beauty

'I had a skin cancer check. During my consultation, the doctor suggested a 'mum tum' treatment.'

Over the past decade, the cosmetic industry has exploded. These days, ducking in for an injectable treatment is almost as common as getting your hair done.

And while there has been a push to improve the regulations around the safety of those performing both surgical and non-surgical invasive cosmetic procedures, the availability of treatments and the blurring of the lines between ‘cosmetic’ procedures, beauty practices and medical treatments has spawned a host of other frightening issues.

Watch: A look at the growing popularity of cosmetic procedures such as anti-wrinkle injections and fillers. Post continues below.


Video via Insight, SBS

One of the emerging ethical concerns is the 'upselling' of treatments, where the distinction between practitioner and salesperson becomes a little... hazy. 

Marketing their new products and procedures in clinic, some practitioners are now deciding to go against best practice - promoting cosmetic treatments to patients, rather than it being a decision made by the patient.

In turn, this has raised numerous concerns - particularly over practitioners’ responsibilities towards patients.

"I think that because there has been such a huge boom in cosmetic injectables, we are hearing more about it now," said Dr Yumiko Kadota from Sydney Face Doctor.

"However, I know from having worked in private practices in the past, that this sort of thing also happens in cosmetic surgery practices."

So just how common is it? Unfortunately, more so than you might think.

When Josephine, 23, booked into a skin cancer clinic in Perth, the last thing she would have imagined was that she would walk out with a brochure for a stomach tightening procedure.

"I was between three to four months postpartum (I had my second C-section within 14 months) when I decided to get my skin check for the first time," she shared with Mamamia.

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"My grandparents had been recently and had been diagnosed with skin cancer, and I also have a lot of sun spots from years of sun abuse but kept putting it off. So, I booked in at the same clinic with the same doctor."

"Basically, the skin check involved being in your underwear and laying on a bed. The doctor used a camera, which used heat to detect skin cancers. You could see the image displayed on the screen of the moles and freckles."

"When the doctor got to my stomach, she asked me how long ago I had my babies. 'Four months', I replied. She then proceeded to tell me, 'Lots of woman come in with the same issues on their stomach, so we can help them.'"

Shocked at the proposal, Josephine said she immediately felt confused why she was being offered a cosmetic treatment in what she had considered a medical environment.

"The comment initially wasn’t really hurtful to me as I knew my body had just been through two almost back-to-back pregnancies and I also knew my tummy wasn’t looking like that of a supermodel. But it came as a shock because I was like - wait - isn’t this a skin cancer check?"

"I have excess skin, stretch marks, a sad-looking belly button, cellulite and was obviously carrying a bit of extra weight (I put on over 30 kilos during pregnancy), but I honestly wasn’t mad about it at all. I was more mad about the fact I could have skin cancer."

Image: Josephine (supplied) 

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At the end of the consultation, the doctor told Josephine that she had severe skin damage, and was at high risk of skin cancer due to her family history and skin type, advising her to book in annual skin check-ups.

"She then proceeded to give me a brochure for a treatment for my stomach. It was some kind of laser surgery to tighten the skin and hide the appearance of 'mum tum'."

"She was also very keen on upselling a full face scan to further analyse your skin's condition and problematic areas, which I denied (not to do with skin cancer)."

According to Dr Kadota, health professionals upselling cosmetic treatments in order to maximise their profits is a highly unethical practice - one she suspects might be fuelled by the pandemic.

"Cosmetic clinics blur the space between retail and health, because they are more like businesses rather than health facilities," said Dr Kadota.

"It’s similar to when hairdressers try to sell you hair products, but this is more serious because it involves procedures to alter the facial appearance, which can lead to insecurity."

"I think that the upselling has increased this past couple of years due to the lockdowns. Cosmetic injectors have lost their income due to not being an essential service, so I suspect that they are trying to make up for this by upselling. It’s not ethical."

So, how can patients protect themselves? 

As Dr Kadota points out, unfortunately there are no current rules or regulations in place that restrict health professionals from upselling treatments and procedures in their clinics.

"It’s up to the individual professional to practise their own ethics, which makes it very difficult. Unfortunately, this means that some patients have had to go through unpleasant experiences being pushed into procedures that are unnecessary, or making them feel insecure."

As for Josephine, her experience has made her question the motivation behind what she thought to be a reputable health clinic.

"I’ll definitely be avoiding that practice. Next time I'll be seeking out a skin cancer clinic that isn’t working alongside the beauty/cosmetic industry (I actually didn’t think this was either, until I got there)."

"There’s so much pressure on mums to rebound physically and cosmetically, not even close to enough about encouragement around mental health rebound. I guess getting a skin cancer check and being what you could called fat shamed is just really starting to expose the toxic culture in the industry."

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When it comes to practitioners, Dr Kadota said it is crucial to ensure the way that they practice does not make them part of the problem.

"My approach is always to listen to the patient first about what their concerns are. My job is then to offer them the options for how we can address those concerns. If they haven’t raised a concern, then I don’t bring it up," she said.

"Nobody ’needs’ to change anything. It’s totally up to the individual what they want or don’t want to change about their appearance, and it’s our job to do it in the safest and most aesthetic way possible to achieve that result."

When it comes to patients, Dr Kadota's advice is this: 

"Don’t let anyone push you into a procedure you don’t want to have done. If a professional tries to upsell - that’s a red flag. They don’t have your interests at heart. I would not go back to that clinic and find somewhere else that will treat you respectfully."

Have you ever been upsold a cosmetic treatment? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Canva

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