THE recent news that a national high street cosmetic chain will be offering instore Botox and lip filler treatments has yet again ignited debate on both the safety of such procedures, as well as the overwhelming pressure placed on individuals to look perfect.

Superdrug has announced that it will be providing such services for clients over the age of 25, and only after a telephone consultation with a trained nurse. However, some cosmetic surgeons have expressed serious concern that this is sending out the message that such treatments are as risk free as eyebrow threading or waxing.

While the number of surgical cosmetic procedures has plateaued and may even be dropping, the demand for non-surgical treatments has sky rocketed in recent years, perhaps fuelled by its promotion on reality TV series as well as the virtually non-existent recovery time after such procedures.

Botox is one of the trade names for Botulinum Toxin A, the most powerful toxin released by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In the US it has a “black box” label, meaning there is reasonable evidence of serious hazard associated with the drug. However, no such official warning exists for Botox in the UK or Europe.

Cosmetic procedures employ small amounts of Botox, injected directly into the muscle with a thin needle, allowing the muscle to relax, with the aim of reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Desired effects usually take two to three days, with results most noticeable after one to two weeks. These can last three to four months, after which you may wish for a further session. Most people report minor side effects, including discomfort from the needle, mild bruising and sometimes a passing flu like illness.

While Botox was first used for cosmetic procedures in the early 1990s, it had already been employed to treat a vast array of medical conditions. These include uncontrollable facial spasms and blinking, crossed eyes, a shaky or hoarse voice, drooling, excessive sweating, and migraines.

The real question is, “Is Botox safe?” Much literature seems to suggest that it is, yet manufacturers have been in court numerous times. Notably a Virginia man successfully sued one company for more than £150m in 2012, being left with brain damage after he was given Botox to treat hand tremors.

In the UK a group of 24 individuals is currently compiling a court case after receiving Botulinum Toxin A for both cosmetic as well as other reasons, which they allege have left them with life changing complications as a direct result.

So there are two options available to anyone who is considering Botox treatment. You could simply accept yourself, acknowledge your inner beauty, safe in the knowledge that laughter lines are a natural part of ageing and not a sign of anything untoward. However, if you feel that you would like to investigate non-surgical cosmetic procedures further, the advice is to make sure that whoever provides this is registered with the UK Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners, and that you have inspected their facilities and are satisfied with the standard of care.