Have you ever been curious about facial alteration? Whether for yourself or about the concept in general, this interview will surely be enlightening. Ivy-League trained Dr. Sonita Sadio, founder of Sub Rosa Private Aesthetics – a “Secret Society” for the professional woman who wants to remain ageless and dignified, answers questions about her plastic surgery practice. Sub Rosa has been featured in New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, People, Business Insider, Allure, and more. As Dr. Sadio says, “Less is more!”
- with Dr. Sonita Sadio
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Interview with Dr. Sonita Sadio, Founder of Sub Rosa Private Aesthetics
1. Do you think the “face-lift” will ever be non existent?
Not for a long time. For older women with advanced atrophy and sun damage it is very often the case that a face-lift will be the only way to really achieve their goals. To fix advanced jowls, muscular descent, and falling cheeks at a late stage a face-lift is really the only way to go. But I envision a future, not too long from now, when women will embrace a more sane French approach. They will start earlier. They will do less. But they will do it less often. Collagen stimulators, PRP lifts, light and laser based therapy in the context of a killer evidence-based skincare regimen will allow women of the future (beginning now!) to finally “age graciously” and never even need to consider a face-lift. This is absolutely the way forward. Many, many years from now, perhaps not in my lifetime, but certainly at some point, I believe surgery will be obsolete. We won’t believe that we ever operated on people’s faces to make them look younger!
2. What happens in a Sonita SubRosa consultation?
The consultation is all about establishing goals (to look amazing forever, duh) and establishing a sensible, strategic plan. Some women need more correction than others. The key is customization and getting to that gradual, natural, elegant result that has people wondering where you went on vacation and not what you’re “having done.” Getting the skin care regimen right is my absolute first priority. So many women come into the office having spent thousands and thousands over the years on various treatments, but their skin care plan has no rhyme or reason. It’s not their fault. There are just so many choices now and everyone is overwhelmed. But poor skin care with regular botox and fillers is a little like seeing your dentist every six months but never brushing your teeth! It just doesn’t make any sense.
3. Do you do anything to help people feel better about themselves alongside external changes?
Looking vibrant and fresh is always a boost, but obviously nothing can replace the inner beauty that comes with gratitude, clarity, and wisdom. I believe that we all get better with age. I really do. I’ve never felt more confident and at ease than I do right now and most of my friends would say they feel the same way. The external can only reinforce that and reflect it to the world. It can never be a substitute. What I do is to help with externalizing all of that internal goodness. The problem with aging isn’t so much wrinkles. It’s not really about hiding your age. Aging etches emotions on our faces that we aren’t feeling… emotions like concern, fatigue, anger, and sadness. How annoying is it to have people at work ask if you’re tired when you’re not? Or to have people think you are unhappy or angry somehow, when you feel nothing of the sort? Some clients say that when they take photos they feel like they are smiling these big broad smiles, but that when the photo comes out the expression seems so much less effusive. I call this “emotional mismatch.” It’s not in your head. Your face just descends in a way that can mute positive emotions in many people.
4. Do you think if a person is happy with their external presence their internal struggles will go away?
No, I don’t. The French have a term: etre bien dans sa peau. It means to be beautiful in one’s skin. This is the goal. Happiness radiates from the inside out and is a choice we make day-to-day. My job is to make the outside match the inside.
5. You have had extensive training. Do you feel all of it was worth your effort?
Absolutely. I’ve been so fortunate to have trained with some of the best surgeons in the country at some of the world’s best institutions. All of those years of training give you a kind of “sixth sense” about clinical situations. When most people think of plastic surgery they think only of aesthetics. But cosmetic surgery is such a small slice of plastic surgery training. Plastic surgery isn’t about learning a handful of “canned” procedures so much as it is about learning to think creatively about how to solve problems. One of my mentors at Harvard once asked me, “Sonita, what problem do you want to solve?” In many specialties the training is about learning how to do a certain set of “cases,” memorizing the steps. Plastic surgery is different. In training we acquire a “tool box” of techniques and approaches with which to restore form and function. That way of thinking is what makes me a surgeon. I approach Botox the same way I do any surgical case. I think critically about the problem, map out my plan, make my markings, and proceed with great care and attention to detail. It’s a mentality that all well-trained surgeons share. In training the best compliment you can give an intern starting out is to say she has a “surgical mentality.”
6. Of all the cities you could practice in, why New York?
Different cities have different aesthetic standards and culture. New York women are about being smart, deliberate, and most of all, natural! Some other cities push treatment approaches that look unnatural and, frankly, a bit freakish. When everyone around you starts to have puffy chipmunk cheeks and duck lips, somehow that becomes the new “normal.” New York women don’t roll like that. But the aesthetic that resonates with me the most is the Parisian approach. Women in the city of light are all about the gorgeous, glowing naked face. And they never overdo it. I am trying to bring that sensibility to the already-sophisticated ladies of NYC.
7. How long have people been altering their appearance?
The art of adorning oneself goes back at least as far back as ancient times. The Romans used various botanicals to soothe and hydrate the skin. The Geisha used (leaded!) makeup to create what was for them a desirable chalky-white face. Cleopatra bathed in milk. As far as surgically altering the appearance, the most heralded early nose surgery (rhinoplasty) was performed by the Italian surgeon Gaspare Tagliacozzi who reconstructed the nose of a man who’d lost it in a duel! Madame Marie Noel, the French female dermatologist, is the acknowledged trailblazer in face lift surgery, performing the first operation in 1921. Women seeking to make a living suffered terrible discrimination based on their looks and sought out her exciting new techniques to turn back the clock. Many of her clients were wealthy women seeking a better look. But her main goal was to empower women seeking to support themselves!
8. Is there any one aesthetic practice you’ve learned that you find particularly interesting?
What we’ve learned in the last 10 years is that the main culprit in aging the face (besides the sun) is the ongoing loss of facial volume! Earlier facelifting techniques did not take this into account, which is why ladies who had their operations in the earlier days looked “pulled” and “tight.” This development has been nothing short of revolutionary. Collagen stimulators such as Sculptra and Radiesse and, to a lesser extent, PRP facials (the badly named “Vampire facelift”) can forestall and correct this development in way that keeps aging at bay. Add light and laser-based procedures like radio frequency and Ulthera and you can see the potential to have a face that barely ages over time. The new approach is about ongoing, subtle treatments. Like going to the gym. We are just getting started.
9. Do you sometimes look at people and think, “My, my. How I could help their face!”?
I look at people all the time. It’s kind of a curse, actually. I look at faces constantly: on the subway, at the airport, at dinner parties. More than feeling like I can “fix them” I am really just observing the effects of aging over time. I look at everyone: babies, 5-year-olds, 80-year-olds, men, women. I learn so much from carefully observing the chronicity of aging in the faces of real people around me.
Please visit Dr. Sonita Sadio’s Youtube Channel where she further discusses her thoughts and her practice.