The first five minutes of a consultation with Canberra cosmetic surgeon Dr Chris Lee are crucial.
Not for you, but for Dr Lee.
As he asks about work, your family, how your day’s been, the weather, what he’s actually doing is studying the deep nuances and details of your face and landing on what he deems to be your absolute best feature.
Within five minutes, he’s worked out how he wants to ‘play up’ this feature, and play down the rest of your face. He has a mental list of the procedures that would suit you. That includes the strategic use of angles, lighting and shadows.
“So after five minutes I’ve got my list of A to Z,” he says.
“Then I ask them, what can I do for you? And I’ll see if their list matches my list
“Interestingly, often what they’ve come in for is one of the top three.”
Dr Lee is one of Canberra’s longest serving and most in-demand cosmetic surgeons. His current client list includes Canberra model and ex-The Bachelor star Emily Dibden, models Nevena Tepic and Simone Holtznager, and about 2000 other Canberrans who prefer to remain anonymous. More than 20 per cent of Dr Lee’s client base is male.
Cosmos Clinic Canberra opened in 2010, the younger cousin of Sydney’s Double Bay clinic, opened by Dr Lee’s best friend, Dr Joseph Ajaka. This year, Dr Lee will work on 2500 botox patients, plump the lips of 400 patients and perform more than 200 liposuction surgeries.
Around 300 clients will undergo CoolSculpting – the process of freezing and killing fat cells – and 150 will have a non-invasive facelift, or thread lifts.
“Thread lifts involve putting little surgical sutures under the skin,” Dr Lee explains.
“And they have little cones to suspend the tissue. So it goes into the region of facial rejuvenation that I call lifting.
“The gold standard, as always, is going to be actual facelifts, but a lot of people in Canberra are not quite keen on facelifts, or they’re not quite ready.”
Canberra cosmetic surgery clients are a demanding lot.
They want to look amazing, but in no way want to look like they’ve had work done.
“People in Canberra want to go to work, they want to look better, but they don’t want people to know they’ve had something done,” Dr Lee says.
“So you keep it natural, you keep it subtle, but you make them fresher.
“In Sydney and Melbourne we have the glamour groups – the ones with the big lips, big cheeks, the big breasts, the big butt.
“Canberrans are the opposite.”
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The Cosmos Clinic patient list ranges in age from 92 – “she came in and said, ‘I’ve probably only got a few more years to live, I just want to look better and feel better about myself’ and booked in for CoolSculpting” – down to age 18.
Say what? 18?! What could an 18-year-old possibly need from Dr Lee?
“I have quite a few 18-year-old clients actually,” he says.
“Most of them have their lips done, some do Botox, and some actually do body sculpting.
“If someone doesn’t have wrinkles, what we’re doing with the Botox is that we are slowing down the development of wrinkles. It’s preventative.”
The in-demand cosmetic surgery of 2020 according to Dr Lee is the Brazilian Butt Lift, a specialised fat transfer procedure that augments the size and shape of the buttocks without implants. Excess fat is removed from the hips, abdomen, lower back, or thighs with liposuction, and a portion of this fat is then strategically injected into the buttocks.
More than 50 Canberrans are on the books to have a Brazilian Butt Lift this year.
“Over the years, what I’ve realised is that what we do here, it’s a self esteem industry,” Dr Lee says.
“So when people come here, they’re looking for a procedure to make them feel better about themselves.
“My job is to understand what they want, find a procedure that matches their expectations and see if they’re willing to accept the risk.
“Ultimately, they walk out of Cosmos with more confidence. And I love that.”
It’s an awful question, but I have to ask. Where does the fat removed from Canberra’s bellies actually go?
“I own a Chinese restaurant in Gungahlin,” Dr Lee jokes.
“No, not really. It’s clinical waste so it’s collected by professionals and incinerated.”