From cosmetics to cosmetic surgery, beauty is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, and equally prioritized around the globe. In 2003, the Economist reported that worldwide, people spent more than $160 billion on various aspects of their appearance: cosmetics ($18 billion), skin products ($24 billion), perfume ($15 billion), and hair products ($38 billion). The same article said people spent roughly $20 million on cosmetic surgery in 2003.

Unfortunately, the huge opportunity for profit also attracts people who will cut corners, offering low-cost products and services that are usually also low-quality. 

In some cases, the procedures themselves are not illegal; rather, it is the individual who performs the procedure without proper education, licensing, and certification who is breaking the law. Sometimes these individuals will also offer illegal services.

Have Industrial-Grade Silicone Injections Always Been Illegal? 

Cosmetic silicone injections were outlawed in 1991 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when their safety was called into question. Complications related to silicone injections from breast augmentation, some more severe than others, were reported as far back as 1950. Problems usually developed years after the injections were received. Among the complications were:

  • Discolored tissue near the injection site
  • Inflamed tissue near the injection site
  • Silicone migrating to other areas of the body
  • Masses of inflamed tissue becoming a chronic (long-term) problem

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported that the FDA later allowed for such injections to be studied, but only in controlled trials. Aside from these trials and certain ophthalmology procedures, injections of silicone (both industrial and medical grade) are illegal.

What Are The Dangers Of Illegal Industrial Silicone Breast Injections?

In addition to the complications discussed above, one of the biggest risks is that the silicone will enter the patient’s bloodstream, which can cause death. Infection is another common risk, especially if the practitioner performs the injections outside of a sterile medical facility. Many patients also experience pain, especially if they develop masses or get an infection.

Why Do People Agree To Undergo Dangerous Procedures Like Illegal Injections?

In 2003, two people were convicted of injecting industrial-grade silicone into multiple people at “pumping parties.”  In such instances, the lure may be “going along with the crowd.” Other people are seeking beauty-enhancement options that are realistically affordable for them. Some feel desperate for ways to improve their appearance and others may simply feel embarrassed about seeking treatment in more public, yet safer medical facilities; (most illegal procedures are done in hidden or secret places, even hotel rooms). Finally, a number of patients did not research the backgrounds of the person offering the procedure, simply trusting their reported credentials and skills. 

How Can I Know If A Surgeon Is Offering An Illegal Procedure?

Do your research. Check a surgeon’s credentials by contacting the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery or the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. If a surgeon offers you silicone injections, ask whether they are participating in a clinical trial and for more information about the study. If the injections are not part of an FDA-approved study, find another surgeon. Also, be realistic about how much you should expect to pay for a legitimate service from a qualified professional. In 2011, the national average for breast augmentation with implants ranged from $3,300 to $3,700. If the procedure costs $300, it is too good to be true.