Glass meets leading British aesthetician Dr Sarah Tonks

Glass meets leading British aesthetician Dr Sarah Tonks and finds out about her journey from dentistry to YouTube phenomenon

I CHANCED upon the British, London-based aesthetician Dr Sarah Tonks while idly browsing YouTube one evening whereupon I found her highly informative and entertaining channel, in which she explains medical and cosmetic procedures in illuminating detail and also demonstrates some of her work on her clients. Thirty-five-year-old Tonks is a both a fully qualified dentist and doctor and her depth and breadth of knowledge (which is worn lightly) sets her apart from other YouTubers.

Dr Sarah Tonks (left) at The Lovely Clinic

Working out of her practice, The Lovely Clinic, in Knightsbridge, which she set up in 2013, Dr Tonks is also possessed of a very droll wit. She specialises in injectables, such as Botox and fillers (which in her skilled hands give subtle yet really effective results, as she is always aiming for a natural look). Posting two films a week on her YouTube channel (which is a lot of work), the number of her subscribers and followers are growing healthily. Her most popular videos are the ones in which she analyses the procedures that celebrities have had, like Kylie Jenner’s dermal fillers. “Yes, it’s funny because people find the channel because of that, but that kind of tabloid video is not really what it’s about,” she tells me.

Stylishly dressed in Chanel and McQueen suits, often contrasted by a sassy hair colour, Dr Tonks is also a great example of her own work. Glass was intrigued by her direct and expert approach and wanted to find out more.
Dr Tonks has had an intriguing career path, training first as a dentist and then as a doctor, and I wanted to know why this was and how she got first interested in aesthetic treatments.

The Lovely Clinic in South Kensington

“I think it stems from me being a teenager and having very hot friends,” she laughs. “I was never the one to get asked out. When you’re that age it doesn’t matter [what you actually look like], we’re all insecure. When I got a bit older, I realised I’d quite like to have something done myself. I was a dentist at the time [she became a dentist in 2005] so I thought, ‘Why don’t I just learn how to do it?’ This was in 2007.”

As part of dentistry studies and training, there’s a surgical speciality called oral and maxillofacial surgery, which she was working in, where you can get to a mid-level with just the one degree. However as she clarifies, “if you want to progress, you have to do both. So that’s originally why I went back to medical school. I changed because my interests changed.

“The other two doctors who are in my clinic have the exact same pathway; they did dentistry first and then medicine after. I think we must be the only clinic in the country to have more than one person that’s done both, and we have three.”

Her impressive technical knowledge (on her YouTube she often analyses the structure of the face in a highly detailed way) comes from her hospital background, “because oral and maxillofacial facial surgery covers facial trauma, cancer, oral and maxillofacial surgery which is unusually an area that all of us at The Lovely Clinic are experienced in. I don’t think that many other people that are in aesthetics could really say that.”

Trends in aesthetic procedures are changing rapidly, so that a treatment popular a few years ago e.g. for collagen injectables have now been superseded by, for instance, injectable hyaluronic acid treatments (also known as Profhilo, and something in which that Dr Tonks is an expert) and are used to provide instant radiance to the skin, sometimes called “the injectable glow”.

From Dr Sarah Tonks’ YouTube channel

“There will always be innovations,” she explains. “I’m finding a lot of my aesthetic patients are really interested in anti-ageing and regenerative medicine. That is something which we don’t currently offer, but Dr Kishan [her colleague at her clinic] and I both have a really big interest in it. I’m doing a masters at the minute at the George Washington University in integrative medicine, and he’s just about to start one in women’s and sexual health, which is all about hormones basically.
“I think a lot of our patients enter thinking, ‘I’m just going to have a bit of filler to give myself a pep up.’ Then they see what else is available to them and want to take it that bit further.

“In terms of aesthetic procedures, I do know that one of the filler companies is working on a product which combines hyaluronic acid along with collagen. Back in the day, before hyaluronic acid was used, we used collagen, which is an animal derivative. The problem with collagen was it didn’t last very long, only three months, but I believe that one of the filler companies is finding a way to make it last longer. I think that’s going to come out in the next few years.”
As well as state-of-the-art fillers, Dr Tonks tells me there are new toxins available, “faster acting toxins, longer lasting toxins [for muscle freezing], I think they’re going to be the two big ones.”

She has also noticed a trend for prevention at the moment, “so I’m seeing younger and younger people, with just the start of tissue descent, the start of lines and wrinkles, and they want to do something about it now before it gets harder to treat.”
One of her motivations for starting her YouTube channel was to counter the confusion that the general public and even the beauty press have about these procedures, “There was a lot of misinformation in the media about these treatments,” she tells me, “and I felt like I had to address some of that. People were confusing Botox and fillers, and how to use the two, which could not be further apart. I really wanted to educate the public as much as I could, and show them what it was possible to achieve non-surgically.”

Dr Sarah Tonks treating a patient

Dr Tonks is a firm believer in the power of these usually minor treatments (what some people called “tweakments” a term coined by beauty writer Alice Hart-Davis) to transform lives, citing herself as an example. “I’d say that, having these treatments done, it really changed the trajectory of my life.”

I am a bit surprised. “Just slightly minor fillers, a little bit of Botox can have that much effect on your life?” I inquire.
“Yes, it really did. It changed the way that I felt about myself and it would be good if I could help other people experience that. Many people think that these treatments are quite superficial, but if something changes the way you feel about yourself, maybe then it will start a whole cycle, maybe then you’re more likely to do exercise, maybe you will quit smoking. It’s not just as I’m sure it’s often seen, ‘vain woman wants to have bigger lips’.

“In a recent video, I was talking about the social impact of having these procedures done. So, for example, there are many studies showing that the more attractive you are, there are more advantages in life which are conveyed to you. And for better or worse who wouldn’t want that if it was readily available,” she continues.

Energetic and ambitious, Dr Tonks has grand plans for The Lovely Clinic. “Bringing in health and wellness is going to be big for us, because there really won’t be anywhere else that will have done it to the same extent as Dr Kishan and I will have. For example, a lot of people literally do a one-day training course and then they go off prescribing bioidentical hormones, which for me is absolutely insane. We’re spending a long time learning about how to do this properly and safely.”

by Caroline Simpson

Dr Sarah Tonk’s YouTube channel is here

The Lovely Clinic is at D. Thomas, 25 Walton St, Chelsea, London SW3 2HU