Talking to the experts: Skin Institute's Dr. Sarah Hart

Grey Lynn resident Sarah Hart can be seen dropping her children off at the local primary school, and also at Remuera and Ponsonby's Skin Institute, where she works alongside other highly respected doctors in the field of appearance medicine. What this woman knows about how to transform and take years off your visage is just not worth knowing, and when I met her I was immediately struck by her incredible knowledge base and her approachability. When it comes to the kind of patients Sarah sees discretion and a caring approach is key, and she has both in spades.
A Fellow of the New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine, Sarah 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. At the Palm Clinic she treats patients for varicose veins, liposuction, appearance medicine and laser treatments, and says that she was attracted to the area after years in hospitals due to the “artistic side of it. I see each face as my canvas and needles as my paintbrushes. I can sculpt beautiful cheeks or lips and make serious difference to the way a person feels about themselves, but in a safe, non-invasive way”.
No stranger to the media and an absolute pro to interview, Sarah is well known to viewers of TV’s “Ten Years Younger” after three seasons working on the show and has been involved in the area of appearance medicine since 2002. “It was before even Botox was approved for cosmetic use,” she tells me, “and the early days for fillers too. It’s quite incredible when I think about it, even the way we injected both were so different to the way we do it now. It is an area that grows and changes more than any other area of medicine that I have been in, and it is so essential that you keep training and attending overseas conferences every year or you can so easily be left behind.”
She adds that the companies creating new products in the industry are very proactive and very competitive, “which benefits everyone all round as they pump more money into R&D and the range of options gets better every year. It’s the Holy Grail really as it is getting more affordable to try treatments out and so much of the population wants to look better or younger if they possibly can.”
Our conversation turns to who you should see when you are considering going down the appearance medicine path, and if my belief that a doctor is the only option for this sort of treatment rings true with her as well. “Well, I think that you should see someone that is extremely well trained,” she says, “and has had a decent amount of formal education in the area of appearance medicine. In New Zealand the best training scheme is held by NZSCM, where the formalities and training take two years and all doctors who take part have to be GPs first.” She elaborates that this is because they must have full knowledge of the correct consultation process, “as a lot of we do is communicating patients and listening to them and finding out what it is that they really want and what their goals are. It’s not about us doing what we think, it’s about meeting the patient in the middle - are they after subtle facial rejuvenation or a really big ‘wow’? And what is the purpose for this?” She adds that there is currently no training schemes like this for nurses, “although there are some very good nurses around, just do your research first”.
She goes on to stress the importance of having an “aesthetic eye” when dealing with changes to a patient’s appearance, “and always doing a full face assessment as if you come in wanting your lips done and your treatment provider only looks that those and nothing else, that’s when it can start to look weird. A bigger lip can alter the relationship with the chin, it has to fit in with the eyes…” She says she often undoes the lips of older women, “as the worst thing is spotting that someone has had their lips done, for me it’s a failure as a doctor”.
Two of the newest products she is using that she is very impressed by are Juvéderm VOLBELLA and Juvéderm VOLIFT, which are injectable gels used to restore volume and treat fine lines and wrinkles on the face. The former can be used to enhance the lips and surrounding area and can also work on fine lines and wrinkles with results lasting up to 12 months. VOLIFT is  for the treatment of deep wrinkles, facial contouring and volume restoration, and can also be used for lips. Both are formulated with a local anaesthetic to reduce pain during treatment and give the softest, most natural look I have ever seen. Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers have most definitely evolved as a mainstay for lip augmentation over the past few years. In fact, in Europe, there are around 70 or more of them on offer, yet only a few top brands you should care about. But the disconnect about lip enhancement is the dreaded trout pout, bee sting and duck lips look that gets pointed out on the red carpet all too often (think Courtney Love circa 2007, Lisa Rinna anytime), which is a shame because done well, it can be transformative in the very best sense of the word. 


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