Why Dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry Believes Medical Aesthetics is on the Rise
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Harvard-trained Mohs surgeon and board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD, didn’t start out in aesthetic dermatology. Her initial specialty was Mohs surgery, the precise surgical technique used to treat skin cancer. But the more she repaired people’s skin after cancer, the more she found herself enjoying that part of her job.
“I started using some of my medical aesthetic tools to make sure that these scars improved to my patients’ satisfaction,” says Dr. Henry, who is based in New York City. That’s when she began combining her professional mastery of anatomy with the talents of her inner artist. “It came out of my love of reconstruction, my love of medicine, and my love of helping my patients achieved their desired aesthetic goals —and it just really grew from there,” she says.
Just as her career focus has shifted, the medical aesthetics industry itself has grown and shifted over Dr. Henry’s more than 12 years in practice. Here, she explains her thoughts on the dynamics behind this incredible growth, the top trends in the industry, and what practitioners need to do to succeed.
Why medical aesthetics is on the rise.
Dr. Henry credits the internet for making a lot of great information easily accessible and largely demystifying the practice. “People are starting to see more ‘before and after’ pictures and realizing that results can be subtle and nuanced—that someone can look refreshed,” she explains. “It's not just the mistakes they see when they open Us Weekly and there’s some celebrity who was overtreated.” Ultimately, with access and understanding comes normalization. As patients get better educated, they become less anxious about treatments and more willing to take the leap.
How public opinion has changed.
Historically, there was a general perception that medical aesthetics was only for the wealthy or for celebrities. “People thought it was beyond their reach, because of financial barriers or cultural barriers, like ‘people like me don't do this, right?’” Dr. Henry says. But because of increased exposure, there’s a breaking down of those perceptual barriers. “The message is that medical aesthetics can be for everyone,” she says. Even dermatologists who were strictly medical are starting to realize that it’s a part of caring for the whole patient. “It's more than a luxury—it's a part of helping people to achieve their personal aesthetic goals.
The new top trends in the industry.
Dr. Henry is seeing these demographic and treatment shifts in her New York office:
- Men: “I'm really excited when I see male patients come in and they don't feel like this is a thing for the ladies, because it's not,” she says. Dr. Henry is seeing older men, too. One of her favorite male patients is almost 70. “He's dating again, he has good skin quality, so we can really do some amazing things with him with laser and injectables, and you know, eight, seven years ago I didn't have many patients like that.”
- A wider age range: Not only is it becoming less gendered, but it's also becoming less based on age. “I had a lovely 82-year-old woman who years ago would have been told, ‘oh you just need a facelift—we have nothing for you,’” Dr. Henry says. “But she still has good skin quality, and we were able to get a fantastic result with injectable treatments.”
- People of color: “Patients of color were maybe afraid of lasers in the past, but that trust level has improved and education has gotten better, and they know that there are products and treatments for them that they can now access,” Dr. Henry says.
- Hair treatments: Dr. Henry is getting more requests for PRP (platelet rich plasma) treatment and hair transplantation. “More patients are asking for that and understand that to be an option,” she says.
- Body contouring: “This is the era of the perfectly curved body—the tight waist and smooth derriere, so I’m doing lots of injectables, both the old school kind to help fill in lumps and bumps and the newer ones for cellulite, which I'm very excited about,” Dr. Henry says. “There was always a demographic of patients interested in contouring, but now it's your average soccer mom. It’s interesting to me how there’s been such an explosion over the past 10 years or so.”
The secret to a successful career in medical aesthetics.
It all comes back to fundamentals. “Anyone can push a syringe, but what makes someone both a great injector and a safe injector is that they understand anatomy and the dynamics of aging,” Dr. Henry says. They also take the time to understand the products they’re working with. “I've seen products go from one-size-fits-all to very nuanced, with specific properties, and we understand so much better now how to use those properties appropriately for every depth, facial structure, and location of the face,” Dr. Henry says. She recommends learning what each product is approved for, reading the studies, and knowing the details of the products so that you can use them appropriately and achieve desired outcomes.
How to build trust with patients.
The rise in medical aesthetics has also brought a rise in injectors who are less qualified. “Everyone has seen the horror stories, someone on Instagram saying, ‘I'm asymmetric, I'm swollen, I'm this and that,” Dr. Henry says. Which is exactly why they’re looking for practitioners they know they can trust. For Dr. Henry, part of building trust means being willing to turn patients away, to tell them their goal isn’t realistic, or to refuse to over-treat. “I like to be clear with patients that I will always care about their health and safety first, and it’s more important to me than selling them another syringe,” she says. “There are very few things that are more important than their overall level of trust in you."