Influencers Slammed As ‘Dangerous’ For ‘Luring’ Teens To Surgery Sites

by : Emily Brown on : 31 May 2021 12:09
Influencers Slammed As 'Dangerous' For 'Luring' Teens To Surgery Sitesplaysocialuk/bellehassan/Instagram

Influencers on Instagram have been accused of ‘irresponsible’ behaviour by promoting accounts that encourage potentially dangerous and harmful activities such as gambling, unlicensed lip filler treatments and plastic surgery.

As the term suggests, influencers make a living from attempting to influence others, with Instagram accounts followed by thousands of users including many young and impressionable people striving to achieve a life like those depicted in the photos.


Influencers can often be seen running competitions from their accounts as part of efforts to increase their number of followers and establish partnerships, with TikTok star Katie Franklin and former Love Island contestants such as Belle Hassan, Callum Jones and Kendall Rae Knight among the influencers offering prizes.

Bella Hassan promoting competition (Bella Hassan/Instagram)Bella Hassan/Instagram

However, anti-gambling campaigners and cosmetic surgery regulators have described the promotions as ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ because the influencers, who are in their 20s, will likely have a large teenage followership.

By directing followers to the social media marketing company Play Social, the reality TV stars have been promoting 75 accounts with the promise of prizes including designer handbags, an iPhone 12 and the latest gaming consoles, in what is known as a ‘loop giveaway’. Industry experts believe Hassan is likely to have been paid as much as £3,000 per post.


The accounts being promoted change regularly, The Times reports, and include lip injection clinics that are not registered on the UK national register of accredited practitioners, plastic surgeons offering breast enhancements, and gambling accounts, as well as several accounts selling clipped-ear dogs, sex toys and teeth-whitening products.

Play Social competition post (PlaySocial/Instagram)PlaySocial/Instagram

Ashton Collins, from the non-surgical cosmetic treatment industry watchdog Save Face, said the competition was ‘incredibly irresponsible’, noting: ‘It gives the impression [the influencers] know these accounts and therefore have verified or used them in some way.’

Jim Orford, founder of Gambling Watch UK and a psychology professor at Birmingham University, also criticised the promotions, saying it let gambling firms ‘exploit the young, the vulnerable and the unwary.’

Kendall Rae Knight promoting competition (Kendall Rae Knight/Instagram)Kendall Rae Knight/Instagram

Renee Karr, who set up Play Social in 2019, said influencers did not know which accounts they would be promoting when they first signed up to the campaign.

She said:

Our intentions are pure and we are just trying to do a business. All talent that participate in campaigns are choosing to get involved as they get an opportunity to engage with their fans and followers and are able to really give them something to cheer about.


Karr admitted that within the campaign there might be some sponsors who ‘may provide services which are aimed at an older audience or should not be presented to a younger audience,’ but that Instagram filters accounts that are aimed at adults.

Play Social encouraging entries to competition (PlaySocial/Instagram)PlaySocial/Instagram

In a statement cited by The Times, Instagram said: ‘If a post promotes the use of certain weight loss products or cosmetic procedures, and has an incentive to buy or includes a price, we will restrict people we know to be under 18 from seeing that post.’

In order to be promoted by the influencers, accounts will reportedly have paid between £750 to £2,500 to appear on PlaySocial’s follower list, which competition entrants are encouraged to follow.


Once followers have entered the competition, their Instagram feeds become flooded with content from the potentially unsafe pages, paving the way for them to be further influenced by the accounts or lured to their websites.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Most Read StoriesMost Read

Film and TV

New Buzz Lightyear Trailer Starring Chris Evans Just Landed

Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Life, Influencer, Instagram, Now, Surgery


The Times
  1. The Times

    Influencers ‘lure teenage fans’ to gambling and surgery sites