Dangers of the Fake, the Counterfeit and the Unqualified

In a news story published July 16, 2014 on news.com.au, 80,000 counterfeit cosmetics were seized by authorities in two CBD stores and in one warehouse in West Sydney. If used regularly by a consumer, these fake cosmetics may cause adverse effects on health.

Fake products said to sport famous brands like Mac among others may have the capacity to burn the skin. Although this seemed to be big enough of a problem, another looming predicament stands behind this case.

Unregulated cosmetic surgery products and services are now a problem on a worldwide scale.  It ranges from fake butt enhancement shots, to counterfeit breast fillers with quack doctors performing high-risk operations without a license.

The Black Market

ILLEGALphoto: Pascal via flickr

The cosmetic surgery industry is growing. In a recent poll, it has been found that Australia outspends the US in plastic surgery expenditures by 40% if equated per 10, 000 people. Although Australia has no specific and comprehensive statistics of its cosmetic surgeries performed, it has been purported that the procedures are still growing compared to the last decade.

Lately, non-invasive procedures were also highlighted with more men and women requesting Botox. In Cosmo Australia’s article, Botox: Australia’s hidden beauty secret?, it cited Australia’s expenditure for non-invasive procedures at $345 million.

In the data gathered by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the rise in the minimally invasive cosmetic treatments has been recorded. Greater emphasis on enhanced buttocks, tighter skin and thinner waist was also noted.  This rise in statistics and better media coverage of the procedures also gave rise to the black market of cosmetic surgery.

Non-invasive procedures have developed into quick fixes that can be done in under five minutes. For a price, these procedures can be available in the safety of a licensed clinic, administered by a licensed and skilled doctor. But as said, this can be attained for a hefty price. How about getting it for a fraction of a price? This is where the Black Market comes in. Fake products and fake doctors, where the cost is so little but the consequences so big, has been present in almost all cosmetic surgery exposed countries.

There has been an ongoing underground market for fake and cheaper products for cosmetic surgery. Fueled by demand, these operations swelled and have affected many, even caused deaths, all over the world. The idea of black market procedures may not only appeal to consumers due to the cheap cost, sometimes they are opted for since these unqualified practitioners may perform the operations without asking any questions. In legal clinics, sometimes doctors may decline certain procedures due to risk and inappropriateness.

Black market procedures are offered and administered in illegal clinics. Sometimes, it is even done in unlikely places, like beauty parlors, private houses, massage parlors and other unsafe places. And usually, victims will only realize their mistake after infection set in.

Cheap Shots Gone Wrong

Checking on the news, there are so many men and women who have fallen prey to this fake practice. Most of these botched cases have been covered by the media, but still many more have just stayed silent about their painful ordeal. Perpetrators have docked the authorities.

Victims who are brave enough to come out have their cases reviewed by authorities, while a thousand more cases went unrecorded. Examples of the botched cases of cosmetic procedure performed by unqualified individuals are listed below with some photos of the victims. A more graphic representation of this illegal industry can be seen here.

Rajee Narinesing

rajee_narinesingh1-1photo: RadarOnline

Rajee sought a little plumping in her cheeks but was instead injected with nothing but fillers. Later on, after realizing that her face wasn’t what a normal filled up face should be, not to mention the complications and infections where it shouldn’t be, she got herself checked.

Rajee had doctors pull out pieces of cement from her face. The doctor that administered the procedure prior is now facing charges for many complains about the black market surgery practice.

Shaquanda Brown

Brown, another victim of the previous fake surgeon mentioned, had paid only $700 dollars for 12 shots. The procedure was performed in a massage parlor. The 12 shots commenced and Brown was admitted to a hospital shortly afterwards. She was treated for abscesses and staph infection.

Justin Street

injection-victim-justin-streetjpg-3dca76b445821cb1Photo: NJ.com

Street died the day after receiving an injection for penile enlargement. He died of silicone embolism. The silicone injected was shot directly into the victim’s bloodstream causing the organs to shut down. This was administered by Kashia Rivera in 2013, now arrested. Street likely paid about $500 for the operation. In certified clinics, this procedure would have cost thousands more.

6 Unnamed Women from Essex County

6 unnamed women sought a buttocks enhancement but instead have been in for a long and painful road. Victims of an alleged model slash unlicensed doctor, these women received injections that contain materials used to caulk bathtubs. The victims had serious bacterial infections and had to undergo multiple surgeries and long hospitalization.

Hamelit Suarez

Suarez died of cardiac arrest after receiving treatment from a masseuse who advertised vampire facelifts.  The procedure was done in a beauty salon.

Buttocks Treatments and More

13964242365_86936df745_zphoto: MiawMomo via flickr

These underground procedures do not only inlcude the usual buttocks treatment. Rather, included are the many if not all known cosmetic procedures and surgeries. Other procedures offered through the black market include lip augmentation, breast enhancement, Botox treatment, filler injections, Rhinoplasty and fat transfer.

The usual treatments in medical clinics costs thousands of dollars. Black market procedures are a thousand times cheaper and can be done in one go. However, based on the few examples above, there is a painful price to pay.

Complications can be slow death starting from little infections to abscesses. Tissue death is common among inappropriate shots. Kidney and other internal organ damages are also very likely to happen. Blood clots, inflammation and substances forming lumps and rock hard nodules accompanied by severe pain are also reported by most victims. In some cases, amputation of limbs is possible while mastectomy is a fairly common solution for botched breast jobs.

Silicone and Pulmonary Embolism

There are two common types of silicone used in both regulated and unregulated procedures, the industrial grade silicone used to polish furniture and for transformer liquid and the medical grade silicone that is approved by the law for medical use with certain provisions. The former once injected in the body can cause tissues to harden, causing severe pain. It can also cause complications like cysts and may obstruct blood vessels and the lungs leading to death.

The medical grade silicone, if misused and mishandled by those who are unauthorized, may not come without any consequence. Liquid silicone use is illegal for direct injection. It can only enter the body if encased in safe casings for implants or used in little amounts.

Silicone if injected directly to tissues may result in pulmonary embolism wherein the silicone may leak to the bloodstream and clot in the lungs.

Dr. David M. Duffy, a dermatologist from California, summarized the issues with using silicone in these ways in an interview in NY Times saying, “In good hands the ballpark complication rate could be 4 in 1,000 patients. In bad hands, there are horror stories”.

Cosmetic Surgery and Regulating Laws

Although authorities and health departments try hard to put up regulations against such a large industry, there is still a big chance that these will go unadhered to. In the UK for example, although there are organizations like the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission which regulate both the premises and practitioners of cosmetic surgery in public and private hospitals, there is no industry-wide regulation. Recently though, a review of the regulations have been requested by concerned authorities.

France and Denmark have clearer guidelines for cosmetic procedures. Although US have strict laws too, most botched cases reported were from the US prompting their government to double efforts in cracking down on illegal practitioners and distributors.

Australia on the other hand has a national framework for Cosmetic Medical and Surgical Procedures. The framework includes the professional registration of medical personnel for the field, licensing of private health facilities, insurance issues, common law obligations. It also has a section on the regulation of the drugs and injectibles, the Lasers and IPL sources, promotion and advertisements of the procedures. Stricter limits on procedures among teens and children is also present in its laws.

The framework also has touched remarkably on the standards of conduct and the regulation of unregistered health practitioners who are breaching standards.

featured image: CassioAbreu via flickr



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here