Guidance for doctors who offer cosmetic interventions

About our Cosmetic interventions guidance 

How this guidance applies to you

This guidance is for all doctors who offer cosmetic interventions

The cosmetic sector is a rapidly expanding area of practice that has gone from being a niche market to a popular service that is now widely available. Cosmetic interventions can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of patients. There have been particular concerns about patient safety and whether the sector operates in an ethical manner. It is important that doctors have the right skills, the products used are safe, and patients get accurate information before they decide to have a cosmetic intervention. This guidance sets out a framework for practice to address these concerns.

By cosmetic interventions we mean any intervention, procedure or treatment carried out with the primary objective of changing an aspect of a patient’s physical appearance. This includes surgical and non-surgical procedures, both invasive and non-invasive.

The key aims of this guidance are to make sure that doctors:

  • are appropriately trained and experienced to practise safely
  • work with each individual patient to make sure their expectations about the outcomes that can be achieved for them are realistic
  • follow current guidelines or protocols for safe, effective provision of cosmetic interventions
  • consider the psychological needs of their patients
  • do not allow any financial or commercial interests in a particular intervention, or an organisation providing cosmetic interventions, to adversely affect standards of good patient care.

This guidance does not apply to interventions that amount to female genital mutilation (FGM), which is illegal in the UK. If you are not sure whether a particular cosmetic intervention falls within the legal definition of FGM1  then you must seek advice, eg from your defence organisation or your employer’s legal department.


The legal definition of FGM is very broad and may include procedures such as genital tattoos and piercing. It may be helpful to refer to guidance issued by government and the medical royal colleges, such as FGM Mandatory reporting duty (accessed 7 March 2016).

Using this guidance

This guidance incorporates principles from our existing guidance, and is structured under the four domains of Good medical practice. In some cases, it sets a higher standard than in our other guidance to address the specific safety issues and ethical concerns particular to the cosmetic sector, as recommended by Sir Bruce Keogh’s Review of the regulation of cosmetic interventions.2 You must read this guidance alongside our other guidance3  for a full understanding of the expected standards of practice.

Throughout this document we’ve highlighted certain paragraphs of our other guidance, which you must read to get the full picture. You can also find these extracts in the links on the right hand side.

Throughout this guidance, we use the terms ‘you must’ and ‘you should’ in the following ways.

  • ‘You must’ is used for an overriding duty or principle.
  • ‘You should’ is used when we are providing an explanation of how you will meet the overriding duty.
  • ‘You should’ is also used where the duty or principle will not apply in all situations or circumstances, or where there are factors outside your control that affect whether or how you can follow the guidance.

To maintain your licence to practise, you must demonstrate, through the revalidation process, that you work in line with the principles and values set out in this guidance. You must be prepared to explain and justify your decisions and actions. Only serious or persistent failure to follow our guidance that poses a risk to patient safety or public trust in doctors will put your registration at risk.


Department of Health (England) (2013) Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Interventions. See also the Scottish Government report of the Scottish Cosmetic Interventions Expert Group. (2015)


You can read all of our existing guidance on our website.

Other sources of guidance

A number of organisations, including the Royal College of Surgeons, have produced guidance on the professional standards, skills and experience needed to carry out cosmetic interventions.

The Committee of Advertising Practice has developed guidance on the advertising and marketing of cosmetic interventions. We have included references and links to these other sources of guidance, which complement our guidance for doctors.


Professional Standards for Cosmetic Surgery - Royal College of Surgeons (2016)

Marketing of cosmetic interventions - Committee of Advertising Practice (2016)

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons  - code of practice


The British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (2019)

Qualification requirements for delivery of cosmetic procedures - NHS Health Education England (2015)

Report on implementation of qualification requirements for cosmetic procedures -  NHS Health Education England (2015)