Pop-up lip filler clinic a ‘conveyer belt’ of young women

By Katie McEvinney & Emily Brown
BBC Scotland news

  • Published
Lauren Patterson
Image caption,
Lauren said she was too embarrassed to take a photograph of what had happened because it was "that horrific"

When Lauren Patterson visited a pop-up cosmetic filler clinic in Glasgow city centre last year, she had hoped for plumper and more defined lips.

Instead, she says she was left with "two massive boils" sticking out of her chin and had to have a corrective procedure to sort them out.

Like many customers in Scotland, 24-year-old Lauren spotted the clinic on Instagram and booked with a friend for a cheap, special offer.

She was attracted by the celebrity endorsements and rave online reviews for Miss Hudson's Aesthetics, a Manchester-based business that travels to Glasgow each month to see hundreds of clients.

But Lauren told BBC Scotland's Disclosure that her experience at the clinic was "just awful from start to finish".

Image source, Miss Hudson's Aesthetics Scotland
Image caption,
The clinic relies heavily on promotion from influencers and reality TV stars, as well as on its low prices

Lauren said: "The overall clinic was just chaos, it was like a free for all. There were people everywhere.

"You were demanded to pay cash upfront for the treatments. It was like a conveyer belt. It was one in, one out."

Lauren says she waited more than five hours to be seen but said the procedure itself - carried out by the clinic's owner Savannah Hudson - lasted under five minutes with no prior consultation or discussion about how she wanted to look.

She claims the pain was so bad that she had to tell Ms Hudson to stop at one point during the procedure.

When "two massive lumps" appeared on her chin afterwards, Lauren said the practitioner grabbed her lip in the clinic's waiting room and started trying to massage the lumps, telling her this was normal.

Image caption,
Another client took a photo of her lip after the procedure at Miss Hudson's Aesthetics

Lauren said she was told there was nothing the clinic could do, that the procedure was done and that was it. She said she received no aftercare.

She said she had to wait for the pain in her lips to subside and then go to a different practitioner who attempted to even out the lumps that she had been left with.

Her story is one echoed by dozens of women online who have spoken about their negative experiences at Miss Hudson's Aesthetics.

There have been complaints of heavy bleeding, bruising, lumps and bumps, fillers put in the wrong place and allegations of more serious adverse effects such as infection.

In a bid to find out more about Miss Hudson's Aesthetics, BBC Scotland's Disclosure programme went undercover and booked an appointment at the August clinic.

Two reporters went along and secretly filmed what they found. One posed as a 20-year-old who wanted lip fillers and the other as a supportive friend.

Image caption,
A photo taken by a client from a previous pop-up clinic

What happened at Miss Hudson's Aesthetics?

Staff at the clinic, including Savannah Hudson, travelled to Glasgow from Manchester during its local lockdown on 31 August.

Government restrictions stated that Manchester residents could travel, but only come into contact with members of their own households or support bubble.

By the time the BBC reporters arrived at about 20:00, a member of staff said 65 clients had already been treated that day.

More than 20 clients continued to arrive throughout the evening. There were still people waiting to be seen at 23:00.

The reporters found that the Covid-19 safety measures in the clinic were inconsistent. Some staff members did not keep their masks on in the waiting and treatment rooms, while clients were not asked to wear masks at all.

Many did not adhere to social distancing rules and only cash upfront was accepted.

Image caption,
Savannah Hudson carried out a consultation, without a mask, in the doorway of the clinic in front of other clients

Some clients paid up to £500 for a treatment package in notes, increasing the risk of transmitting coronavirus.

And, possibly in an attempt at social distancing , they applied numbing cream in the street.

It numbed the reporter's lips for more than three hours and an expert told the BBC they believed it could have been prescription-only.

Of the between 20-30 clients that the undercover reporters saw go into the clinic, staff did not ask any for ID to find out the ages of those getting injected.

This is not against the law in this unregulated industry but Miss Hudson's website states it has a strict over-18s policy.

Savannah Hudson was recorded telling one of the reporters that it should only take a couple of minutes to inject fillers - a claim rebutted by one expert we spoke to.

Some of the clients Disclosure has spoken throughout the investigation said the speed and abruptness of the treatment had shocked them.

Image caption,
Possibly in an attempt at social distancing - they apply numbing cream in the street

Customers are asked to pay cash in advance for procedures. When challenged on that, Ms Hudson asked the undercover reporter: "Would you go to Asda, try a sandwich, then pay for it after you eat it?"

She also told the reporter that 30% of her clients experienced adverse effects and that a further 12% of people experienced serious adverse effects after visiting Miss Hudson's.

These figures have been questioned by an industry expert who said they were much higher than would be expected.

After asking a series of questions about the procedure, Ms Hudson advised the undercover BBC reporter not to go through with the treatment and to come back when she had thought it through.

Lots of clients the reporters spoke to at the clinic said they were always happy with the results at Miss Hudson's.

One client said: "I've had it done previously here and I won't go anywhere else now."

What are dermal fillers?

Tens of thousands of people now get dermal filler treatment across Scotland each year.

It is usually an injection into the face of something called hyaluronic acid which helps to fill wrinkles and add volume to tissue.

But as its popularity increases, so do the complications which include the risk of infection, blocked arteries, necrosis, blindness and stroke.

Hundreds of companies across the UK offer dermal fillers but there are currently no rules about who can inject you with filler, nor what training they should have had.

The Scottish government put forward proposals at the start of the year under which non-healthcare professionals would need a licence to carry out cosmetic procedures.

'My milkman has more medical knowledge'

Ken Stewart, plastic surgeon and representative for BAPRAS (British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons), said he was "astonished" by what Disclosure uncovered at Miss Hudson's Aesthetics.

"My milkman has more medical knowledge than the staff at that clinic," he said.

Mr Stewart warned that injecting filler quickly significantly increases the risk of adverse side effects.

He said: "Any medical intervention has a risk of complications. Anaphylaxis and cardiac arrest can occur in theory. If that was to happen, I wouldn't want that team looking after me who have just driven up from Manchester in the middle of the Covid lockdown.

"I can't see any evidence that those people have any appropriate medical qualifications that would qualify them to look after anyone if those serious complications did arise.

"This is not like buying a sandwich. This is a business involving risk and unfortunately at the moment it's buyer beware," he said.

The organisation SaveFace runs a register of accredited practitioners in the UK and told the BBC what to avoid when considering cosmetic fillers:

  • Avoid cheap prices, 1ml of lip filler should cost anywhere between £250 - £400
  • Avoid treatment packages, it is more dangerous to have more than one area of your face injected at once
  • Avoid paying cash up front, only pay a deposit after a proper medical consultation

Miss Hudson's Aesthetics were contacted for a comment on the allegations made in this investigation but the BBC has not received a reply.