Auckland Botox services open as hairdressers stay closed

From Checkpoint, 5:43 pm on 3 November 2021

As Aucklanders watch the vaccination rate tick up towards easing restrictions, jabs of another kind are also on offer in the locked down city: Botox.

The cosmetic injections are available under level 3, while other close contact businesses like hairdressers and retailers being unable to operate.

Doctor Sarah Hart from the NZ Society of Cosmetic Medicine told Checkpoint they fit the bill to be operating.

"Very much like other healthcare services have returned, like physios and chiropractors, we were inspired to approach the Ministry of Health about it," she said.

"We developed some very protective guidelines that go over and above what the Ministry of Health requires, we then got those approved by the GP College and we took those to MoH, who approved them last week for us."

Dr Hart described the service as a "nice to have".

"It's a prescription medicine and it needs to be administered by a qualified professional like a medical practitioner or registered nurse, and we have to abide by all of those guidelines. 

"However, it's not an essential service when it's given cosmetically. It's nice it can make you feel great, but it's certainly a permitted activity, not an essential one."

The Ministry of Health said it does not grant exemptions for these services, but Botox can be provided as a health service by registered practitioners under alert level 3.

However, Checkpoint has seen an email from a Ministry of Health official to Dr Hart stating that they "approve the guidelines for recommencing non-essential cosmetic surgical care".

WorkSafe has also accepted the email from the Ministry of Health as evidence a Botox practice can operate.

Dr Hart acknowledged it is "certainly not an essential health service".

She said the NZ Society of Cosmetic Medicine's services are cosmetic rather than health-related.

"Some of our practitioners treat patients for medical reasons, but that's a very small minority. 

"The vast majority of what we do is cosmetic work.

The service operates under very high levels of protection, Dr Hart said.

"Both the medical practitioner and the patient need to be double vaccinated. The medical practitioner needs to wear a fitted N95 mask. The patient must wear a mask throughout. And it's only under 15 minutes contact time.

"We've followed all of the advised routes to do so and WorkSafe has confirmed, and we're not aware of any other restrictions that we would have to go through.

"Cosmetic surgery is happening in private hospitals and has been since before step 1 level 3, so cosmetic services and operations for cosmetic purposes are going ahead now. 

"Those are a much higher risk of transmission than contact time with a patient, mask on, of under 15 minutes.

"So certainly botulinum toxin as a prescription medicine, that could only be prescribed by a medical practitioner. Healthcare services for cosmetic purposes are going ahead in other areas and we have obtained specific approval from the Ministry of Health for our guidelines around this."

"I think the difference is that we're qualified medical practitioners with access to medical grade PPE and training in infection control.

"Because of the professional standards that we are held to, it means that we are able to access the research, that we're able to evaluate the research, we're able to write these guidelines that were put through a subcommittee with an anesthetist, an ophthalmologist, an emergency medicine doctor in primary care. That gives our members on much higher ability to ensure that the risk of transmission is minimized, compared to retail."

Dr Hart said she has not even announced on social media that her business is open, as she is working through 10 to 12 weeks of cancelled appointments.

"Also we have found that Zoom has made people a bit more aware of their appearance. And that has brought some new enquiries to many of us as well. So demand is very high, currently."