Dr Sarah Hart is an experienced appearance medicine physician and Fellow of the New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine. Dr Hart is one of only two New Zealand doctors on the international Botox Advisory Board and trains other doctors around the country in facial rejuvenation techniques. Dr Hart works at the Palm Clinic – a centre for varicose veins, liposuction, appearance medicine and laser treatments – in Auckland, New Zealand.
What inspired you to become an appearance medicine physician?
I was attracted by the artistic side of it – I love art and now I can combine that with medicine. I see the face as my canvas and needles as my paintbrushes. I can sculpt beautiful cheeks or lips using dermal fillers. And all in a safe, non-invasive way.
I wasn’t sure about doing appearance medicine at first – I thought it might be superficial, but it’s not at all. After working as a hospital doctor I began specialising in psychiatry and appearance medicine, and to my surprise I found with appearance medicine I could make dramatic improvements to my patients’ lives and wellbeing.
Our appearance influences how we feel about ourselves and are perceived by others. It is very satisfying to be able to help people make positive changes in their lives. I believe appearance medicine is the ideal way to look naturally better.
What do you like most about your job?
There is something very rewarding about making a few simple changes to a face that can transform the way the world treats people. I love bringing out a person’s natural beauty, especially when they are unaware how attractive they really are. The mutual good feeling I get from my patients is quite simply addictive.
Do you think that society places an unfair emphasis on beauty and looking good?
Yes it is certainly unfair. But I believe humans are hardwired to favour beauty. It’s innate; an evolutionary adaptation to enable you to pick a healthy partner with strong genes. Most things considered beautiful, like sparkling eyes, glowing skin and glossy hair, are outward signs of good health and fertility. Those basic instincts will never change.
What are the most common treatments at Palm Clinic that you administer?
Botox is our number one treatment in the appearance medicine side of Palm Clinic. It’s a special interest for us. The clinic’s founder John Barrett started using Botox back in 1996 and is perhaps the most experienced specialist in Auckland. He taught me, and I am now a member of the International Botox Advisory Board which sets the guidelines in Australia and New Zealand on how Botox should be injected.
At Palm Clinic we are passionate about making Botox undetectable, so our patients look natural. I think that’s why we are so well known in this field.
Have you seen a shift in appearance medicine over the last few years?
Appearance medicine is one of the fastest developing areas of medicine. The understanding of facial ageing has taken giant steps forward in the last 10 years.
Treatments are more effective, safer and cheaper than ever before. There has also been a shift towards natural-looking results. In the early days there were a lot of “frozen” Botox faces and oversized “trout pouts”. New techniques and aesthetics have superseded this now. People who use appearance medicine should just look better – there needn’t be any other tell tale signs.
Is there any reason for people to be concerned about the safety of injecting foreign substances in their bodies, such as Botox or dermal fillers?
Botox is an incredibly well researched product with 40 years of safety data behind it. There have been over 10 million treatments worldwide now. Unlike other freely available medications we think of as harmless, like aspirin, there have never been any life-threatening side effect associated with cosmetic Botox use.
Personally I have been using myself Botox for over 10 years and it has done wonders for my skin. So no, I don’t have any concerns about its safety. But I recommend people make sure their practitioner really is using Botox, as there are other, less well researched botulinum toxin products out there.
With dermal fillers, there are a lot on the market but I don’t use them all. I prefer non-permanent fillers which are well-researched and made by reputable companies.
I only use dermal fillers made from collagen (a protein) or hyaluranon (a sugar) as these are gradually broken down by the body’s own natural enzymes. I would not use permanent fillers as there have been reports of reactions many years later.
Do you ever come across people who are strongly opposed to appearance medicine?
Yes! Not in my client base, obviously, but I have very dear friends who openly express their disapproval of my chosen career, in the nicest possible way. Luckily they love me anyway and our friendship has nothing to do with my career.
I understand totally where they are coming from. The idea of thinking about what you look like or tampering with what nature gave you is not acceptable to everyone. However I strongly believe in making the most of what you’re given, whether that be with make-up, hair colour, dressing to suit yourself or a bit of Botox and dermal filler.
You have worked on the TV series Ten Years Younger for the last three seasons. Do you think it really is possible to shave a decade off your age?
Most definitely yes. For most people, appearance medicine can take care of the skin and face part without too much trouble. Our procedures work synergistically, meaning they give a better result when used together.
The change you can make with Botox plus dermal fillers, high concentration skin care and skin lasers is really astounding. I also learned on the show that teeth, posture, figure, hairstyle, make-up and clothes all express your age to the world and can be altered if you wish to appear younger.