According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) the number of patients being treated for serious complications following cosmetic surgery abroad increased by 44% in 2021, compared to the previous year.
Aesthetics treatments and dental work weren’t included in the research by BAAPS, but many overseas clinics market their aesthetic and dental treatments in a similar way to cosmetic surgery. On price alone, as treatments can be 30-50% cheaper when carried out overseas, even taking into account travel and accommodation.
Searches for overseas cosmetic treatments are in their thousands every month in the UK, as people seek a cheaper alternative to UK cosmetic, aesthetic and dental treatments. As we all know, it isn’t just about cost when it comes to aesthetics and surgical procedures. The entire experience matters, from start to finish.
Millions of people from the UK travel to countries such as Turkey, the Dominican Republic and Mexico for surgical, dental and aesthetic treatments (or a combination of all three) every year.
In a survey carried out by the Irish Dental Association, 76% of dental professionals had carried out corrective work on patients who had had work done overseas.
What’s the problem with overseas cosmetic treatments?
Challenges around aftercare
One of the main problems with seeking out invasive treatments in another country is when it comes to healing, complications and aftercare. If the person who carried out a procedure is thousands of miles away it can be difficult for them to diagnose any issues accurately.
It’s impossible for them to treat or prescribe medication in this instance.
Difficult to judge conditions beforehand
It’s also difficult to judge the expertise and conditions that treatments will be carried out in before travel. Unfortunately, there are also some clinics that will present a different appearance and result online from what a client experiences in person.
By the time this is realised, it’s usually the day of the procedure which can make it more difficult for clients to make a decision not to go ahead.
Not having an in-person consultation first
Overseas specialists also can’t physically review a patient for treatment, unless you make several trips. Expertise, procedures and qualifications can differ from country to country. This can mean less effective treatments, unnecessary procedures or too much work carried out in one go to fit in with the shorter time frame. This can lead to complications and pressure on healing times.
Time constraints can mean that procedures that would normally be carried out gradually over weeks – or even months – are carried out in a much shorter timescale, which can lead to rushed procedures, complications and infection.
It can also mean that healing time is rushed too and that travelling back to the UK takes place before clients are ready, especially for more invasive treatments.
Possible language barriers
There also can be a language barrier or a difference between aesthetic goals, trends and beauty standards from country to country. This can lead to miscommunication or misunderstandings over the end result or the treatment that’s being carried out.
It can also mean that aftercare, pain or problems can be more difficult to communicate, leading to aftercare treatment that isn’t adequate
Average correction costs = £6000 per patient
The reality is that upon return to the UK, the NHS is usually called upon to pick up medical complications following overseas botched cosmetic procedures. Research found that the NHS pays millions of pounds every year to correct botched cosmetic procedures that have been performed abroad – with the average cost of correcting issues being around £6,000 per patient.
Your role as an aesthetics practitioner
A client may come to you either after treatment overseas, or after they’ve had medical treatment in the UK to deal with issues that have arisen following cosmetic and aesthetic treatments abroad. They may be seeking guidance and advice, corrective treatment or they may present with medical issues that are outside of your area of expertise or that need treatment.
Remember your client may be unclear on the treatment they’ve had, procedures carried out or what type of injectables have been used. If they’ve had aesthetics treatments overseas you don’t necessarily know which product has been used, and if they’re of similar efficacy to those that would be used in the UK. It’s unlikely that they’ll have their medical records available.
Here are some of the issues that you need to be aware of if a patient comes to you following aesthetics work carried out overseas.
Consultation is essential
Your client should be filling out consultation information before you see them which will highlight previous treatments or medical issues and highlight anything you need to be aware of.
This will also help you if you need to provide information to your insurer or legal team later. Everything needs to be documented, and if necessary, these clients may need to sign treatment waivers or additional terms and conditions.
Seek advice from a legal professional or your insurer on this to make sure that your documentation is up to scratch. Paperless health records can make this much easier when it comes to recording, reviewing and providing copies of information.
Check your insurance
You should already be well aware of what your insurance does and doesn’t cover you for. If you’re not sure, take a peek at it before you make any decisions with a client who’s had treatment overseas. You also need to be clear on what’s required in terms of paperwork and follow-ups too.
You don’t want to run into legal issues whilst simultaneously realising that you won’t be covered by your insurance. As a professional, you need to make sure that you’re protected along with your business and your reputation.
Update your terms and conditions
If you only treat customers who have had their treatments with you in the past (particularly for treatments such as microblading which will need a top-up in future) then you need to reflect this in any terms and conditions that you may have. You might want to get really specific and state that you don’t work over existing work that’s been carried out elsewhere.
This can help you to avoid confusion or complications at a later date and ensures that it’s really clear for those clients who want corrective treatments.
Manage expectations with corrective treatments
If you’re comfortable with and are trained to offer corrective treatments following a consultation and the required paperwork, then managing expectations is essential. This includes expectations of the end results, length of treatment or if it’ll require multiple treatments and cost.
When costing for corrective treatments, it’s important to make sure that you factor the extra work and time spent into the quote you give your client. This also needs to incorporate the additional experience and training that you’ve had to be able to offer this treatment.
Refer any medical issues on
Needless to say, if any prospective client comes to you with medical complications or results that aren’t desirable, you need to refer them for a diagnosis and medical help.
Offering to ‘even things out’ can lead to more complications and complexities, so it’s best to refer them to their doctor or to A&E for additional support.
If you’re not sure how to work with something, how to treat it or it’s a contraindication to carrying out the service request then it needs to be referred to a medical professional.
Don’t be afraid to refuse treatment
The health of your client, the outcomes of your treatment and your reputation as an aesthetics professional are all extremely important. Compromising any of these factors for the sake of being helpful isn’t worth it from a professional perspective or for the health of your client.
Remember, if you’re uncomfortable treating your client for any reason, or you have cause for concern about aftercare or corrective work then you’re perfectly within reason to refuse treatment. Sometimes this is the best option for your client so that they can get support with their corrective work from a medical professional.
Your client may be worried, stressed out and in pain which might make them sensitive or reactive – especially if you aren’t able to treat them – so it’s important to communicate clearly and calmly. It isn’t about judging them or causing them unnecessary worry, disappointment or pain, but it is about ensuring that they get the best corrective treatment.