ITV News’ Cree-Summer Haughton went undercover to expose unregulated Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) practices and discovered an alarming rise in the dangerous cosmetic procedure happening in the UK
All it took was a phone call and suddenly, I found I was being invited into a house to inject a syringe full of liquid filler into someone’s bum.
Brazilian Butt Lifts (BBL) have been described as the world’s most dangerous cosmetic surgery, yet the non-surgical alternative, which involves injecting cosmetic filler instead of transferring fat, is becoming increasingly popular, often advertised as a safer, pain free alternative.
I’ve been investigating the issue for months, looking into training standards, increasing numbers of procedures going wrong, and the campaigners trying to get it banned.
Those in pursuit of an hourglass figures inspired by the likes of Kim Kardashian may have been deterred by recent headlines around BBL surgeries having the highest mortality rate of any plastic surgery.
Understandably potential patients have turned their attention to alternative means of achieving their goal and the one-day, less invasive procedure has grown in popularity with discount deals routinely promoted on social media.
The promotion from homegrown celebrity endorsements may be another contributing factor to the rapid uptake. Katie Price recently had the procedure done on TikTok live, with other influencers like Mariam Musa also documenting their experiences.
At the moment, it’s completely legal for non-medical professionals to inject fillers in the UK, and for this procedure, a one-day training course seems to be the industry standard.
With the many doctors who offer aesthetic treatments not offering liquid BBL’s because of the risks involved, I wanted to find out: should the procedure be on the market at all?
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It doesn’t take long to find multiple places online that will offer you a quick course in liquid fillers.
However, as someone with no experience of using syringes I wasn’t confident of finding one who would readily invite me in.
I soon realised that with a credit card, anything was possible.
With a false name and posing as someone who has once performed a couple of lip fillers a few years ago (which I hadn’t) I found myself on the way to VVV Beauty Clinic in London, to be trained on a one-day-course.
These courses obviously aren’t free. I had to hand over £700, and that was quite cheap in comparison to others.
Upon arrival I was greeted at a house, not a clinic, was given PPE and no other questions were asked. The only the form I filled out was consent to be filmed for their social media channels.
I waited with two other trainees for an hour before the trainer, who calls herself a doctor online, arrived. One of my other trainee colleagues remarked about how secretive it all appeared to be during the wait.
When we got going, the briefing beforehand consisted of a short multiple-choice Q&A session with no written literature to refer to at the time or afterwards.
The trainer then went on to tell us how to get the relevant medication necessary for the procedure including numbing agents and epipens.
And after just half an hour of theory, a live model arrived for us to inject on. It became apparent this model was taking part in order to get the treatment at a reduced price.
A short demonstration followed about where we should inject, and then we were given the green light to start the procedure.
At this point, I was wondering if the model knew what she’d signed up for as it was very clear, very soon, that she was in immense pain.
Within what felt like seconds, it was my turn and I made my excuses about why I didn’t feel ready to inject someone.
However they were happy to let me stay and keep filming. The model remained in pain, the filler itself looked lumpy, and it proceeded to ooze out of the injection points in her bum.
At the end of the procedure, the model questioned whether it had been successful and complained about the lumpiness – to which she was told if she drank two litres of water a day for two weeks, it would subside. We’ve since been told there’s no medical basis for this advice.
I was shocked by what I saw, but unfortunately it’s become clear since that this industry is littered with bad experiences.
Save Face are a government-approved register for aesthetic practitioners. They’re campaigning for the procedure to be banned after receiving almost 200 reports about liquid BBLS since last year.
Two thirds of those incidents reported infection and in every complaint, the practitioner has no healthcare qualifications.
This is just the number of people who reported to Save Face, the real number of botched jobs is likely to be considerably higher.
There’s currently no regulation that covers the whole aesthetic industry and there’s nothing in law that says everyone carrying out these procedures must meet a certain level of training.
The government has put forward a plan to make a legal requirement. The practitioners have a license but admit that could be two years away.
I took the findings of my investigation to Ashton Collins, Director of Save Face, and Dr Paul Bagley who reacted to the footage from my training.
After getting over their visible shock, they pointed out misinformation, multiple risks of infection and a genuine concern for the model’s heath.
“I don’t know where to start,” said Dr Bagley, a trained medical professional of 40 years experience. “The environment is totally unacceptable for this procedure.”
“That’s probably one of the most horrible videos I’ve seen, that’s just horrible.”
“It’s a catalogue of hazards, this course,” adds Ashton Collins. When asked how she feels about it, she replied “angry”.
“It makes me feel emotional because this is going on all over the country every day, and more and more people are having these treatments done, the appetite for them is insatiable, and these so-called training academies are capitalising on them.
“They are unsafe, and they should be illegal. That’s why we want a ban on this.”
Ashton normally campaigns for safer practices, but Save Face have taken the stance for the procedure to be banned as a whole.
ITV News is not aware of any complaint made about procedures conducted by VVV Beauty Clinic.
In response to our investigation, VVV Beauty Clinic told us: “We adhere to and respect the law of the United Kingdom, and we are monitored by medical and official authorities.”
After being presented with our evidence Marc Pacifico, President of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) said: “The BAAPS has received troubling information indicating that individuals without medical qualifications are attending brief, one-day “training” sessions to learn how to administer filler injections in the buttocks.
“This practice is highly perilous and carries the potential for numerous complications, such as bleeding, infection, allergic reactions, and even fatality if the filler is mistakenly injected into a deep vein.
“The involvement of both the instructors conducting these courses and the participants underscores a significant deficiency in judgment and awareness posing a substantial risk to public safety. Urgent measures must be taken to halt this practice.”
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