Dr Cat Stone reflects on 20 years of changes in cosmetic medicine
A pioneer in cosmetic medicine, you’d be hard pressed to find an area of the field Dr Cat Stone isn’t well versed in. One of New Zealand’s leading aesthetic doctors, with over 20 years’ experience and the founder of the country’s first specialised Botox clinic, Dr Cat Stone and The Face Place are positioned herself firmly at the forefront of the industry.
Here, we talk to the leader and disruptor about her journey to founding one of New Zealand’s premier clinics, signature approach to injectables, and the biggest changes she’s observed over the past 20 years…
Firstly, what inspired your career in appearance medicine? Talk us through your journey…
Back in 2000, I was training in surgery, with a passion for plastic and reconstructive surgery, when I had a friend who asked me to do his Botox for lines and wrinkles. At that stage I had only used Botox in the legs of babies with cerebral palsy (which relaxes the spasmed muscles so they can walk and be toileted), so the concept of using Botulinum for lines and wrinkles at that time seemed a bit weird. I told him I’d research it, but to not hold his breath!
I did the research and realised that it had a good evidence base and was actually very safe. I also realised there was a lot more that could be done with it than just lines and wrinkles! So, I trained in the procedures, and in 2001, The Face Place was launched as NZ’s first specialised Botox Centre. I was fortunate to be involved in the official launch of Botox Cosmetic in NZ and Australia in 2002, and to train with the pioneers of cosmetic Botox. While in Vancouver training with some of the top people in the world at the time, I was introduced to the concept of the medical spa. Embracing this concept, in 2004 we expanded The Face Place and relaunched as NZ’s first medical spa, combining cosmetic injectables and medical grade skin care to enable us to achieve optimal results for our patients.
A few years on, Dr Charles Runels, the inventor of the Vampire Facial®️, invited me to be a global trainer in the techniques, so in 2015 we finally set up the training academy I had been wanting to set up since 2005! It sits really well alongside being an official trainer for Allergan – who make Botox®️ and Juvederm®️ – and we also offer training in Hyalase®️ (the injectable medication we can use to dissolve HA fillers) and Profhilo®️, the injectable bio-revitalising skin hydrator.
What is your approach to cosmetic medicine?
We are a best-practice clinic and pride ourselves on our high level of integrity, education, and exceptional care of our patients. We are also famous for our beautiful, natural-looking results. We appear to charge more for our products but use less product as we are much more strategic in how we use it, ensuring more natural results, and we only use the highest quality products. We will also say ‘no’ if we believe it might make you look worse rather than better, and we provide a full consultation on your options. Our clinicians have no targets or commissions, so are focused on achieving the best possible results for you.
For us to provide a treatment at The Face Place, it has to be safe, simple, effective, naturally based and medically proven, and we have to be happy trying it on ourselves (we personally trial each product or treatment before saying yes to providing it!). When we trial products, we want to ensure they provide good consistent results, that are high reward, low risk and good value for money. So, we are very selective about what we offer and recommend, and there are a few things we don’t offer (despite other clinics offering them) because they haven’t passed our trial process and don’t provide results to our expected standard.
We offer medical grade skin products and treatments with specialised medical skin therapists, as healthy skin is the foundation for us to have the best results with injectables.
What are you most passionate about in your role?
For me the biggest buzz is the impact that all our treatments – from cosmetic injectables, to treating headaches, hair loss, Bell’s Palsy or excessive sweating, to skincare, to sexual rejuvenation – have on our patients. It’s not just how they look, but how they feel about themselves afterwards, and the positive behaviour changes that result. Many of the treatments we provide are life-changing, some in small ways while others create massive life improvements. Our patients become like friends that we see regularly, but we’re just doing something for them that helps them feel good about themselves. That’s a pretty cool reason to get up in the morning!
Our team is also something I’m incredibly passionate about – we are extremely selective about who we invite into our team, as we have an incredible culture and a very supportive ‘family’ feel. We have curated a wonderful mix of highly trained doctors, nurses, and skin therapists, and then continue to provide some of the most regular and intensive training in the industry. I’m super passionate about education – of our team, our patients, the public, and our industry – as knowledge and awareness help reduce anxiety while keeping the standards high.
Throughout your career, what have been some of your most memorable moments?
Oh, that’s hard, I have so many!
Definitely being a major part of the TV program ‘Ten Years Younger’ back in 2004 – I did the pilot and then the majority of episodes in the series over the next three years that followed. The show rated highly in prime-time TV and went to about 44 different countries – I still get people messaging me to say they’ve seen the show in a random country, so they’re obviously still doing reruns! Being able to show on TV what CAN be achieved with cosmetic medicine in an average person was an incredible opportunity to provide education to counteract some of the misconceptions that people had at that time, and help people realise how simple and effective the treatments are.
Other highlights include being named a finalist in EY Entrepreneur of the Year and winning Best NZ Cosmedicine Clinic 3 years in a row, as well as being invited to be a judge for both the UK and American awards, then flying over to present the awards to some of the winners.
Probably the most rewarding moments for me though have been doing the follow-up appointments after treating people who have had extremely complex conditions such as Bell’s Palsy, trigeminal neuralgia and migraines, that haven’t been able to be controlled in other ways, and finally achieving some success and relief for them!
My all-time proudest achievement? Our incredible team and the amazing people we have working at TFP. I love coming to work!
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the cosmetic medicine landscape since starting out?
The industry has come a long way in 21 years – when I started nobody knew what Botox was, so there was a lot of education involved. It was also very professional despite being self-regulated, as most clinicians doing the treatments were passionate about treating their patients with the highest level of care. There has definitely been a massive increase in awareness but with this has come commoditisation of the industry, with clinics run by business people rather than clinicians. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of people out there looking very over treated, which gives our whole industry a bad name.
The positive change is the general acceptance of treatments, and the range of what can be achieved with cosmetic injectables and non-surgical treatments these days.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions you hear from clients new to cosmetic medicine?
While most people seem to be reasonably well educated on the relative ease and safety of cosmetic treatments, some people still confuse Botox and filler.
We also still have a few people who are concerned that they’ll look weird or over done – I always reiterate that it doesn’t have to be like that, and in my opinion it shouldn’t be. The results you get will depend on the skills and experience – and artistic eye – of your injector. If you want to look natural and you walk into a clinic where everyone looks overdone, my advice is to turn around and walk out, and find somewhere where people look refreshed but normal, as the team usually reflect the aesthetic of that clinic or clinician.
A key differentiator of The Face Place’s offering is intimate wellness – what prompted you to offer treatments like The O Shot and Vampire Breast Lift?
I met the inventor of the Vampire Facial and Vampire Facelift at a conference, and after chatting about the treatments and him admiring some of our work (he has a ‘make it look natural’ ethos too), he invited me to be one of his global trainers. He also invented the O-Shot (for improving female lubrication, sensation, orgasm and leaky bladder), the P-Shot (to help men have harder, stronger erections) and the Vampire Breast-lift (a subtle change in shape and volume of the cleavage area of the breast). To be honest, at first I resisted the intimate treatments, but after seeing the impact it has for people, I’ve become very passionate about them. We also now offer Thermi-Va which is a radiofrequency wand that helps with tightening of the tissues while improving sensation and lubrication.
What do you think has been the key to your success in an increasingly competitive market?
I believe the key to success in any market is to be the best at what you do, and to treat people well – this includes our team and suppliers as well as our patients. Our mission is to provide the ultimate experience in non-surgical cosmedicine, through superior service and a justified reputation for being the best. We invest heavily in education, and in spending time with patients getting to know them – our appointment times are some of the longest in the industry, for example 1h for an initial consult, 30 min for Botox, and 60-90 min for filler depending on what is being done. This means we get to understand our patients and their needs, without rushing their treatments.
We are also proud that our clinicians are not on commission, so there is no motivation to sell you more than you need. This means we can provide unbiased advice to give you the best possible results – one of the great skills of our industry is learning when to say ‘no’ to treatments that won’t help your patient look or feel better, and often, it only takes just a little bit too much and the person starts looking overdone and less attractive rather than more attractive. We’re proud of our history – some of our patients have been with us for over 20 years – and we’re proud to be a best practice clinic.