In the back room of an Essex leisure centre, the blonde-haired, buxom beautician hands Ellie Andrews a pot of numbing cream.
‘Apply this, all over your lips,’ she instructs.
Ellie, from Northampton, is just 16 – but looks far younger.
According to industry guidelines, she is two years too young for cosmetic procedures.
Yet, without asking for proof of age, the beautician agrees to inject her with lip fillers – a thick gel that will sit under the skin, making her pout appear fuller.
Safety risk: 16-year-old Ellie Andrews (above) visited 20 clinics in Essex and London. All of them agreed to carry out a lip-filler procedure on the undercover reporter - even though she is two years too young for cosmetic work, according to industry guidelines
What the therapist didn’t know is that Ellie was, in fact, an undercover reporter.
And, in a disturbing investigation she carried out for website VICE, she has revealed the incident was far from a one-off.
All 20 practitioners the teenager visited in Essex and London agreed to carry out the procedure.
All agreed to treat her and only two even asked for proof of age.
And they weren’t all back-room operations: two of the clinics were on London’s prestigious Harley Street – renowned for providing high-quality aesthetic procedures.
Two-thirds took no personal details such as a GP contact or next of kin, as set out in guidelines by the British Association of Aesthetics and Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).
One clinician proposed injecting twice as much filler as is deemed safe by the regulatory body.
Many therapists were found to be operating out of gyms, dentists and even their own living rooms.
Ellie didn’t once see a doctor – although complications from filler injections include swelling, bruising, infections and blockages of blood vessels that can lead to tissue death, deformity and even blindness.
According to a 2018 poll, roughly 100,000 children under 16 have undergone aesthetic enhancement, with lip-fillers fast becoming the most popular procedure. Many experts blame the popularity of reality shows such as Love Island (stock photo) for the trend
And most shockingly, none of this is against the law: although it is illegal for under-18s to be given tattoos, teeth-whitening or use sunbeds, there is no age limit for injecting fillers.
Leading surgeons and campaigners condemned the therapists offering such treatments.
Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative MP and Mental Health Minister, who has previously raised concerns over teenage uptake of cosmetic surgery, said: ‘I am appalled that these practitioners have been negligent about establishing whether or not the person in front of them is an adult.’
Professor Ash Mosahebi, a plastic surgeon and representative of the BAAPS, says: ‘Respectable practitioners would never consider administering fillers to a teenager as young as Ellie. It is definitely unethical to do so.
‘Not only is 16 a vulnerable age – so the patient might be doing it for the wrong reasons – there’s also serious safety risks with performing the procedure on children.’
According to a 2018 poll, roughly 100,000 children under 16 have undergone aesthetic enhancement, with lip-fillers fast becoming the most popular procedure.
Many experts blame the popularity of reality shows such as Love Island – and its surgically enhanced stars – for the trend.
Two of the clinics Ellie visited were on London’s prestigious Harley Street – renowned for providing high-quality aesthetic procedures
But according to leading cosmetic surgeons, this can be disastrous for