkles, the provider was an unlicensed massage therapist to boot.
Even on the surface this story seems incredulous, but unfortunately it is becoming all too common. More and more patients are presenting with infectious complications from black market and unapproved solutions and compounds into which patients were injected by individuals of little to no medical education. This does not even scratch the surface of injectable treatments that either did not work or failed to deliver what was promised.This begs the question of how and why does this occur?
As cosmetic treatments have become as mainstream as Starbucks and smartphones, the number of people who are seeking such improvements have escalated. Non-surgical treatments, of which injectable approaches make up a significant part, is getting close to 10 million treatments a year in the U.S. (I suspect this number is underreported) From chemical peels to Botox, cosmetic procedures are so commonplace that their inherent risks are often overlooked. While they are incredibly safe in trained and experienced hands, their potential complications can become unmasked when used inappropriately. Just because injections look easy and are seemingly simple to do, an intimate knowledge of facial anatomy and an understanding of the pharmacology and composition of injectates is needed to get the desired results.
Injectable treatments like Botox and fillers do create near instant results, fostering the perception that instant and nearly painless beauty is possible. The concept of ‘injecting youth’ has led to a wide array of unscrupulous practices such as using black market/overseas acquired brand names, using non-medical grade injectates to offering unproven facial rejuvenation treatments. From vitamin injections to acupuncture facelifts, providers of all sorts want to capitalize on this beauty craze. And the most unscrupulous do it the old-fashioned way…at cheap prices. This leaves the most susceptible, the economically challenged and undiscerning consumer, to be drawn in and often victimized. Most just lose their money but a few suffer real medical complications.
Like many things in life, getting visible and sustained cosmetic improvement is not cheap nor is it always easy and convenient. Using FDA-approved drugs that work and having it done by a licensed and board-certified physician with documented cosmetic training will not be the cheapest way to do it…but it will be the safest and the most likely way to get good results. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. Price and cost comparison between providers is a reasonable shopping strategy but if it sounds too good to be true…
Dr. Barry Eppley