Cosmetic procedures: ethical issues


Published 22/06/2017

Report cover cosmetic procedures
Surgery tools

This report that examines the growing proliferation, promotion and use of invasive cosmetic procedures. It explores ethical issues in cosmetic procedures with a particular focus on the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals and others in responding to demand for invasive non-reconstructive procedures that aim to enhance or normalise appearance.

It concludes that action to promote ethical practice is needed both with respect to influences that encourage people to consider cosmetic procedures, and to the supply of those procedures. It also finds that better data on the use of procedures, and more research to improve the evidence base, are urgently needed in order to improve practice and protect prospective users. The report concludes that all the recommendations in the 2013 Keogh review of the regulation of cosmetic interventions should be implemented in full, and makes a number of additional recommendations for policy-makers and others.

Key recommendations include:

  • The Royal College of Surgeons, the General Medical Council, the major providers of cosmetic surgery, and professional bodies representing surgeons in the cosmetic sector should work together to ensure that all surgeons undertaking cosmetic surgery are certified to do so, and can access the necessary training.
  • Public Health England should initiate a public awareness campaign to alert prospective users of cosmetic procedures to the importance of seeking practitioners who are ‘quality-marked’ through membership of a register accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.
  • A ban on offering cosmetic procedures to children and young people under the age of 18, other than in the context of multidisciplinary healthcare.
  • Social media companies should collaborate to fund independent research on how social media may contribute to appearance anxiety, and how this can be minimised; and should act on the findings
  • Download the key recommendations.
Surgery tools

One year on

A year on from the publication of our in-depth report Cosmetic procedures: ethical issues, we published a ‘one year on’ update. The update rounds up all of the work we have been doing in this area, and key developments since the report was published, particularly in relation to the 27 recommendations made in our report.


Project team

Katharine Wright crop

Katharine Wright

Assistant Director

Katharine is part of the senior management team. She is responsible for leading Council projects and inquiries and speaking on behalf the Council on a range of ethical issues. Before joining the Council in 2007, she worked on health law and ethics in the NHS, Department of Health and House of Commons.

Kate high res

Kate Harvey

Senior Research Officer

Kate undertakes research to support the Council’s work and contributes to the drafting of reports and briefing papers. She also monitors developments in areas of interest to the Council. Kate is currently on secondment at the University of Edinburgh's Law School, and will return to the Council in April 2021.