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What should I do if I am considering having a cosmetic procedure?

Before having any cosmetic procedure:

Talk to your GP before booking the procedure

It is advisable to be referred to a medical practitioner by your GP, as a general practitioner is likely to have knowledge of reputable and experienced surgeons skilled in the procedure to be undertaken.

Check there is a qualified doctor on the premises and ask to see the qualifications of the person delivering the treatment

If the person claims to be a doctor or nurse, you can check the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website to confirm that the person is registered to practise in Australia and whether there are any conditions attached to their registration.

Take your time and do your research

Don’t jump in. Take your time deciding what you want and if you wish to proceed. These can be complex procedures. Your provider should give you detailed information about what is involved and the possible risks. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and read any information you are given carefully and make sure you understand the implications before you agree to proceed. Try to obtain independent information, including from your GP, before agreeing to undergo the procedure.

Check if the cosmetic procedure is one which is required to be undertaken at a licensed private health facility

Certain cosmetic procedures must only be performed at a licensed private health facility or a public hospital. See What types of cosmetic procedures are required to be carried out in licensed private health facilities? for the current list of these procedures.

If you are considering having a cosmetic procedure on this list, you should check if the private health facility is licensed. Every private health facility in NSW is required to display a copy of its licence. You can also search for the clinic on the list of Licensed private health facilities under the Private Health Facilities Act 2007 in NSW.

What types of cosmetic procedures are required to be carried out in licensed private health facilities?

Currently, the cosmetic procedures (other than dental procedures) that must be carried out in a licensed private health facility or public hospital are:

  • any of the following procedures when conducted surgically:
    • abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
    • belt lipectomy
    • brachioplasty (armlift)
    • breast augmentation or reduction
    • buttock augmentation, reduction or lift
    • calf implants
    • facial implants that involve inserting an implant on the bone or surgical exposure to deep tissue
    • fat transfer that involves the transfer of more than 2.5 litres of lipoaspirate
    • liposuction that involves the removal of more than 2.5 litres of lipoaspirate
    • mastopexy or mastopexy augmentation
    • necklift
    • pectoral implants
    • penis augmentation
    • rhinoplasty (other than revision rhinoplasty)
    • superficial musculoaponeurotic system facelift (SMAS facelift)
    • vaginoplasty or labiaplasty
  • any other surgical procedure that is intended to alter or modify a person’s appearance or body which involves high levels of anaesthesia or more than conscious sedation.

NSW Health is currently considering whether any non-surgical procedures should be added to this list and will continue to review whether any other cosmetic procedures should be included. Consumers should be aware that the list of procedures required to be carried out at a licensed private health facility may therefore be updated as necessary to ensure that it remains appropriate.

Who is allowed to use the title “cosmetic surgeon”?

“Cosmetic surgery” is not a recognised specialty in Australia and the title of “cosmetic surgeon” is not protected under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. Consumers should therefore be mindful that medical practitioners using the title “cosmetic surgeon” do not necessarily hold a specialist qualification. You can check if a doctor has specialist qualifications on the AHPRA website.

What should I expect when having a cosmetic procedure?

All cosmetic procedures should be undertaken in a clean facility.

If injections are used, the person administering injections should be wearing gloves. Used syringes and needles should be disposed of in a sharps container. Any medications should be supplied in accordance with Australian law and have English labelling.

If the procedure is one of the surgical procedures listed above, the clinic should be licensed as a private health care facility and the procedure should be performed by a registered medical practitioner.

The medical practitioner should require a medical history and discuss any current medications being taken. You should be offered a consent form advising of possible risks and a cooling off period to consider whether to proceed with the proposed surgery.

What do I do if I’m not happy with my cosmetic procedure?

Complaints concerning the quality of cosmetic procedures can be referred to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

What are extreme body modification procedures?

Body modification procedures are those which involve the deliberate alteration of the appearance of part of the body. The term “extreme body modification procedures” is generally used to refer to body modification procedures which involve cutting the skin and/or sutures and which are not carried out by a registered health practitioner. These include sub-dermal implants, tongue splitting and scarification.

Extreme body modification procedures carry risks of permanent physical dysfunction, bacterial infections (which may lead to bone and tissue damage, life-threatening illness or death), viral infections such as hepatitis and, in the case of implants under the skin, risks of your immune system reacting to the implant.

What should consumers know about products used in cosmetic procedures?

Many products commonly used in cosmetic procedures, such as dermal filler injections containing hyaluronic acid and anti-wrinkle injections containing botulinum toxins, are prescription only substances and must be listed, included or registered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) or subject to a specific approval or exemption under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth) or Regulation.

Consumers should be cautious if there are indications that products are being used at a clinic which may:

  • be counterfeit or imported directly from overseas without going through licenced Australian wholesalers (e.g. non-English labels, products or procedures being offered at a price far lower than competitors) – these products haven’t been subject to strict testing and regulation and may be dangerous
  • have been received, stored, accessed, used and administered without appropriate oversight by the prescribing medical practitioner.

What do I need to know about the new laws starting 1 September 2021?

From 1 September 2021, the regulation of the administration of medicines commonly used in cosmetic procedures such as anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers (Cosmetic Medicines) will be strengthened.

Under the new laws, only an authorised practitioner, or a nurse acting on the direction of a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner, may administer Cosmetic Medicines. An authorised practitioner includes a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or dentist. A nurse can be a registered nurse or an enrolled nurse. You can check the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website to confirm that the person is a registered health practitioner, and whether there are any conditions attached to their registration.

The medical practitioner or nurse practitioner must review you, whether in person or by audio-visual link, before giving a direction for administration of a Cosmetic Medicine to a nurse.

Businesses that provide services using Cosmetic Medicines must ensure they have risk management policies and procedures in place to protect the health and safety of patients, including appropriate equipment for use in a patient medical emergency.

Current as at: Tuesday 13 July 2021
Contact page owner: NSW Health