Meet Lee Garrett
Lee Garrett has established himself as one of the country’s leading aesthetic practitioners with clients from around the world making their way to his Garrett Clinic in Harley Street.
Who would have guessed that the teenager leaving school in Dulwich with no ambition would end up as one of the country’s top celebrity skin gurus with a Harley Street practice?
Lee Garrett recalls having little idea of life’s potential at 16 and becoming a builder. His father had been made redundant from his job as a newsprint compositor, suffered a heart attack and could no longer work. His mother was a school dinner lady. The only plan was: you leave school, you get a job.
But Lee had artistic leanings and soon moved to hairdressing. “Actually,” he recalls, “I really had a desire to train as a nurse, but wanted to earn enough to get on the property ladder. So, I became a hair colour specialist, opened a salon in London which proved successful, and when it was bought by a salon chain, finally, nine years after leaving school, I had enough money to fulfil my ambition to train as a nurse.”
He loved his work at Charing Cross Hospital, becoming a critical care nurse in neurology. On his days off he delved into aesthetic medicine and trained in a Harley Street clinic. It appealed to his artistic bent: “It felt a bit like moving in da Vinci’s shoes,” he smiles, “with his love of proportions!”
But it wasn’t the artistry or the technology of skin care that became his prime motivation. He just loved seeing the change in people’s wellbeing.
“Early on I began working with patients with HIV. They were suffering lipodystrophy, losing volume from their face. It was a time of stigma about HIV and they were reluctant to socialise, as the condition was so obvious. We were able to replace the volume with dermafillers, which had a remarkable effect on their social lives as they could go out again. The medications have changed now, so the same problem doesn’t arise. However, I still see some of those guys today when they call in for top-up fillers.”
In 2003 Lee and his partner, a GP, set up their own clinic in Harley Street and Lee built up his practice as an aesthetician. His success with HIV patients was widely reported in national media and interest in all forms of aesthetic medicine grew, with columnists, models and TV personalities beating a track to his door.
Far from being the flamboyant character you might expect from someone so successful, Lee is quietly spoken, modest and is still a nurse at heart, albeit one with a celebrity following and regular media voice. His passion is still to help people feel good about themselves.
“As a medical practitioner I can dispense treatments that beauty therapists can’t,” he points out, “and my Harley Street clinic is CQC registered.” People come because they like his qualifications, his gentle approachability, and his determination to offer only a holistic treatment that will give benefits.
It can mean turning some people away: “There are of course people who move from one clinic to another, seeking ever more treatments. If I don’t believe these will benefit them, I won’t agree to treat them.”
Another group that worries Lee increasingly is teenagers apeing their celebrity idols shows and asking for Botox. “Their bodies haven’t finished growing,” Lee says, “and this will only harm them. I would never treat anyone under 20. It’s wrong.
“Between 20 and 28, occasionally I will treat someone with a more unusual issue, such as an inherited furrowed frown. But mostly I would treat someone after that age – I myself had my first Botox at 28, and have occasional top-ups still.” Now 50, Lee is a good advertisement with clear, fresh skin. He also gives himself the occasional chemical peel and uses clinical grade lotions.
So who does come to him? Some need interventions for medical conditions such as rosacea, pigmentation and acne. And there’s a whole range of laser, chemical peel and anti-wrinkle beauty treatments. One of his most popular treatments is Ultherapy, a non-surgical ultrasound that stimulates new collagen to lift and sculpt the skin from inside.
Lee says that change is not the aim “If you alter the shape of a face too much it looks odd. Full lips on a small face look strange.” He’s a great believer in ‘tweakments’ – making small changes that enhance your natural look.
About 40 per cent of his patients are men. While women may want to look more like a favourite celebrity, for men it’s often about keeping up appearances at work among younger colleagues, or running their own business and needing to look fresh and fit.
The approach is always holistic, with an emphasis on total wellbeing. Lee takes this to heart himself: he moved a year ago with his partner from London to the Home Counties where they love nothing more than tramping the Chiltern hills at weekends with their two giant schnauzers, Alfie and Barnie..