Young people are turning to cosmetic procedures such as botox and dermal fillers as a result of social media pressure, according to a report. A study by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics says government must protect people from an unregulated industry. The report also condemns makeover apps and online plastic surgery games aimed at children as young as nine. The authors fear such apps are contributing to growing anxieties around body image. Much of the cosmetic procedures industry is unregulated so reliable data on its size is hard to come by.

In 2015 one market research company estimated the UK market could be worth as much as £3.6bn. But there is little doubt it has grown significantly over the past decade. The report identifies several factors that are encouraging young people in particular to focus on body image. These include increasing levels of anxiety around appearance, the rise of social media where photos can receive positive or negative ratings and the popularity of celebrity culture, complete with airbrushed images and apparently perfect lifestyles.

Prof Jeanette Edwards, from the University of Manchester, who chaired the council’s inquiry into ethical issues surrounding cosmetic procedures, said some of the evidence around games aimed at younger children had surprised the panel. „We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including make-over apps and cosmetic surgery ‘games’ that target girls as young as nine. „There is a daily bombardment from advertising and through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that relentlessly promote unrealistic and often discriminatory messages on how people, especially girls and women, ‘should’ look.”

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