01 September 2009

You bank online, you do your shopping online hell, you even date online. And now, thanks to some dodgy US websites, you can buy Botox online. The catch is, you have to inject it yourself.As Karen Adams lies back on the dentist-style chair in the clean clinic, her surgeon talks her through her first Botox treatment. At 28, the fashion marketing manager has decided its time to start smoothing out her wrinkles even though most people would say they cant actually see any. Karen isnt alone in wanting to hang on to her line-free skin. Like many young women, shes prematurely worried about ageing a recent survey showed that its a major stress for us from just 28 years old. And with Botox now the most popular non-surgical treatment to help prevent it - more than a million jabs are administered in the UK each year its not surprising that this so-called Baby Botox has become big business. But at least Karen is having her done at a reputable clinic. Her highly qualified surgeon at Surgicare in Manchester has studied her face to ensure she gets the right dose for her young skin. Plus, she leaves with advice as well as a helpline number to call if she has any adverse reactions to the drug. The problem is that this kind of professionally administered Botox costs around 200 a pop. So, with demand at an all-time high, a dangerous black market is emerging. Do-It-Yourself Botox is being traded online and has been popular in the US for a while, and now weve discovered its heading to Britain. Online Access made Easy A couple of months ago, an advert went up on eBay offering DIY Botox kits. The 62 kits included needles, a face map to show you where to inject, and saline to mix with the Botox powder. Though eBay immediately removed the adverts, they were just the tip of the online Botox iceberg. When we logged on and did a quick search for Buy Botox, we found hundreds of websites selling it. Botox no prescriptions required! So much cheaper than the salon! Perfectly clear skin is just a credit-card number away. Some sites even claim to deliver Botox to your door for just 50. Then, after joining a Facebook group for Botox, an advert for the toxin pinged into our inbox almost immediately. We emailed a few websites posing as a twenty-something interest in buying it, and while we were advised wed need a qualified doctor or nurse to inject it, once the transactions been made, who really cares (or checks)? In reality, we were able to click on the Botox: Buy It Now button way too easily. Surgeons are equally concerned that, attracted by low prices, young women are tempted to buy the Botox kits and inject it themselves. Actually injecting a poison like Botox (Botulinum toxin) into yourself is incredibly dangerous, warns Dr Nick Milojevic from The Harley Medical Group. He is concerned about the growth in the number of Botox-selling websites. I knew Botox was sold illegally, but I had no idea you could find websites like these its terrifying, he adds. According to experts, Botox should only ever be administered by a qualified doctor or nurse who knows exactly where it comes from and is trained to use it correctly. Botox isnt just used as a cosmetic treatment, says Dr Milojevic. Its also used in medical fields, so there are many strengths available, and some are too strong for the face. Plus, buying the drug online means you have no idea what quality the solution is, or if its the real deal in the first place. Ive found you can buy a Botox vial online for a third of the price (50) that we get if for in the clinic, says Dr Milojevic. These prices are so cheap that not even a huge clinic buying millions of Botox vials can get a rate so low. It doesnt add up. Either the Botox is stolen, or its dodgy. If the Botox is dodgy, it can lead to horrible short-term side effects like drooping eyelids and eyebrows, headaches and bruising, but worse still, contaminated Botox can lead to blood poisoning, liver poisoning or poisoning of the general body system. In extreme cases that can be fatal. The Dangers of DIY And even if the Botox you buy does happen to be the right strength and quality for you, you still wont know exactly where to inject it. Every persons face is different, Dr Milojevic continues. Botox practitioners are trained to treat each person as an individual so a one-size-fits-all face map with injection points sounds horrific. If an injection is put in the wrong place it can paralyse other muscles nearby and this can last for a couple of months. Then there are the legal implications. The advertisement and sale of Botox for cosmetic purposes to anyone without a prescription is against the law. Sites in the US continue to flout the rules because they fall outside the jurisdiction of the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency). We notify our US counterparts of any US-based websites that may be acting illegally, says a spokesperson for the MHRA. However, its not always easy to close them down. Sally Taber, Director of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service, also believes the sites are acting irresponsibly. Nobody can stop these internet sites selling Botox to young women, so instead we must educate people about the dangers of purchasing anti-ageing drugs online. The warning will come too late for Yolanda Cox, 22, from London, who died two years ago shortly after her sister injected her with an anti-ageing drug. Doctors revealed Yolanda had been given three times the normal dose. She suffered an allergic reaction, which caused her to collapse. It serves as a stark warning of the dangers of DIY jabs. At the moment, at least Karen Adams is more than happy with her decision to have Botox. After her first treatment, she says her confidence has been boosted and shes pleased with the result. But would she be tempted to save money by doing the treatment herself? No way, she says Going to a proper surgeon taught me that Botox is an art form. I know I could never replicate it myself. Its way too risky. For more information on Botox and other cosmetic procedures and treatments go to The Harley Medical Group at www.harleymedical.co.ukBOTOX: THE FACTS One in ten young women have considered trying Botox The Harley Medical Group now offer Baby Botox, which is a smaller dose for younger women. Baby Botox isnt as expensive as full Botox, but the results dont last as long and you might need more after two months. The side effects of Botox can include drooping eyelids and a frozen appearance to the face. In extreme cases, some people find they are allergic to the toxin. If you are considering have Botox, you can find a qualified practitioner by calling the British Association of Cosmetic Doctors on 01474 823900 or visiting www.cosmeticdoctors.co.uk