Published: 14:00, 28 May 2021
| Updated: 15:03, 28 May 2021
A young woman has warned against beauty clinics offering lip fillers without proper training after her quest for the perfect pout ended in a hospital trip.
When Sarah Draa, a beauty industry worker from Bromley, visited a clinic offering dermal fillers she hoped to achieve plump lips in the mould of Reality TV star Kylie Jenner.
Instead, she ended up with a spell in hospital last year after suffering an allergic reaction and severe swelling to her eyes and lips.
Now the young make-up artist is warning others over the dangers of pop-up beauty clinics and treatments being offered without the proper skills and training.
At 18 Sarah set out on her quest for larger lips after spotting celebs and other girls her age showcasing theirs on social media.
"I really loved Kylie Jenner's look, and everyone seemed to have lovely big lips," she said.
"I remember thinking that my lips were too small and that I'd like my lips to be bigger like the other girls and celebs I'd seen on Instagram."
When Sarah received her first lip jab she was told the injectable would last a few months, but just two weeks later they had already significantly reduced in size.
The beauty industry worker went back for a top-up but was still dissatisfied with the look.
It was at this point Sarah realised the technician was not even injecting the filler she had asked for.
Sarah said: "My lips didn't look great, they looked like squashed pillows with no shape, and I noticed that I had developed little lumps on the inside and one on the outside.
"The one on the outside didn't really show, and I didn't go back as I had spent all my money by now and couldn't afford to go elsewhere."
After saving up again Sarah, now in her twenties, pursued treatment elsewhere.
"My lips didn't look great, they looked like squashed pillows with no shape"
"I saved up some more money, but you just want to pay as cheap as possible when you are young," she said.
"Again, they used a filler I hadn't even heard of before, but I just let them do it."
Shortly after the treatment her lips reduced in size once again and the same lumps appeared.
Only this time they came back much bigger than before and "grew more prominent over time".
"The lump was super sensitive and sore to touch," she said. "Of course, your lips are very sensitive anyway, so having a solid granular lump in there meant that even the slightest pressure hurt."
But besides the pain it was the look which Sarah found most upsetting and it had a huge impact on her self confidence.
The make-up artist became obsessed with selfie apps and says she would spend long periods of time editing photos.
Sarah was referred for treatment by a friend to pharmacist and trained aesthetics professional Amish Patel, who runs the Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic from his practice in Longfield.
Amish is long-standing member of Save Face, a national register of aesthetic practitioners offering safe non-surgical procedures recognised by health bodies.
He recommended dissolving the lump and any filler in the lips and starting again.
But Sarah was initially reluctant to mess further with her already painful lips after her previous experiences and elected to disguise the lump instead.
Then one day last year Sarah started suffering severe reactions with both her eyes and lips swelling up.
"I went to the hospital during an episode, and even the nurse was commenting on the lumpy side of my lip as it had swollen so much that it was disfiguring," she said.
"I was diagnosed with angioedema, an autoimmune issue. Because of the severity of the swelling surrounding the lump, I was advised to get the lump dissolved in case it was something more sinister."
Amish successfully dissolved all the filler in Sarah's lips and she came back a short time after to have them refilled.
Sarah said: "I now have the lips I always wanted, minus the lumps and feel confident and happy."
But Sarah's case is not an isolated one and Amish says he has been noticing a worrying trend of customers presenting to his clinic with "botched" jobs.
"It is quite a big problem," he said. "On the good side customers have relatively normal issues.
"With fillers if you don't do it properly it can disfigure someone's face"
"For example, with botox if you inject the wrong muscle you can have a drooped eyebrow over a few days. It will repair itself but it should not happen in the first place."
However, when patients present with lumps and bumps this is when things can go awry and serious problems can arise, the cosmetic clinician adds.
"So with fillers if you don't do it properly it can disfigure someone's face," Amish said.
"This can actually cause more distress when you are trying to look better."
There are also risks such as burst blood vessels and tissue death, all of which, if left untreated can have serious health consequences.
To worsen matters, Amish adds, some of these procedures are being performed without the right equipment in unsanitary home environments which increase the risk of infection.
He added: "Someone working out of their shed in the garden who doesn't have these ongoing costs or investment in their business will always undercut ethical, responsible practitioners.
"We sadly see a lot of 'botched' work and have to undertake skilled corrective work that could take months to resolve on those clients who took the risk and paid with their looks and mental health."
Another worrying trend is the rise in so-called "get rich quick" type ads promoting "injectable" botox and filler courses for people to perform on others.
Amish says such promotions are commonplace on social media and target young women with little to no experience or medical training.
"I know from my own clinic database of at least three people with no training offering these procedures and they have no experience whatsoever," he said.
"If you don't have the skills to make up the drug how can you be injecting that into other people's faces?"
Following her own ordeal Sarah is now advising others not to skimp on price and to research cosmetic clinics thoroughly.
She said: "Some brands are known to have more side effects than others, and whilst complications can happen, going to someone reputable and experienced will mean that they can deal with any issues that arise.
"Don't go for the cheapest either, it's a false economy. It's cost me more money to sort out this issue, not to mention the worry.
"It’s also really important to go to someone who is actually trained in medicine and not a beauty clinic where people have decided to just take a course in fillers and skipped all of the hard work professionals have to do to practice these procedures."
Sarah added: "If it hadn't been so easy for me to have got fillers at 18, then I wouldn't have had the worry and all the self-confidence issues that followed as a result."
A recent change in the law means it is now illegal to carry out cosmetic botox or dermal fillers on anyone under 18.
It comes after Sevenoaks MP Laura Trott introduced the bill in January 2020 and gained cross-party support in both houses.
Botulinum toxin (Botox), dermal fillers and laser hair removal account for nine out of 10 non-surgical treatments performed in the UK.
According to research from Save Face, the national register of accredited practitioners, there had been 73 per cent more complaints in the last year, with 81 per cent related to dermal filler treatments.
Their register is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority and is recognised by the Government, The Department of Health, NHS England and The Care Quality Commission.