“It got to the point where my lip was actually starting to go up to my nose, it got so bad I could actually feel them starting to split.”
For 32-year-old model Lora Mua, a botched lip filler injection turned into an “excruciating” episode.
Some leading experts in Wales’ aesthetics industry have now called for tougher regulation on dermal fillers.
The Welsh Government said it might consult on licensing them in the future.
Dermal fillers are injections used to fill out wrinkles and creases in the skin, although they are also often used to increase the volume and definition of lips and cheeks.
There is currently no law in Wales that says you need to have medical training in order to carry out the procedure, meaning anyone can order the materials online and administer injections.
Lora, from Swansea, had fillers injected for the first time two years ago, saying it had seemed a “popular choice” and she wanted to emulate celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian.
A surgeon carried out the procedure but Lora believes the filler was mistakenly injected into a blood vessel, causing a haematoma which made her lips swell, split and turn blue.
“I was in such shock. It was just getting worse and worse,” she said.
“I was so worried because, at the end of the day, my face is my livelihood. I definitely lost some money out of it.
“[But] I was more worried about the long-term effects of it, thinking ‘Have I completely destroyed my lips out of vanity?'”
Lora said she has since found a practitioner she trusts to do her lip fillers, although she regretted the first time because of the problems it caused.
A UK parliamentary debate has called for the regulation of non-surgical cosmetic procedures after another woman’s lips swelled dramatically when she had filler injected at a Botox party.
Advanced nurse practitioner Annie Cartwright said the lack of regulation in Wales, where health is devolved, and the rise in popularity of “lip filler” procedures had created the “perfect storm”.
She said: “These procedures are not fashion statements, they are medical interventions. And they can’t be cast off like last season’s animal print – it’s much more serious for that.”
Also calling for a change in the law is Dr James Dean, a former GP and director of Freyja Medical, a skin surgery in Wrexham.
He said the rising popularity of lip fillers was a “worrying trend” and for which social media was partly to blame.
Dr Dean said that, while customers had previously brought in an image of a celebrity they wanted to look like, they now came to his surgery with a filtered photo of themselves from social media, wanting to emulate that look.
Save Face, the national register of accredited practitioners, said complaints about dermal filler treatments in Wales had almost quadrupled over the past four years.
In 2017-18, there were 132 complaints about dermal filler procedures in Wales, compared with 36 in 2015-16.
The biggest number of complaints came from 18 to 25-year-olds.
Save Face director Ashton Collins said such procedures had become “trivialised” and she feared younger people were susceptible to cheap deals.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in seedy deals that are advertised, particularly on social media,” she said.
“Things like shared syringes, things like Botox parties, to people advertising the fact they’re mobile.
“We’ve seen treatments being done in car parks, behind a tanning salon where there’s literally just a stool and a line of women with numbing cream on their lips waiting to be injected. People doing it in cars, garages, all sorts.”
But because of the current lack of regulation or licensing, Ms Collins said it was hard to get legal redress if things went wrong.
Save Face said the Welsh Government declined to include dermal fillers within the Public Health Bill in 2017, after several meetings with the organisation.
Its inclusion would have forced practitioners – along with tattooists and piercers which were included – to fulfil certain requirements before they could legally carry out the treatments.
The Welsh Government said it recognised “there may be risks associated with procedures such as dermal fillers” and that it “may be appropriate in the future to consult on adding procedures like these” to the licensing system.