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Frequent Occurrence of Medical Beauty Incidents Potential Risks Not to be Neglected Think Twice Before Undergoing Treatments

  • 2021.08.16

In recent years, medical beauty services have become increasingly popular. Many beauty enthusiasts yearned for physical perfection through the use of technology, while some even attempted to turn back the clock with skincare. The Consumer Council observed that while many high-energy or invasive injection treatment plans were promoted as being quick and effective, the risks involved were seldom mentioned and that could easily mislead consumers into thinking that they were commonplace treatment plans. The complaints lodged with the Council over the years showed that the risks involved in medical beauty services should not be neglected. Any problems arising during the treatment process could possibly result in damage to the skin. In severe cases, instead of beautification, they could inflict long-lasting and inconsolable physical and mental trauma upon consumers which could not be fully remedied through material compensation. Although beauty parlours were closed intermittently for over a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council still received 479 complaints about beauty services in the first half of 2021 and this situation has become a cause for concern.

As early as in 2016, the Council had published a study report to advocate for a new regulatory framework for medical beauty services. Apart from having a clear definition of ‘medical beauty’ services, the Council also recommended the establishment of a proper licensing framework to implement risk management, quality control and compliance checks. The Government also proposed a regulatory framework for medical devices in 2017 introducing a pre-market registration system of medical devices. The proposal also included use control of 20 types of selected medical devices used in cosmetic procedures. The general public expected that regulation of medical devices be introduced as soon as practicable but consensus over use control might not be reached soon, the Government’s latest proposed regulatory framework would focus on pre-market and post-market control on medical devices, while the regulation on the use of specific medical devices has been excluded. 

However, unfortunate accidents related to medical beauty services have been occurring occasionally over the years, and some even resulted in deaths. To balance the protection of consumer rights with the healthy development of the industry, the Council believes that it is necessary to review the medical beauty service industry and step up regulations at an opportune time.

Case 1: Puncture Wounds Left on Face for Months after Treatment Leading to Severe Emotional Stress

The complainant purchased a $30,000 intradermal microinjection treatment plan from Beauty Parlour A. On the day of receiving microinjection, the complainant informed a staff member that she had experienced pain when receiving microinjections from doctors before. The staff member thus recommended a machine for administering microinjections and claimed that it could provide a more uniform microinjection effect and the pain would be less severe than administration by hand. Therefore, the complainant agreed to the recommendation and the microinjection was administered by a doctor using the machine. However, the complainant’s face became red and swollen after the treatment with precise rows of tiny puncture wounds on her forehead, cheeks and chin.

The doctor and staff members of Beauty Parlour A stated at the time that the redness, swelling and puncture wounds would disappear within 2 weeks. However, only the swelling on her face was reduced after 1 month, and the rows of puncture wounds were still clearly visible. The injectant appeared to surround the wounds and left rows of protruding lines on the complainant’s face. The complainant then sought medical treatment from a dermatologist, who opined that the microinjection was not administered deep enough, leaving the hyaluronic acid on the epidermis of her skin. The complainant then informed Beauty Parlour A of her condition and sped up the degradation of hyaluronic acid with a heater as per the advice of Beauty Parlour A’s doctor. To her dismay, her condition showed no improvement after 4 months. As the complainant suffered from severe emotional stress for months and completely lost her confidence in Beauty Parlour A, she turned to the Council and demanded that Beauty Parlour A cancel all her purchased treatment plans and make a refund. After the Council’s conciliation, Beauty Parlour A agreed to make a full refund and both parties signed a settlement agreement.

Case 2: Acute Pain after Injecting Hyaluronic Acid; Suffered from Headaches and Nausea Afterwards

The complainant purchased a $7,200 injection treatment plan from Beauty Parlour B to receive an injection of 1 ml and 3 ml of hyaluronic acid into her chin and temples respectively. After receiving about half of the dosage on the day, the complainant experienced acute pain and reported it to the staff members immediately. Beauty Parlour B’s doctor paused the injection for about 10 seconds and resumed the treatment. The complainant suffered from shortness of breath and nausea after treatment and had to rest at the beauty parlour for about 30 minutes before returning home. Her temples became swollen that night. She also suffered from headaches and nausea and had to take painkillers. The following day, she felt tension and excruciating pain near her jaw joints and could only consume a liquid diet. Therefore, the complainant sought medical advice from a family doctor, who opined that this was possibly due to an overdose of injectant. When the complainant informed Beauty Parlour B of her condition, the staff members suggested a follow-up by the beauty parlour’s doctor and an injection for degrading the hyaluronic acid in order to alleviate her pain. Without better options, the complainant made an appointment with the doctor as suggested but experienced redness on the arm and swelling near her eyes after the doctor tested the said injection on her arm. The complainant suspected that she was allergic to the injectant and decided not to continue with the injection.

The complainant asserted that the injection caused pain and discomfort. Not only did she suffer from emotional stress and could not eat or sleep well for a week, she also had to pay extra for seeking medical treatment. Thus, she asked the Council for help. The Council wrote to Beauty Parlour B and they replied that they would treat this as an exceptional case and agreed to refund the complainant for the rest of her treatment. Beauty Parlour B also agreed to cover her medical expenses of around $15,000 in total. Beauty Parlour B later reported that the complainant had already received the sum and signed a settlement agreement. The case was thus resolved.

Case 3: Freckles Removal Laser Treatment Resulting in Blisters on Face with Redness and Itchiness

The complainant purchased a $9,888 treatment plan from Beauty Parlour C that covered 5 ‘pico laser treatments with growth factor extracts’ for removing freckles. After receiving her first treatment, the complainant noticed pain and tiny blisters on her forehead. Even though the staff members immediately applied a moisturising lotion as a remedy, claiming that they were caused by the relatively thin skin on her forehead and that the symptoms would generally disappear within 3 days, her condition did not improve in the following 2 days. Some blisters even burst and left a few noticeable rectangular red marks on her face. Beauty Parlour C subsequently arranged for her to visit a designated doctor, who prescribed an anti-inflammatory antibiotic cream. Although the blisters disappeared after applying the cream, the complainant found that the surrounding area was still red and itchy. She decided to discontinue the treatment and asked Beauty Parlour C for a refund. Beauty Parlour C informed her that she had to sign a settlement agreement before claiming a refund. However, the complainant opined that the terms and conditions of the agreement solely protected Beauty Parlour C, so she refused to sign it and subsequently sought help from the Council.

The Council had explained to the complainant that signing a settlement agreement was one of the possible ways for consumers to settle disputes. The details of the agreement could be clearly recorded and its contents would be subject to the wishes of both parties. However, the complainant was concerned about the complexity of the terms and conditions in the agreement drafted by Beauty Parlour C and she also found that it protected the interests of Beauty Parlour C only. The Council relayed her concerns and doubts to the beauty parlour but they refused to amend the agreement and insisted that a full refund was only possible after her signing the settlement agreement. After being notified of Beauty Parlour C’s response, the complainant stated that she would consider seeking independent legal advice before making a decision.   

The Council believes that Cases 1 and 2 involved considerable risks as the beauty parlours made use of invasive cosmetic procedures to puncture the skin with syringes and inject chemicals into the skin layers. However, when promoting this type of injection treatment plans, they tend to focus only on the effects after treatment. Consumers who are not fully aware of the chemical components in the injectants and their impact on the body run high health risks when they receive skin punctures rashly. Besides, as punctures can result in damage to the skin, the risk of infection increases with improper procedures, as well as insanitary tools and environment.  Although consumers can prepare mentally for the pain caused by injections, they cannot foresee all possible reactions or after-effects. As demonstrated by Cases 1 and 3, rows of puncture wounds and blisters were found on the complainant’s face and forehead respectively, contrary to what the complainants expected. They even had to spend extra time and money for remedial treatments and their skin might not be restored to normal. The complainant in Case 2 suffered from shortness of breath and nausea after injection. Adverse reactions that threaten health may be induced in consumers with underlying health issues and they may pay a price beyond their expectations.

The Council reminds consumers to pay heed to the following when planning to purchase or receive medical beauty treatments: 

  • As some beauty services involving medical procedures should only be carried out by registered medical practitioners or dentists, consumers should browse the Department of Health’s website to learn about the differences between medical procedures and beauty services (;
  • Avoid focusing only on the alleged cosmetic effects or promotional offers. Enquire about the details of the procedures, such as the devices and materials involved, to assess the potential risks and possible complications associated with the procedures;
  • Request beauty parlours to provide in writing the full names of the attending medical practitioners so that their professional qualifications could be checked against the list of registered medical practitioners of the Medical Council of Hong Kong (;
  • Report discomfort or abnormal skin issues to the beauty parlour immediately after treatment and carefully consider whether the remedies offered by the beauty parlour are safe and practical;
  • Liaise with the beauty parlour in advance to find out which party should bear the expenses if consumers opt for independent medical treatment or advice. Record the agreement in writing and retain the related medical records for reference as necessary;
  • In case of any doubts, seek professional medical advice immediately.

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