With our culture’s increasing focus on youth and appearance, the popularity of cosmetic procedures is at an all-time high. And as a result of advances in cosmetic surgery and nonsurgical procedures, many people of even modest means can afford procedures to increase their confidence and self-image through cosmetic enhancements.
Unfortunately, this increase in popularity has a dark side as well, and we are currently seeing an alarming increase in incidents of dangerous and disfiguring results of ill-advised and poorly executed cosmetic procedures performed by a burgeoning number of unlicensed cosmetic practitioners.
BLACK MARKET COSMETIC PROCEDURES
Some recent events have uncovered an extensive black market for cosmetic procedures, including unlicensed and unqualified practitioners offering offer cheap, and sometimes deadly, alternatives to legitimate cosmetic procedures. In one notable case, 46 year old Maria Olivia Aguirre-Castillo died as a result of a black market cosmetic procedure in which cooking oil was injected into her buttocks by an unlicensed practitioner who promised a cheap alternative to legitimate procedures. After spending a week in a coma following the procedure, Ms. Aguirre-Castillo succumbed to multiple organ failure due to fat embolization, as the oil injected into her buttocks attacked her body functions.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Medical professionals and law enforcement are seeing an alarming increase in patients who have had substances such as bathroom caulking, brake fluid, paraffin wax, oils, and glues injected into their bodies. These illegal procedures frequently result in permanent deformities, medical problems, and death.
WHY ARE BLACK MARKET PROCEDURES SO POPULAR?
These black market procedures are not popular just because of their lower cost, but also because the practitioners are so often willing to promise anything without question or capable guidance. Many who fall prey to these dangerous procedures may have unrealistic expectations, or profoundly distorted perceptions of their bodies, and may have already been rejected by legitimate cosmetic surgeons.
Unlike a licensed professional, a black market practitioner has no duty to inform his or her patients of the risks and limitations of cosmetic procedures. For example, there are no safe and permanent injectable fillers on the market. While some injectable fillers last longer than others, none are permanent. Black market practitioners frequently use substances that are permanent, and cannot be reabsorbed into the body. Unlicensed practitioners may also offer to inject unsafe quantities of BOTOX® or filler materials, promising patients drastic results, and leaving all too many sick, disfigured, or dead.
EXPERTISE IS WORTH THE PRICE
As tempting as the offers may be—drastic, permanent cosmetic results for a fraction of the price of a legitimate procedure—the risks of such underground procedures are far greater than many imagine. As is the case with so many things, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
It’s important to remember that, even with nonsurgical procedures such as BOTOX® and injectable fillers, your procedure is only as safe as your practitioner. An ethical cosmetic surgeon doesn’t just provide the procedures themselves, but also ensures that the procedure is safe, the patient is healthy, and the risks are minimal. Your cosmetic surgeon is a trained medical professional, and can provide you with capable, informed guidance to help you determine what procedures are right for you and what aren’t, so that you can accomplish your goals safely and realistically.
If you’d like to learn more about what cosmetic surgery has to offer, consult a licensed cosmetic surgeon with the expertise, skill, and medical training to help you determine how best to achieve your goals.