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Navigating the New Cosmetic Surgery Advertising Guidelines: Ensuring Compliance in the Digital Marketing Era

If you are a plastic surgeon or the owner of an aesthetic practice in Australia, it is crucial to stay informed about the new guidelines and restrictions proposed by the government that came into effect at the start of July 2023. 

These new Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) guidelines have significant implications for your practice’s digital marketing program, as what you have been doing might now be illegal. 

Connected Culture is a leading digital marketing content agency in the plastic and cosmetic surgery industry and in our latest blog, we will discuss some of the proposed changes and how they can impact on your practices digital marketing strategies. Getting to grips with these guidelines will help you remain compliant with legal advertising policies while adapting your marketing assets to align with the new regulations from AHPRA.

As medical professionals, specialist plastic surgeons in Australia bear the responsibility of upholding the highest standards of ethical conduct and patient care. With the implementation of new  AHPRA regulations which took effect on the 1st of July 2023, it has become crucial for specialist plastic surgeons (and their teams) to ensure compliance and align their practices with these guidelines. Below we hope to highlight and discuss the key areas of focus outlined in AHPRA’s new regulations and provide a checklist to help specialist plastic surgeons better understand if they are operating correctly in the new regulatory landscape to safeguard both their patients and their profession.

Updates in the Guidelines

Patient Privacy:

Respecting patient privacy is of utmost importance, especially when it comes to advertising. Even if patients have given consent to be featured in promotional materials, it is essential to ensure they fully understand the implications and do not feel pressured or obligated to agree. To protect patient privacy effectively, consider alternative marketing methods such as taking close-up photos of the surgical area and minimising the inclusion of unnecessary personal details.

Checklist for Patient Privacy

  • Do you ensure your patient images do not contain unique jewellery, birthmarks, scars, tattoos, or demographic information from your patients?
  • Does your practice avoid disclosing patient names through metadata or other file information?
  • Is your marketing material restricted to capturing surgical areas in photographs, minimising exposure of additional patient information?

Before and Afters:

Clinical before and after images serve as valuable resources for prospective patients. However, it is essential to handle these images with care to ensure transparency and prevent any misrepresentation. Avoid any manipulations or edits beyond cropping and censoring, as such alterations can be misleading and deceptive. Selfie images, taken by patients themselves, are problematic as they may not accurately represent the surgical outcomes and can be influenced by filters or editing apps.

Checklist for Before and After Images

  • Do you ensure consistency in camera angle, background, framing, exposure, and lighting in your before and after images?
  • Are all your featured patients photographed with the same posture, clothing, and makeup in before and after images?
  • Do your marketing images have a caption that emphasises that individual results may vary and may not precisely replicate the outcomes depicted in the images?

Sexualising or Making Light of Surgery

The glamorisation of cosmetic surgery goes against the guidelines set by AHPRA. Surgeons should be cautious when using imagery and language that may contribute to this glamorisation. Avoid publishing photos or videos of patients in unnecessary states of undress, posing in ways that accentuate their bodies, or in glamorous settings. Refrain from using language that suggests perfection, magic, or life-changing results, as these can create unrealistic expectations.

Checklist for Avoiding Sexualisation or Making Light of Surgery

  • Is your marketing material free from emojis, inappropriate music, or bright colours in advertising content?
  • Is your marketing language of such a nature that it focuses on the benefits of surgery without exaggeration or unrealistic claims?
  • Does your advertising educate patients about the risks associated with surgery and the potential for individual results to differ?


While testimonials can be powerful tools, they are not permissible under the new regulations. Positive statements or recommendations from patients regarding clinical aspects or outcomes of surgery are considered advertising and should be avoided. Testimonials can create unrealistic expectations and may not provide a comprehensive overview of the risks, pain levels, complications, and recovery process associated with surgery.

Checklist for Testimonials

  • Do you refrain from using positive statements shared by patients or recommendations from them?
  • Have you avoided reposting private messages expressing positivity about surgery or results?
  • Is your practice avoiding sharing posts, stories, or patient journeys on social media that endorse surgery outcomes?

New Advertising Guidelines you need to be aware:

Along with updates or consolidation of cosmetic surgery guidelines in relation to patient privacy, before and after images, avoiding making light of cosmetic surgery, and testimonials, the new guidelines include new areas of practitioner responsibility, titles and claims, financial and incentives, social media influencers, risk and recovery, and so much more. As a snapshot: 

  • Does your advertising contain the medical practitioners’ registration type and number in all advertising?
  • Do you provide easy access to information about risks and recovery?
  • Does your practice use videos and images responsibly, and not for entertainment? 
  • Does your advertising not use body language wording and terms that could be deemed negative? 
  • Is your advertising identified as adult content? 
  • Is all of your historical content compliant with the new guidelines?

How did your practice score on the checklist? If just one of the boxes aren’t checked your practice runs the risk of not adhering to AHPRA’s new regulations. Specialist plastic surgeons in Australia must now prioritise compliance with the new AHPRA regulations to ensure the ethical and responsible practice of their profession. As medical professionals, it is your responsibility to prioritise the best interests of your patients. It is essential to understand and comply with these guidelines to avoid legal repercussions and maintain consumer trust. By adapting your digital marketing strategies and embracing transparency and authenticity, you can thrive in the evolving landscape of cosmetic surgery advertising. Together, we can ensure a safer and more ethical practice for the benefit of both patients and the medical community. 

Connected Culture offers a comprehensive solution for specialist plastic surgeons and practice owners who want to navigate the new regulatory landscape with confidence. By partnering with Connected Culture, you can ensure that your digital marketing strategies align with the new regulations and remain compliant with legal advertising policies. Remember, staying informed about potential regulatory changes beyond these proposed guidelines is crucial. Be prepared to adapt your marketing efforts to align with future regulations and ensure your compliance in the dynamic landscape of the cosmetic surgery industry

For more information on navigating these changes, refer to the proposed AHPRA policies and stay updated with relevant industry news and guidelines. Connected Culture’s years of medical advertising knowledge can provide the guidance and support you need to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Let us assist you in adapting your digital marketing program to align with the guidelines, giving you peace of mind and allowing you to focus on what matters most: providing the best possible care to your patients.

Don’t get caught out non-compliant, expand your knowledge with our exclusive Masterclass on understanding the new APHRA rules! Please contact us.

You may also book a call with Elzanne for any assistance or if you need your website audited, book in a conversation today.