The Popularisation of Fake Fillers

As ‘freedom day’ and Love Island spark a surge in people searching for lip filler appointments and aesthetic treatments, leading experts in the field are warning of a boom in counterfeit dermal filler products that can cause serious complications when injected.

Having noticed a spike in complications that have arisen through the use of fake and sub-standard fillers through his work with the Aesthetic Complications Expert Group (ACE), Dr Martyn King, GMC registered doctor, internationally accredited and award-winning aesthetics expert, ACE Medical Director, Vice Chair of the JCCP and Cofounder of the Cosmedic Skin Clinic has spoken out over the worrying trend.

“The cosmetics industry is booming right now and that’s partly because of lockdown freedom, but also we often see increased interest around shows such as Love Island, where the contestants have obviously had work done and people want to emulate their look. Unfortunately, whenever an industry really takes off it gives rise to counterfeiters and ‘bargain basement’ products – aesthetics is no different,” begins Martyn.

“Recently, a vast number of companies have been set up selling fillers at much lower prices than the manufacturers and the respected aesthetic pharmacies, which makes you question the source and legitimacy of the product. More worryingly, people seeking treatments are buying their own fillers online and self-injecting or having friends do their treatment.

There is a much higher risk of complications If you don’t know where a product has come from, where it has been bought and manufactured. And if you don’t know the traceability then obviously the risks go up. Unscrupulous practitioners are putting people in danger.”

Earlier in the year, an article in Cosmetic Business magazine predicted that the global counterfeiting industry would be worth $4.2 trillion by 2022. It outlined the seriousness of fake injectables, with a focus on the US market, stating that “while all counterfeit cosmetics have the potential to be harmful, some can actually be fatal. Fake Botox and fillers have caused hospitalisation, paralysis and even death for hundreds in recent years.

The team behind UTH (, a new dermal filler brand with extremely low levels of toxicity, recently analysed online searches around the subject of dermal fillers and found some further upward search trends that were of concern.

Online searches for “cheap lip fillers” had risen by 150% YOY, “lip fillers Groupon” was up by 35%.

Martyn, outlines how it is the younger demographic that are most at risk:

“Unfortunately, it will be younger people, mainly girls, who are putting themselves in danger. That’s mainly down to cost and the fact that they want to look like reality TV stars, but usually without the celebrity budget. There will often be deals on voucher websites or groups of friends will ask to share a syringe. Because the quality products and medically-trained practitioners quite rightly demand a higher price, this type of customer does get priced out of the market.  

“Like with anything, you get what you pay for. If a dermal filler price sounds too good to be true, then there’s a reason for that. The important thing to remember is that these treatments are safe in the right hands, so it is all down to training and medical background, knowing how to handle complications, understanding anatomy and physiology and getting products from a reputable supplier.”

In a bid to stop more people having potentially dangerous treatments, Martyn has this advice for anyone looking to have a dermal filler procedure in the near future: “You need to go to a reputable clinic and never be afraid to ask questions. Most patients, even the more educated patients, don’t even ask what filler you are using. So, the first thing would be to ask what brand and type of filler it is and why they are using that particular brand or product.

“Your practitioner should be able to share the safety profile, including complication rates, as well as what’s in the product – most fillers are going to be hyaluronic acids and most contain lidocaine which is more likely to have an immediate reaction. The viscosity of the product is important too as certain types of products shouldn’t be used in certain areas. This is all information you should be able to get from a reputable dermal filler brand’s website.

“These are questions that I rarely get asked and on the odd occasion that I do, it shows me that my patient has done their research and taking their treatment seriously.”