Essex County Council has said it will use a covert Facebook account to catch people illegally offering botox and dermal filler treatment to children.

It comes after investigations found rogue beauty salons – including several in Essex – could be flouting the law by offering potentially dangerous lip fillers to underage teens without checking their ID.

The Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act 2012 made it a criminal offence to make arrangements, book an appointment or administer Botox or fillers to anyone under 18.

In the 2022-2023 financial year, the Government has determined that it will pay grants totalling £1,456,699 to local authorities across England to support them with expenditures lawfully incurred because of the Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act 2021.

At this time, none of the grant has been spent on “investigations” but the council has said it has taken a number of initiatives including employing an additional Trading Standards Officer to deal with all underage sales complaints and investigations.

But it is also hopeful to catch culprits using entrapment through a covert Facebook account.

A statement from Essex County Council said: ”We are currently undertaking a piece of work to facilitate the setting up of a covert Facebook account to assist with dealing with underage sales issues stemming from businesses that only have a presence on Facebook (this has included getting professional advice on the information governance and legal/RIPA implications).

“This service is intelligence-led and gathers intelligence from various sources and records and analyses all data received. This then allows us to target our resources on the businesses and business practices that are causing consumers and businesses the most significant detriment.”

Experts fear for youngsters’ safety as social media pressures drive them to cheap deals. Fillers can cause extreme swelling, blood clots and even blindness.

The Government guidance states: “It is a criminal offence to administer botulinum toxin (commonly known as ‘Botox’) or a filler by way of injection for a cosmetic purpose to a person under 18 in England, even if they have the permission of someone over 18. It is also an offence to make arrangements or book an appointment to provide these treatments to anyone under the age of 18 in England.”