Interview and photograph by Florence Noble
Founder of cosmedicine spa The Face Place, Dr Cat blends a holistic approach to beauty with world-class expertise in natural-looking non-surgical facial rejuvenation.
Are you from Auckland?
I’m originally from Canterbury. I’ve been in Auckland for 20 years now.
It must have changed a lot since then.
It has changed so much. When I started the clinic in Vulcan Lane, you wouldn’t come to this part of town because it was dangerous. My brother was here last night visiting from Canterbury, and we did a restaurant crawl around Britomart and then went up to the Sofitel rooftop. And I was just saying to him, I love living in Auckland. It’s such a fantastic place to live.
What do you do here?
We started with Botox. It’s a naturally occurring protein that we put into selective muscles to relax those muscles so we can use it facially to help prevent you from making lines or giving the skin space to repair itself, to treat existing lines. Or we can use it medically for things like tension headaches and migraine, excessive sweating, Bell’s Palsy, minor forms of facial spasm, teeth grinding. I’ve used it successfully for RSI and I just treated a woman last week for nerve pain. We also do dermal fillers in the skin. We have a Takapuna clinic with a holistic nutritionist involved so it’s moving from just cosmetic into a broader scope.
We were the first medical clinic to become a sustainable salon in New Zealand. So we’ve managed to reduce what we send to landfill by about 70 percent and we use biodegradable gloves and we look for little things where we can repurpose. For us to use something here it has to safe, simple and effective. It has to be naturally based and non animal in its origin, and medically proven. Once something fulfils all of those criteria, we actually test it on ourselves.
Yep. Fillers are totally like art. There’s not one part of my face that hasn’t been touched with derma fillers.
…But you look natural.
And that’s the way it should be. I get really upset when I see people who have been completely overdone with the trout mouth and the big puffy lips. Sometimes it’s bad surgery that they’ve had. It doesn’t have to be like that and it often makes people look less attractive and that’s not what we should be doing. That gives our industry a bad name. You’re never going to know if someone has had really good work, because they’re just going to look amazing.
How did you get into it?
I did seven years of medical school. My intention originally was to combine Eastern and Western philosophies, but there wasn’t anything like that. I fell in love with surgery. It’s so good to do something and make a difference. What I didn’t like about it was the long hours. Regular 100-hour weeks. And when you’re not working, you’re lying awake worrying about the free flap that’s just been done, and whether that’s going to survive.
It’s when you take a hunk of tissue with a pedicle of blood vessel and nerve and you put it somewhere else in the body, and sometimes the blood supply will be reduced to that and then it just dies and you’ve done all that operating and work for that person and potentially created more of a problem. So that sort of stuff weighs heavily on someone who cares about it.
Then a friend asked me to do his Botox and my first reaction was “Why do you want to stick that s*** in your face for?” A few people were doing it here, I wasn’t the first to do it. But I was the first to do Botox full-time.
Where’s your favourite place to dine around here?
I have several favourites: Hanoi, Ortolana, Giapo for icecream. It’s my regular 4 o’clock in the afternoon. They do amazing vegan ice cream. I take everybody to Giapo. The upper floor of the new Generator is pretty cool too.
What’s your idea of fun?
If you could retire tomorrow what would you do?
Probably still be doing this. But if I couldn’t work I would probably travel, talk and educate. I’ve written a book: Grow Younger and More Beautiful While You Age and our second book: Grow Younger With Great Food.
What do you think is the best diet?
Whole foods. I’m mainly plant based, but occasionally eat meat or naughty things like chocolate or a drink or two if my body desires it. The skin reflects every organ in your body. So for your skin to be healthy, your organs need to be healthy, but I think if you’re too rigid on things then you actually end up missing out on some of the joy of life, which is really important as well.