Those considering cosmetic treatment should do their research and be prepared to ask questions, a group of doctors has recommended.
Those considering surgery should do their research, say experts
The panel was asked for a report on regulating the industry by the Department of Health.
Asking about surgeons' experience is important, said a member of the group, Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen.
Ask friends who have had treatments for advice on clinics and make sure you see a doctor, not a salesman, he advised.
Thousands of Britons have some sort of cosmetic procedure each year, but the exact number, and the success rate, is unknown.
Anywhere offering surgery should be registered with the Healthcare Commission, but it does not know how many there are providing unregulated procedures.
"Anybody can basically paint their front room white and call it a clinic," said a spokesman for the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).
He added that while aspects of cosmetic surgery fall under different bits of regulation, there is no "over-arching piece of legislation covering cosmetic surgery as a whole".
There isn't even a common definition of cosmetic surgery, which is covered by some legislation, and "aesthetic procedures".
"Botox parties" and the fact that non-surgical procedures like injections to paralyse wrinkles are not regulated have raised concerns.
Dr Vallance-Owen, who is also BUPA's medical director, says there is no such thing as a "minor procedure" and patients need to make sure they are well informed about their options.
"When you are having an injection...especially if it's going to have an effect on your face or other distinguishing features, you ought to be thinking quite carefully about it," he said.
Ask right questions
"One of the worries that I have is there isn't enough information for patients about, not only the different choices about types of treatment, but also about the sort of people who do them."
BAAPS, which backs calls for better regulation of the industry, says patients need to take responsibility and ask the right questions.
It has issued its own guidelines to those considering going under the knife. They include:
- Do not be talked into anything you do not want
- Make sure you know the risks and limitations of treatments
- Check surgeons are registered with the Royal College of Surgeons.
- Do not have surgery just after a major life-changing event such as a death, a break-up, having children or moving house
- Avoid 'free consultations', booking fees and non-refundable deposits.
- Do not go overseas unless you are prepared to keep going back if something goes wrong
- Ask your GP for advice
- You can change your mind up to the last minute
- Take your time making a decision
Patients can contact the Healthcare Commission, which has a list of all the private clinics and hospital registered for cosmetic surgery in England.
It recommends that patients choose a clinic or hospital through their GP.
BAAPS, based at the Royal College of Surgeons, has information about specific procedures and its members contact details on its website, or advice line on 020 7405 2234.