There is no doubt that pharmacy is a constantly evolving profession. In recent years, pharmacy in several other countries has taken a new direction that many in Malaysia may not have expected: aesthetics pharmacy.

Two countries that stand at the forefront of aesthetic pharmacy are the England and Brazil. Here we will aim to discuss aesthetics pharmacists in England, and describe their emerging roles and exciting career pathway.

Qualification requirements and regulation of the industry

In early January 2016, Health Education England (HEE) had published two reports which laid out the qualification requirement for all practitioners who engaged in aesthetics treatments, for example, hair restoration surgery and non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as botox, chemical peels and laser hair removal regardless of the practitioner's professional background.

Pharmacists are subjected to the same regulations detailed in the reports, similar to doctors and nurses who qualified under the scheme. In order to qualify as an aesthetic practitioner, aspiring pharmacists must be an independent pharmacist prescriber prior to initiating their training in aesthetics procedures.

The reports by HEE, together with the 2013 Keogh report into patient safety, recommended self-regulation for the fledging industry. In addition, the reports also stated that further development will be necessary and the qualifications to perform different treatments and clinical oversight requirements should be progressively put in place when a regulatory framework is established.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which represents pharmacists in Great Britain, had provided valuable input to help the establishment of an independent Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP). The new organisation will be tasked to protect patient safety and is due to operate in March 2017.

Job scope and training

The job scope of an aesthetics pharmacist, naturally, revolves around the delivery of cosmetic interventions to patients with different needs. Such approach to patient care has a fundamental difference compare to conventional pharmacy patient care. The work of an aesthetic pharmacist is no longer disease-based, but it requires a delicate balance between a patient/client's desire for cosmetic perfection versus the risk of undergoing such procedures.

Several commonly seen procedures at the aesthetic clinics include wrinkle-reduction (for example, through Botox injections), injectable fillers (such as Sculptra, a biodegradable material containing microscopic particles of poly-L-lactic acid), and mesotherapy (a technique which involves multiple injections into the subcutaneous fat with the aim to help patients/clients to lose weight).

Aesthetic pharmacists have to actively seek training to expand their skills and knowledge in this area. Prior to the HEE report in 2016, pharmacists did not have sufficient access to these training and suffered from difficulties to obtain adequate insurance coverage. However, the report brought positive changes to the industry where more training academies and insurance companies progressively open up their doors to qualified pharmacists.

Career progression

Many aesthetic pharmacists progress through their career to eventually see themselves establishing their own aesthetic business. However, it is not without great challenges that pharmacists in England are allowed to practice in the field.

Sophie Riddell, a specialist pharmacist prescriber, clinical director of Cottesloe Clinic and the founder of Cosmetics Pharmacists Group UK said “Many other healthcare professionals, such as doctors, dentists and nurses, do not agree that pharmacists should be able to practise non-surgical cosmetic procedures. This means pharmacists must ensure that practice within the field of non-surgical cosmetics is to the highest of standards and are retained within the specialist clinical setting to which they belong.” MIMS

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Sangani T. Helping people look younger as an aesthetics practitioner. Pharm J. 2014;
Health Education England. PART TWO: Report on implementation of qualification requirements for cosmetic procedures: Non-surgical cosmetic interventions and hair restoration surgery. 2015.
Jankovic S. How pharmacists can become aesthetic practitioners. Pharm J. 2017; US FDA. SCULPTRA® Aesthetic. 2009.