Law PhD graduate, Dr Virashmee Ramdial’s research shines a spotlight on the negative impact of inadequate regulation of aesthetic practice and products.

The socio-legal study explored the lack of regulation of the products used, and unqualified practitioners administering aesthetic procedures and products such as botulinum toxin, dermal filler injectables and various forms of laser therapy, chemical peels, and skin lightening, which are increasingly popular in South Africa.

It was supervised by Professor Yousuf Vawda and Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology Mr Andy Gray.

‘Preliminary research revealed that while these aesthetic treatments are incredibly popular and lucrative, and practised by a diverse range of practitioners – both medical and non-medical – not only is there a great risk of harm, but the procedures, products and practice may be inadequately regulated, or unregulated,’ explained Ramdial.

The fact that very little research has been undertaken on this issue motivated her to establish the nature of treatments and the regulation thereof.

‘This study analyses the nature of the procedures and products used, practice, the risk of harm inherent, and the relevant law, and exposes the failings of the current system. It also draws attention to the uniquely South African experience in this regard by providing first-hand accounts of the main role-players,’ she said.

She added that certain everyday aesthetic treatments and procedures deemed “cosmetic” are actually medical procedures, which require the intervention of a qualified health care professional. Due to the lack of regulation, both the products and their application may result in serious harm.

The attorney, conveyancer and notary public commented that the study demanded much commitment and time. She added that, ‘Unfortunately, the research, and particularly the empirical study, occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this had serious implications for the manner in which I interacted with the research participants and conducted the investigation. However, I prevailed and it was absolutely worth it.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Abhi Indarajan