Dr Joshua Van der Aa is the aesthetics specialist behind one of the newest cosmetic injection clinics in Harley Street. He’s also the youngest to have his own practice there, and his expertise with needle techniques has made him one of the most in demand.
But the Antwerp-born 29-year-old is about more than his clinical flair: his strong ethical views, competitive price points and a commitment to achieving results so natural, they’re somewhat undetectable, to start.
Alongside the women, many of them models and actors, filling his treatments diary, are a surprising number of everyday professional men. Approximately 20 per cent, in fact. Here, he tells us about the steady stream in guys getting their glow.
How does it feel to have a Harley Street clinic so early in your career?
It really is a dream come true. I never thought it would happen so quickly, but working for other major clinics for a while really made me realise: I can do this myself, and I can do it better, so I went off and did exactly that.
Images of over-filled TV stars and botched surgeries bombard us daily but more people than ever are seeking Botox and filler ‘tweaks’. How do we make sense of this? And are bad results rare?
Well, the more popular these treatments become, the more likely we’ll be confronted with sub-par results. Keep in mind there is an immense bias though. So often we see over-filled or dodgy looking lips and cheeks on TV and think: ‘Jesus, that filler look really isn’t for me!’ At the same time we forget that all those other gorgeous actors and actresses we swoon over have had just as much work done, if not more. They just had it done right. I always say the hallmark of a good treatment is that it should not be recognisable as filler.
What’s behind the increase in men seeking cosmetic treatments?
The same as women seeking treatments, I’m sure. Men are also being bombarded with images of attractive models and actors with chiselled jawlines: Chris Hemsworth, Henry Cavill, Timothée Chalamet, Tom Hiddleston – you name them.
A lot of these men also have high-pressure jobs, with a lot of competitors trying to get an edge on them, so if they look tired, worn or old, it doesn’t play in their favour. In business, it doesn’t always make you look like a reliable option if you look too weathered.
Male aesthetics have been on the rise for quite some time now, but men have generally been a bit more reluctant to take the leap of faith, generally because they’re much more fearful of looking ‘done’ than female patients are. An added fear for men is looking feminised, which unfortunately happens if they’re treated incorrectly or over-treated. It’s critically important that you assess a male patient in a completely different way than you would a female patient.
Which procedures are they going ‘under the needle’ for most in your clinic?
With men, the most popular treatments are the hollow eyes, or tear troughs, and the jawline. Both features that make us look energetic and masculine.
But, really, I treat the whole face. If I had to pick one area of expertise it would be the rejuvenation of the eye area. This is definitely the majority of my work. It’s a tricky area to get perfectly right, which I guess is why a lot of patients want to come and see a doctor who specialises in the area.
Also, many scientific studies have proven that every time we meet someone, the eyes are the first thing we see: they catch the eye, if you will. So within seconds our eyes will tell a new acquaintance if we’re old, young, tired, energetic, dull, dynamic, etc. It stands to reason that people want the eyes and surrounding area to look pristine.
Is there a tweak most would benefit from but they’re often too sceptical to try?
I would have to say tear trough treatment, otherwise known as dark circles or hollow eyes. People are sometimes scared to have it done because of the proximity to the eye, or having read scary stories on the internet. The reality is, in practiced hands it’s a very safe and incredibly refreshing treatment, with next to no downtime.
Receding hairlines and thinning hair are problematic for many. How well does the PRP treatment work?
It’s amazing. It stopped my receding hairline dead in its tracks two years ago and my hair has been improving ever since. I’m happy to share my before-and-after pictures so you can see for yourself!
The great thing about PRP is that we use growth factors – the proteins our body uses to heal damaged tissue. We inject them into the hair follicles, tricking our body into stimulating those follicles to grow again. This leads to better, stronger, shinier and healthier hair, but also the production of more hair per follicle, so your hair will look thicker overall too! If I had to pick one treatment for the rest of my life, it would be my PRP hair rejuvenation.
You’re candid about the treatments you go in for. Does talking about this help patients with their decision-making? Have your tweaks made you feel differently about yourself?
Oh absolutely, they can ask me all the questions about discomfort and recovery, because I’ve had most of the treatments myself at some point. Besides, who wants to buy a Ferrari from a salesman driving a Lamborghini? If I don’t trust my treatments to bring out the best in my face, how could I possibly convince my patients they’ll bring out the best in theirs?
I’m a firm believer that we feel our best when we look our best. As soon as they walk through the door I can very clearly see my patient’s confidence and energy change and improve as we slowly work through their treatment plan. It’s the same with me. I feel my best when I look my best!
So-called ‘lunchtime’ procedures are marketed heavily by clinics. Can a patient return to work (or video meetings) inconspicuously or do some facial jabs require a little more recovery time?
That really depends on the procedure. For eyes or noses? Definitely. Procedures that don’t generate much swelling and have a low chance of bruising generally aren’t too bothersome and have a very low, if any, recovery time. Treatments such as lips, which tend to swell and can look a bit off for a few days, are generally best had when the patient can afford some downtime.
And yes, men get lip filler too, both to balance their face better, or to rehydrate wrinkled lips that have lost volume over time.
How do guys avoid looking ‘done’ or less masculine?
The key is really understanding the sexual dimorphism. That’s the scientific term for the differences in male and female anatomy. The angles and ratios in the face are just different, and that has to be respected. A clear example here is the nose. For women, it’s nice and elegant to have a little bit of a slope in the bridge, with the tip turned slightly upward. For men, this can easily look feminine, so they ideally have a very straight bridge with a tip pointing forwards.
There’s been an explosion in number of men’s skincare and grooming products. Do you rate any brands or ingredients in particular?
I swear by the ZO range myself. They’re clinical products so you can’t just buy them at a local pharmacy or supermarket, only in certain clinics. My patients absolutely love them too. I, myself, am hooked on both the Vitamin C cream and the under-eye brightener.
The former makes your skin feel velvet soft, and its anti-inflammatory effects keep breakouts to a minimum. The under-eye brightener, well, it speaks for itself – a great product to deal with difficult, thin or darkened eyelid skin.
Other than cosmetic, are there medical issues you treat or advise on?
A variety of treatments can be classified as medical. Neck and forehead injections against migraines for instance. Muscle treatments for clenching and grinding or tension headaches, acne treatments, that sort of thing.
Lastly, is there a favourite memory from your time as captain of the national American Football team in Belgium?
Haha. I wasn’t expecting this question but I love it. I think there’s a few, but one that definitely stands out was beating France on their home field in Paris. We scored a touchdown in the last two minutes, after having been behind for the entirety of the game. It was incredible. The whole team, staff, coaches and supporters stormed the field. I still have the trophy from that game in my bedroom. The head coach, Cyrille Bouron, gave it to me as defensive MVP (most valuable player).
Address: Dr Joshua Harley Street Aesthetics, 10 Harley St, Marylebone, London W1G 9PF