Social media pressure is making some young people resort to cosmetic procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers, says a study by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which adds that government must protect people from an unregulated industry.
The report also condemns makeover apps and online plastic surgery games aimed at children as young as nine, reports the BBC, adding that the report’s authors fear such apps are contributing to growing anxieties around body image.
The report identifies several factors that are encouraging young people in particular to focus on body image. These include increasing levels of anxiety around appearance; the rise of social media where photos can receive positive or negative ratings and the popularity of celebrity culture, complete with airbrushed images and apparently perfect lifestyles.
And, while much of the cosmetic procedures industry is unregulated so reliable data on its size is hard to come by, one market research company estimated the UK market could be worth as much as £3.6bn in 2015.
Professor Jeanette Edwards, from the University of Manchester, who chaired the council’s inquiry into ethical issues surrounding cosmetic procedures, said some of the evidence around games aimed at younger children had surprised the panel.
“We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including make-over apps and cosmetic surgery ‘games’ that target girls as young as nine. There is a daily bombardment from advertising and through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that relentlessly promote unrealistic and often discriminatory messages on how people, especially girls and women, ‘should’ look.”
The report describes how apps with names such as ‘Plastic Surgery Princess;, ‘Little Skin Doctor’ and ‘Pimp My Face’ could be contributing to mental health problems in young people. Prof Edwards also called for cosmetic procedures to be banned for anyone under 18 unless they involve a multi-disciplinary team of specialists, GPs and psychologists.
A government spokesperson said: “This report highlights once again that we live in a world where young people are under immense pressure on a daily basis about how they should look – it is ethically wrong for companies to exploit this and offer unnecessary cosmetic procedures to under 18s.”
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