When Tamsyn and Jarrod Newell moved to Taranaki from Auckland they were shocked at the high demand for appearance medicine in the region.
The doctors recently opened Vein and Skin in New Plymouth, 25 years after Tamsyn’s parents opened the first branch in Wellington, offering a range of services from varicose vein and skin cancer treatments to injectables like botox and dermal fillers.
Before even opening a physical space, the Newells were inundated with enquiries on Facebook mostly about botox, which is used to soften forehead lines, crow’s feet or frown lines, and fillers, which add volume to parts of the face such as lips or cheeks.
“It’s very surprising, Stratford was flat out,” Tamsyn says.
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“People there just put their trust in you, more so than city people.”
Appearance medicine has been around for a long time and become normal in larger centres, such as Auckland and Wellington, with clinics popping up in shopping malls with appointments available on the spot.
New procedures and trends are emerging that don’t require going under the knife and in most cases see people back to work that day or the next.
But the Newells say provincial New Zealand is catching up due to more awareness of the industry, and soon it will be as normal as getting a haircut.
Botox can range from $80 to $800 and fillers from $400 to $4000.
Many places offer payment plans such as Caci where $22 a week gets you a Cosmetic Injectables Membership.
In New Plymouth, a city with a population of 84,400, there are at least eight clinics offering botox.
“It’s catching up to where the Gold Coast and Brisbane have been for the last 10 years,” Jarrod says.
“You go to places like the Gold Coast, and even as someone in the industry I find it a bit weird, everyone looks the same, like a Barbie doll.”
Tamsyn’s parents were among the first to offer appearance medicine in New Zealand.
She says they spent so much money on advertising just to inform people what they did.
“There was a lot more stigma then and all these preconceptions about who did it and who didn’t.
“When mum and dad started they were the only ones for years and years but now there are dentists that have started offering botox and little appearance medicine clinics popping up, and they’re nurse run and have a supervisor doctor somewhere and run through that.”
Botox is registered as a prescription medicine so a nurse or dentist injecting it require the prescription to be signed off by a doctor, however that doctor doesn’t need to be in the same clinic, or even the same region.
Dermal fillers on the other hand are registered as a device rather than a medicine, so no sign off is needed and theoretically anyone could get their hands on them.
This side of the industry is relatively unregulated and cosmetic doctors have long been calling for change especially after an Auckland woman was blinded in one eye by a nose procedure gone wrong in 2017.
In the last three years the Health and Disability Commissioner has received 35 complaints in relation to cosmetic medicine with one currently under investigation.
Dr Ellen Selkon, cosmetic doctor at Clinic42 in Auckland, wants to see all fillers registered as medicine that can only be used by a healthcare professional who has to have a qualification in cosmetic medicine.
She says things have been better since the Medical Council changed the rules for doctors so if they don’t have a New Zealand Society of Cosmetic Medicine (NZSCM) diploma they have to work under supervision of a dermatologist, surgeon, or practitioner who has the diploma.
In 2016 the Cosmetic Appearance Nurses of New Zealand (CANN) was founded to try to improve the regulations for cosmetic nurses.
While they were doing great work to try to accredit nurses, Selkon said there was no requirement to join.
“A nurse can practise out of her garage, nobody cares, nobody knows, there’s nobody to say that’s not safe, that’s not hygienic, they can do anything really.”
Selkon is the Australian trainer for pharmaceutical company Galderma and also an executive for NZSCM and has noticed an increase in provincial doctors and nurses seeking training.
“We’re definitely getting more from the smaller areas.”
Since opening in January 2019, New Plymouth-based Skin on Forty-Five have been hiring new staff and run clinics around Taranaki to meet the demand.
The clinic is owned by Dr Nick Loveridge-Easther and Dr Brent Anderson, Taranaki’s only cosmetic doctor accredited under the New Zealand Society of Cosmetic Medicine, who has been working in skin care and aesthetic medicine for the last 30 years.
“It’s taken off in the last four or five years,” Anderson says.
“People wear it as a badge of honour rather than as their secret.
“People used to come in with cash because they didn’t want their husband to know.”
The pair pride themselves on their staff and the clinic being accredited and say while there are some good injectors out there, it needs to be more regulated.
“We’ve had people come back from overseas, and they’ve had something done that’s gone wrong and ACC won’t cover them, they’re then paying to get something undone,” Loveridge-Easther says.
“A lot of fillers aren’t registered, there’s some real cowboys out there, and there’s a lot of growth in that area,” Anderson added.
Down in Timaru, with a population of 47,900, the industry is booming with Dr Tracy Chandler having an eight-week wait list.
But with the growth in popularity, Chandler has witnessed her fair share of ‘cowboys’.
“There are a lot of cheap botox and fillers and people buying it on the internet and injecting it themselves, so I’m seeing quite a few more messes that I have to clean up.
“I know there’s a clinic in the South Island using ChinaTox which is the cheap, unapproved botox – if you were going to use it you have to tell people and pass on the cost savings, but they’re not.”
Chandler was a GP for five years before getting into cosmetic medicine 14 years ago after noticing people travelling to Christchurch to get treatments.
She is aware of two other part-time clinics also doing cosmetic medicine in the town now, but says she has a different approach to most.
When people come in wanting ‘Angelina Jolie lips’, Chandler won’t do it.
“I ethically can’t do that, I tell them if they want that they’ll have to go somewhere else because that’s not my approach, you can really mess people’s heads up.”
Her classic clientele tends to be divorced women who are looking to feel better about themselves and while she is happy to provide botox and fillers to these women, she likes to dig a bit deeper first.
“What I try to do is get them to love the person inside rather than changing the external appearance.
“It’s about how can I grow this person’s confidence and not give them body dysmorphia.”
The biggest change in the industry has been people’s openness to talk about getting botox or fillers, Chandler says.
“I remember I had a woman who said her friend was giving her a hard time about having botox and I knew that friend was coming to see me as well.”
But it’s not just the injectables side of the beauty industry that is unregulated and growing.
Fleur Wilson started Laser Lab in New Plymouth in 2017 after noticing a gap for affordable laser skin treatments and hair removal.
Within five months she’d hired another staff member and within 18 months she’d bought two new laser machines.
She prides herself on being trained in laser and having laser safety certificates but as with the injectables’ industry, there is little regulation.
“You could go on Alibaba and buy yourself a machine and start lasering.
“I’ve seen first-hand photos of people with third degree burns and it’s happening in New Plymouth.”
Laser hair removal with Wilson ranges from $55 for lip and chin, which takes two minutes, to $399 for a full leg, which takes half-an-hour.
Tamsyn from Vein and Skin also comes every six weeks to offer botox and fillers which tends to book out well in advance.
“People want results and they want affordable.
“It feels like it’s growing all the time, it felt like I was one of the only ones but clinics keep opening.”
Taranaki isn’t the only coast noticing a boost in demand either.
Lise Booth is based in Napier, but also travels to Dannevirke, Palmerston North, and Masterton to do injectables.
“Provincially I service ladies that are professional but also work on farms, run businesses, school teachers, all walks of life.
“They’ve been exposed to it more on social media.”
The results far surpass what any skin cream can do, she says.
Booth has been an independent injector for three years but previously was a beauty therapist for 10 years before getting her nursing degree at age 30.
She worked in hospitals and primary health before venturing into aesthetic medicine getting trained by Dr Paul Weaver, based in Hawke’s Bay like Booth, who still oversees her practice.
As a beauty therapist 15 years ago, Booth says cosmetic medicine was around but in its early stages – very private and mainly accessible to those with higher incomes.
She now sees a range of people from those in their 20s and 30s using it for prevention to those 40 plus using it for maintenance and rejuvenation.
“It’s about how they see themselves and the feeling they get when they’re feeling great, it’s really powerful that confidence”
In Kaitaia, a far north town with a population of just 5871, Rachael Lovich owns Zen Laser and Beauty – the only clinic offering laser treatments and injectables.
When Lovich moved from Brisbane 11 years ago she noticed a gap in the market for an appearance type clinic rather than just beauty therapy.
The industry has grown significantly up north and while it may surprise people, Lovich says it’s a wealthy area.
Lovich is trained in beauty therapy and laser and has an injector, Chrissy Dawkins, who travels two hours from Whangārei once a month.
“She is absolutely fully booked, there is certainly no shortage of want of injectables,” Lovich says.
Since offering fillers Lovich says they’ve had a lot more young women come through the clinic who previously had to travel to Kerikeri or Whangārei.
“I wanted to bring those things here so women don’t have to travel.
“I’d just be like everybody else if I didn’t have the laser and the injectables”