Even MPs like me get Botox so don’t judge women for trying to look their best or blame them for botched jobs – The Sun

PEERING into the mirror a few years ago I couldn’t help but focus on the two big furrows above my eyebrows.

They’d deepened since I’d hit my 50s, and while I’d tried to live with them, as a female politician in the public eye, I was also aware how much my appearance came under scrutiny.

It’s one reason I decided to have Botox for the first time at the age of 54 – and since then I have continued to have it a couple of times a year in the same area.

I’m always realistic about what I want to achieve: as I told my fellow jungle dweller Helen Flanagan when I appeared on 2012’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, I don’t want to look younger – I just want to delay looking older.

And done correctly, by a trusted professional – in my case a GP – it definitely works. I’ve found it a real confidence boost knowing I look the best I can for my age.

Yet not everyone is so lucky, as Fabulous has been showing us this week: every year scores of women are left scarred and traumatised after having injectables – particularly filler – administered by inexperienced or completely unqualified practitioners.

My heart goes out to them all: I can only begin to imagine the pain and fear they must feel after making a choice shared by so many other modern women.

But I also feel enormous anger too that there are people out there exploiting our natural human desire to make the best of how we look.

It’s one reason why today I am throwing my support behind The Sun’s Had Our Fill campaign – a campaign that I believe hasn't come a moment too soon.

I hope it will be a powerful force for change, raising awareness of the potential dangers awaiting those who choose to undergo cosmetic procedures and encouraging them to do their research.

Bill doesn't go far enough

These are dangers that I have been actively trying to minimise for some time in my role as a health minister.

A private member’s bill has been developed, making it an offence to inject Botox or dermal fillers into anyone under the age of 18.

I support the principle of this bill, but I am also aware that this important first step doesn’t go far enough: in recent years there has been a huge rise in the number of people seeking Botox and fillers which has led to an equally large rise in the number of people offering such treatments.

Walk down any high street and you can see them: adverts for cut-price Botox and fillers scream from the windows of hairdressers and beauty therapists.

Sadly, many of those offering these treatments are not remotely qualified: courtesy of Fabulous's important research, I was shocked to learn that only one in four practitioners offering to administer filler have a medical qualification.

Whilst there are many reputable, experienced practitioners working in this sector, there are also a lot of cowboys out there.

Had Our Fill campaign

Britain's Botox and filler addiction is fuelling a £2.75billion industry.

The wrinkle-busting and skin plumping treatments account for 9 out of 10 cosmetic procedures.

50% of women and 40% of men aged 18 to 34 want to plump up their pouts and tweak their faces.

Fillers are totally unregulated and incredibly you don’t need to have ANY qualifications to buy and inject them.

83% of botched jobs are performed by people with no medical training, often in unsanitary environments – with devastating results. 

Women have been left with rotting tissue, needing lip amputations, lumps and even blinded by botched jobs.

Despite the dangers, there is no legal age limit for dermal filler, which is why Fabulous has launched Had Our Fill, a campaign calling for:

  • fillers to be made illegal for under 18s
  •  a crackdown on social media sites plugging fillers
  • a Government-backed central register for practitioners with accredited qualifications

We're working in conjunction with Save Face and are backed by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) and British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).

We want anyone considering a non-surgical cosmetic treatment to be well-informed to make a safe decision. 

We’ve Had Our Fill of rogue traders and sham clinics – have you?

Injectables can do wonders for your self-esteem, as I know

My priority is to support consumers to make safe choices and improve standards across the industry.

This discovery, among others, has made me determined to prioritise looking more closely at the regulations and legislation governing this fast-moving industry.

Let me be clear: I believe very strongly that women who do use Botox and fillers to enhance their looks should not be judged or stigmatised. Done properly and by the right people they can do wonders for your self-esteem – as I know.

The key word there is ‘properly’. When I decided to explore the world of injectables eight years ago I went to great lengths to make sure I did my research – and I had the treatment in as safe an environment as possible.

For me that meant a GP, a qualified medical practitioner in whom I can place the utmost trust.

At my age, I was also able to fully understand that however good the person holding the needle there were still risks – which I fear is not necessarily the case for the very young, who are perhaps more vulnerable than most to the ever-increasing pressures to look a certain way.

Young women are paying a heavy price

It is very telling that a lot of the women featured in The Sun campaign, and who have bravely agreed to share their stories, are only in their 20s and 30s.

One reason for that, I suspect, is the rise of Instagram and our ‘selfie culture’, and the burden it places on many people, particularly the under-35s, to feel they need to look a certain way.

Many undergo such treatments without being fully informed – and are paying a heavy price.

I’m grateful for their courage in speaking out and I’m also keenly aware there are likely to be many other victims, scared to come forward out of embarrassment or shame.

They should not feel either emotion: the blame lies firmly at the doorstep of practitioners, some of whom at best are naïve and at worst downright unscrupulous.

In an ideal world, of course, we would all be able to take a step back, take a deep breath and lessen that pressure.

Sadly, I think it’s a moot point: unless we can completely change the way we operate as a society that’s unlikely to happen.

As a politician in the public eye for the last 15 years I know this only too well. It’s a very human instinct to want to look your best.

That’s why I am delighted The Sun is drawing attention to this issue. Together, I believe we can raise awareness and empower people to make sensible choices.

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