Medically Reviewed April 2023, by Claire Clarke - Head of Surgical Services for The Harley Medical Group
The ASA have announced that the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) are introducing new targeting restrictions that prohibit adverts showing cosmetic surgery to under 18s. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent advertising regulator that makes sure ads across UK media stick to the advertising rules.
The new targeting restrictions came into effect on 25th May 2022 and essentially require that:
UK regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said “Children and young people’s body image perceptions and their susceptibility to pressures to change their appearance, including considering cosmetics interventions as a potential means to address those concerns, are influenced by a number of social and cultural factors. Neverless, the evidence shows there is potential that exposure to different forms of media including advertising, particularly those that focus on body image ‘improvements’ such as cosmetic intervention procedures, is likely to exacerbate body image dissatisfaction and negativity during vulnerable stages of their lives.”
At The Harley Medical Group we acknowledge and appreciate the new rules behind these cosmetic advertisements and why they’ve been put in place. Particularly because this ensures that young people who may be more vulnerable to these advertisements aren’t exposed to them and therefore isn’t impacting on their self-esteem, wellbeing, mental health and behaviours.
While it is illegal to perform cosmetic surgery to under 18s, there have been no restrictions on advertising to them, unlike the controls that exist around alcohol and gambling.
This means that adverts will be banned on all media – ranging from social media sites such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram to billboards and posters, newspapers, magazines and radio as well as social influencer marketing – that are aimed at under-18s or likely to have a particular appeal to that age group.
Children and young people’s body image perceptions and their susceptibility to pressures to change their appearance are hugely influenced by a number of social and cultural factors.
Evidence shows that exposure to different forms of media including advertising, particularly those that focus on body image ‘improvements’ such as cosmetic intervention procedures, is likely to exacerbate body image dissatisfaction and negativity during vulnerable stages of their lives. This is clearly why it is so important that adverts showing cosmetic surgery to under 18s are banned.
In a paper published by The Harley Medical Group’s Mr Amir Sadri in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, the increased media attention on aesthetic surgery was analysed. Between 1991 and 2013, the number of articles relating to the field increased from 45 to over 3500. Mr Sadri shared that accessibility of aesthetic surgery has widened over recent years, but that social media and celebrity culture has led to the significance of surgery being underplayed.*
CAP and BCAP will conduct a 12-month post-implementation review to ensure that the new rules are functioning as intended. The Harley Medical Group openly acknowledges and supports these informative changes.
The announcement comes weeks after The Botulinum toxin and Cosmetic Filler (Children) Act 2021 came into force on 1 October, making it illegal for under 18s to get Botox and fillers.
*Amir Sadri, Reza Nassab, Cosmetic surgery and the press: A 22 year review of a growing relationship, Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, Volume 68, Issue 2, 2015, Pages 269-270, ISSN 1748-6815,
*Adverts showing cosmetic surgery to under 18s.