Superdrug offers Botox on the high street, good or bad idea?

Medical aesthetic industry professionals express concerns that Superdrug is now offering in-store injectable treatments.

On August 15, Superdrug announced that they had partnered with Allergan: a pharmaceutical company, best known for supplying the trademarked Botox™ brand on a global basis.

The partnership declared that it would offer members of the public, the opportunity to have in-store injectable treatments, in a number of high street retail shops across the UK.

The division within Superdrug has been named ‘Skin Renew Service’, and will be offering both Botox™ and dermal fillers to customers, for those of you thinking you can just drop in and grab a quick jab in your lunch hour, Superdrug is stating that appointments must be booked in advance following a consultation. A soft launch planned within in the Strand store, will test the waters before rolling out nationwide. Prices start at £99.

Naturally, the announcement has caused a flurry of divided opinion from both the public and the aesthetic industry. Sarah Dempsey, 38 from Muswell Hill, works as a Personal Assistant in the City and says ‘I think it’s a great move, very convenient, and no different to having a clinic on a high street’.

No pun intended, but it seems that the aesthetic industry is frowning upon the idea with much disdain, The RCA and BAPRAS joined forces to co-author a formal letter to Mr Peter Mcnab, the CEO of AS Watson (the owner of Superdrug), declaring that they believe that offering of injectables on the high-street will encourage ‘impulse buys’ of botulinum toxin. The letter also stated that undergoing any aesthetic treatment is ‘a decision that should not be taken lightly.’

The letter has requested clarity on a number of issues from the management of potential complications, to after-care. Other groups, and professionals within the industry, have also expressed their concern; Safety in Beauty Advisory panel member, Dr. Dan Dhunna, who also administrates a Facebook Community page called Keep Medical Aesthetics Medical appeared on Sky TV news on the day of the announcement, stating ‘I’m actually quite shocked that such a leading trusted high street name such as Superdrug has made this decision, it trivialises serious invasive procedures’.

Let’s face it, no business or professional likes competition, and Superdrug announcing this new service, has brought a threat to many competing clinics, medics, and aesthetic professionals. I had to reflect on these questions probing within my mind: do all of these entities really have safety at the core of their criticisms? or has the emergence of fresh competition, threatened some of their incomes and livelihoods? I have been listening, researching, watching and investigating quietly, to find the answers.

As the founder of Safety in Beauty,  I have been asked, since the announcement, by several press organisations to comment on the news, but I have passed the opportunities by, and I have taken my time in stating my views, I have wanted to do my due diligence, and research, before casting my judgement and opinion either way. Some time has given me the scope to reach my conclusion.

My conclusion is this: I am not as concerned about Superdrug offering dermal fillers and toxin to the public, as I am deeply concerned about the many back street underground activities going on, that are not on the radar. By this I refer to the countless, inexperienced and non medically qualified ‘practitioners’, that wield a needle on the unsuspecting public, literally after completing, what can only be deemed as farcical training times and courses, some as little as one day.

The audits that my campaign publish yearly, are not diminishing is numbers, quite the opposite, the statistics of complications, injuries and complaints, are increasing, so much so, that we met with Prime Minister Teresa May this year to discuss our concerns about this, and I recall using the word ‘crisis’ in my conversation with her, several times.

Did you know that practically anyone can train in dermal cosmetic fillers and injections? The UK is one of the  very few countries globally, that has such lax laws surrounding medical aesthetics,  and no regulation.

Whilst Superdrug can be brought to task, should a complication, or injury, arise within their shops, there are thousands of ‘cosmetic cowboys’ that cannot be brought to task, for this growing majority, the law for them to respect or adhere to, does not exist, surely, our focus should be there?.

We need to collectively work together, as a campaign, and as industry professionals, to focus on the  ‘cosmetic cowboys’ rather than Superdrug offering these treatments, after all,  it’s not news to find Botox™ and fillers on offer, on the high street, literally just about anywhere too, I could point out at least a dozen outlets on our local high street, and they range from tattoo studios to dental clinics, to beauty clinics, hair salons, and wait for it…, podiatrist clinics, yes! even your local foot care professional can train in fillers and toxins, so what’s new?

Superdrug have partnered with a global brand famous for its aggressive stance towards brand reputation and protection. Allergan own the trademark for the brand Botox™, this is the same mega brand that polices the use of its name on the world wide web quite robustly, and has the power to have you remove it within milliseconds if they so wish, (because let’s face it they own that word), and it’s a very powerful word and a very powerful brand. therefore, I can assure you, with substantiated conviction,  that Allergan would not have entered into the partnership lightly without making sure that any compliance requirements, hurdles or obstacles, were clearly jumped and overcome with legally water tight efforts.

My final message to all the professional skeptics throwing shade and negativity at this news story is to please try to view the move as a positive one.The real doom and gloom does not lie in this announcement, it lies beyond. Personally, I welcome the emergence of a safer place where a person can be directed to, for aesthetic treatments, where there is a medical professional injecting, where the premises would have been checked for compliancy and suitability, and where the pathways and protocols put into place within the service, will have had thought and considerations of safety implemented.

This move may just be a positive move towards eradicating the out of control mushrooming emergence on the high street of some unsavoury ‘cosmetic cowboys’, these are the real culprits that we should all be concerned about, because they are uncontrollable, and statistically they are the ones causing the real damage. Cosmetic cowboys can open up on the high street, just as quickly as they can shut down overnight, disappear and never be found again, and they are doing this, and they are getting away with it, because they have no accountability to anyone. Superdrug does.

Whilst I would like to jump on the industry bandwagon and cast a negative view of the announcement, on this occasion I will not, but this does not mean I also endorse the announcement either, my core focus is and will always remain on safety and a positive consumer experience, so no matter how protected a super brand can be with all their carefully worded terms of service, expensive in-house law teams on retainer, and public relations advisors, no one offering these treatments is untouchable or infallible, but of course, only IF there is accountability.

We will be watching the development of this news carefully.

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