In The Path, we spotlight different women making a difference in the fashion, beauty, wellness, and medical aesthetics industries. Here, registered nurse and THE THINGS WE DO founder Vanessa Lee shares her road to success.
Just a quick visit to registered nurse Vanessa Lee’s Instagram page will tell you that when it comes to the world of cosmetic injectables, she is especially passionate about two things: artistry and education. She prides herself on work that (to both the trained and untrained eye) is practically undetectable. But instead of keeping her masterpieces a secret, Lee shares exactly what she’s done with her patients. This lets those aspiring to similar results share it with their injectors.
Lee’s skills have earned her not only thousands of Instagram followers, but a real-life following, too. She’s one of the most sought-after medical aesthetics trainers, listed on RealSelfSM as one of the top 25 most-loved injectors across the United States, and has a packed appointment schedule (in April of 2018, she was booked out through the rest of the year).
As if she weren’t busy enough, Lee also opened a “beauty concept bar,” THE THINGS WE DO this fall at ROW DTLA in Los Angeles. “I will be offering my favorite result-driven facials . . . with a focus on natural intention beauty guidance,” she shares. “Everything offered will revolve around the concept of facial harmony, balance, and a natural intention.” On top of all of this, Lee, 32, is a married mom of two children (and a dog). Yet, she made time to speak with Spotlyte. Below, she shares all about her career, her own medical aesthetics habits, injectable advice, and more.
Spotlyte: Tell us a bit about your career path. How did you decide you wanted to be an RN?
Vanessa Lee: I love science and trying to find out the why in things, so nursing was a great fit for me. I also have a very creative side that is tied to beauty. I was super into self-care as a kid before I even knew there was a term for it. I loved making my own DIY face masks and body scrubs. I used to boil water and hover my face over the pot with a towel covering my head and apply a mask that I made from egg white and oatmeal.
This was a weekly routine for me. I would have friends come over for sleepovers so I could treat them to my ritual as well. We were 12. I feel like this love for beauty and treating others to it is in my bloodline, because my grandmother was a well-known beautician in her town in the Philippines. The combination of nursing and beauty was very exciting. I knew that I had wanted to be in this field since my college days, I just had no idea how far it would take me.
Spotlyte: How did you come to be an injector?
VL: I became an injector after I had tried my hand at a few things in the medical field. I was a laser specialist, an ER nurse, an OR nurse, and a geriatric nurse. The laser was the most fun for me because I was helping women aesthetically, and naturally, the next step was to get into injectables. Once I got started injecting, I knew I had found something I would be happy doing for a very long time.
Spotlyte: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a career as an injector?
VL: The most important piece of advice I have for those who want to become injectors is to be resourceful. Inquire to shadow providers you respect, go to conferences and listen in to talks, research everything from blogs to white papers that have been written by those in the industry. Be creative and do everything you can to equip yourself for this exciting field. I have a blog called The Beauty Book that you can find on my website vanessaleern.com, and one of the posts goes into detail about the steps you can take to become a provider yourself.
Spotlyte: When did you start trying medical aesthetics yourself? What was your first treatment?
VL: I was 23 when I first had some injectable wrinkle reducers in between my brows where the elevens occur. I figured that if I was telling my patients about it, I needed to experience what the treatment was like so I could relate. I ended up loving how smooth I looked after the wrinkle reducers. Soon after, I tried some filler for my laugh lines and wrinkle reducer for my crow's feet and forehead. I loved that I could use these tools to help [temporarily correct moderate to severe lines].
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are a temporary, medical treatment used to help smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face. Injectable fillers are a temporary medical treatment designed to help add volume to certain areas of the face. Like any medical treatment, there are risks and possible side effects associated with these treatments, so consult with your provider to see if they are right for you.]
Spotlyte: If you could tell a first-time considerer of injectables one thing, what would it be?
VL: You want to make sure you can align yourself with your provider. Do a lot of research, check out your provider's social media page, and do a consult with them before diving into receiving a treatment. Your face is precious. Even though a lot of treatments are temporary, take your time in choosing the hands that will be working on you. Alignment is key.
Spotlyte: You’re all about education. What are the biggest misconceptions of injectable treatments?
VL: Don't get me started! There are so many. I could do a whole podcast on these.
Spotlyte: Many people are wary of injectables because they only see the “bad” work. What advice do you have for patients who desire a result that keeps them looking like themselves, but don’t know how to achieve that with a provider?
VL: There are bad and excellent results with injectables, just like there are bad and excellent results with haircuts. You can place the same shears in two different hairstylist's hands and end up with completely different results. It is paramount that you spend time researching a provider and that your voice is heard. If you are rushed, or talked down to during your consult, that is a red flag. Make sure you clearly state that you want to look like yourself. If you feel in your gut that you are in the right place, then you are. It all depends on who you choose to go with.
Spotlyte: Can you share some of your favorite skincare products?
VL: Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Sunscreen ($64): Easy, 10 second brush on sunscreen with a high zinc potency that is pure enough to use on kids. Amazing stuff.
KohGenDo Oriental Plant Balm ($84): It contains 36 botanical ingredients to help moisturize and heal any skin that needs a little extra love, but does not leave you greasy or congested at all. I use on my eyelids, lips, dry spots. Seriously everything.
Skinesque® Sheet Masks: My favorite K-Beauty masks that use high-end ingredients like pure papaya (an Asian go-to) for skin brightening. There a lot of masks with ingredients I do not trust, but these are pure luxury in a sheet.
Lastly, I have a skincare line coming out this fall (also called The Things We Do) that includes just a few of products that I always wish existed alongside my other favorites! One of the sweetheart products is this super yummy undereye gel. Eye creams tend to congest younger skin and create milia in the upper cheek/undereye area. This eye gel plumps fine lines without congesting the skin, since it is a jelly-water base.
Spotlyte: You’re a busy provider and a busy mom! When you only have a few spare moments for self-care, how do you treat yourself?
VL: Every Sunday I spend time with my family and I make myself a beauty tea that is popular in Asian culture. I make a few variations, but it is usually a mix of baby rose buds, chrysanthemum flowers, longan, ginseng, and goji berries. It is amazing for your skin and it is super tasty. Drinking it allows me to slow down a little before the week starts again and it is quite beautiful to see the flowers blossom in the water. Also, NetflixSM.
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Vanessa Lee is a paid Allergan consultant.