Influencers, complimentary cosmetic procedures and the slippery slope of social media.

As a curve model and digital creator, Shani Chantel has been exposed to all that the industry has to offer - including free cosmetic procedures.

"I had a cosmetic partner reach out to me a few years ago and they offered a vaginal tightening treatment. I had been open on my social media about experiencing incontinence following childbirth, so this was a treatment for that," she tells Mamamia.

"The cosmetic partner offered me the $4000 treatment in exchange for a series of Instagram posts, stories and reels. For me it was really helpful for my incontinence. I just knew that without collaborating, I wouldn't have been able to afford the treatment at the time."

Watch: a cosmetic physician's perspective. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Shani has also previously received anti-wrinkle injections and lip injections following this same avenue. 

For content creators, she says these sorts of treatments are offered to them constantly - the difference among some in the influencing industry though is who chooses to be transparent about it.


"I get asked all the time from cosmetic places do I want free injectables. Another one asked if I wanted a mummy makeover with a tummy tuck, which I immediately turned down considering a lot of my message is centred on body positivity," she notes.

"I have many girlfriends who do these sorts of things, they're just not as open about it. One even had a Brazilian butt lift gifted to them. But I feel if you're not transparent with your audience, you're doing them and yourself a huge disservice."


James Zhong is a local influencer from Brisbane, as well as the Founder and CEO of Ask Melon

He is a regular customer when it comes to getting anti-wrinkle injections. James tells Mamamia that previously he has received anti-wrinkle injections in return for an Instagram story.

"I got minimal work done costing around only $350, so I charged an Instagram story. I had been to this clinic before and was very happy with the results even when I had to pay, so I was more than happy to promote them to my followers," he explains.

In recent months medical practitioners have been told from now on they must not provide or offer to provide free or discounted cosmetic surgery to prospective patients, including social media influencers, for promotion of cosmetic surgery.

So far, the cosmetic surgery advertising guidelines do not apply to non-surgical cosmetic procedures.

But this month Australia's medical regulator has confirmed it is cracking down on the industry further, with regulation for cosmetic procedures in their sights. 

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Medical Board of Australia will propose new procedural and advertising guidelines.

Dr Christopher Rudge is a Law Lecturer at the University of Sydney and a member of Sydney Health Law. Speaking with Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky, he says he was "surprised" by the turn to regulate non-invasive cosmetic procedures. 


"It was very clearly excluded from the original cosmetic surgery review. The proposal is that there will be more advertising guidelines. It's very early days, but it can only be a good thing to have more regulation," he explains.

As far as AHPRA is concerned, it can only really control the promotion of health services, not products. That's where TGA comes in. 

"What AHPRA is proposing is to identify the standards expected of those practitioners who might work with or be themselves social media influencers," says Dr Rudge. 

"The guidelines are not yet written, but it will be interesting to see how they are crafted, because in the age of social media - the standards can be quite blurry."

Dr Imaan Joshi is a specialist GP and cosmetic doctor, and also the Founder of Skin Essentials

She tells Mamamia she is intrigued by the proposed safeguards, but "the devil is in the details".

"What is AHPRA specifically looking to do and how will they enforce/regulate this and what will it look like? Overall though I think the safeguards are promising given it's such an unregulated industry at present that people are woefully misinformed about," she notes.

What Dr Joshi wants to see more focus on is ensuring the people who perform these procedures are qualified enough to do so.


"In medicine, specialty training involves many years post internship and exams to qualify. For nurses similarly, there are years of supervision and mentorship by more senior nurses before independent work. 

"So the way aesthetics works at present is a gross deviation from what's routinely accepted as the base level standard of care for patient safety as well as that of the healthcare worker."

When it comes to content creators and this subject - Dr Joshi says transparency is key.

"Influencers carry a lot of power. It's important for anyone promoting a treatment or procedure to be clear about whether they paid for it - full price or a discount price in exchange for a review," she says.

"Declaration of conflict of interest is a key foundational aspect of medicine in order for people to determine potential bias in a suggested treatment."

James Zhong feels the same, noting he would not promote something to his followers that he hasn't personally used or researched. 

"For reference, I agree with what the AHPRA chief said: 'We want to really make sure that advertising is accurately and fairly explaining these practices, both in terms of the benefits and risks.' 

"Ultimately I think that's what it comes down to, a balance of advertising and safety for consumers."


For Shani Chantel she reflects positively on her experience with the cosmetic partner. Although Shani is adamant there should be more regulation in the influencing industry about being honest with these sorts of partnerships. 

"Being part of the influencer culture, it wasn't until I took a step back that I realised what a slippery slope it can be. I'm quite happy with who I am and I'm super confident, but even I was like 'Oh if it's free then I should take it'. I probably won't do it ever again, nor promote it - specifically the injectables side of things. I just think it can be quite a dangerous space, and I don't want to contribute to it."

She is now using her platform and business FemmeCon to talk more about these sorts of subjects, that for so long have been considered taboo - saying transparency is key. 

"I think as a creator it's way easier to be open than to try and hide things on social media. Online we see a lot of women who appear perfect, but really they've had certain enhancements. I think it's important to be honest about that," she tells Mamamia

"I think people who are partnering with these cosmetic clinics need to be making it really clear what they are receiving and for what. Like if they chat about the injectables they got in their forehead - but they also come out of the clinic with sparkling white teeth and don't say anything about that - that's not fair." 

Feature Image: Getty.