Dr Tracey Bell shares the experience of her first visit to an aesthetic clinic and explains how it spurred her to join the specialty
“The best feeling is going home and having a great sense of accomplishment”
“My mum’s aspirations for me were to either work at the Isle of Man bank or be a taxi driver,” says dental surgeon and aesthetic practitioner Dr Tracey Bell. “But it was my headmaster that said, ‘No, you’ve got to go to university, Tracey!’”
Dr Bell grew up on the Isle of Man, a British isle with a population of just 85,000, and was the first in her family to go to university. “I was the eldest of four and my mum and dad were taxi drivers. In order to go to university I did my A levels and O levels early and then drove taxis from the age of 17 to pay my way.” Not being sure what to study, Dr Bell did work experience in veterinary science, a doctor’s surgery and then at a school dental practice, where she loved the fact that she could see the end result of anything that she produced. “I either had to rebuild a tooth or do orthodontics and I think it’s a bit like aesthetics; it’s not just about providing a procedure, it’s about understanding the patient. The best feeling is going home and having a great sense of accomplishment, knowing what you’ve done well today, knowing you’ve given something back.”
In 1993, Dr Bell qualified as a dentist at Manchester University and then completed vocational training in Chester in 1994. At the age of 24, in the same year, she opened her first dental practice on the Isle of Man. “When I look back, I was young; I was fearless. I had a great mum who used to say, ‘Just do it, give it a try’.”
I said, ‘Mum, I think I need a face lift!’ And my mum said, ‘No, you can get that Botox stuff!’”
Within three years she owned six surgeries, a mixture of private and NHS practices all in the Isle of Man, and had recently got married. But settling down to have a family didn’t put her career on hold. “By the age of 32 I had five children and I’d probably only had one day off work to give birth to each of them! Every morning I used to get up and try to put my makeup on with the lights off so the kids wouldn’t wake up.” But one morning, in a change to her routine in 2002, Dr Bell saw an unwelcome reflection. “I came downstairs and put the light on, looked in the mirror and thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I look old!’ So I phoned my mum, who was very wise, and I said, ‘Mum, I think I need a face lift!’ And my mum said, ‘No, you can get that Botox stuff!’”
Dr Bell boarded a flight to Bowden in Manchester to get a botulinum toxin treatment and it was here she saw a business opportunity. “My mum and I went into the clinic and I saw a doctor. It was quite a dismissive experience; I felt ashamed and embarrassed even though I was paying for it. He gave me little eye contact and mentioned my age (32) on numerous occasions. He made me wonder if I was too young or too vain,” she explains. “So my mum said to me, ‘You know what? you could do this’. I did some research and went on a botulinum toxin course where I met experienced trainers Dr Jacques Otto, Yasmin Khan and Amanda Cameron. Dr Otto came to the Isle of Man to give me further training and showed me what I should do and introduced some good cosmeceuticals to my dental practice.”
Before long, Dr Bell’s practice was busier with aesthetic treatments than it was dentistry and, at the time, she was the only practitioner on the Isle of Man offering aesthetic treatments. “I had my two dental practices on the Isle of Man and next to it I opened Kensington Aesthetic Clinic where we performed botulinum toxin injections, fillers and laser hair removal, and we just grew it through word-of-mouth. I trained all the nurses myself and they are all still with me to this day.”
Although an aesthetic practitioner, Dr Bell thinks it’s important to know about other specialities. “I’m not a plastic surgeon, but I can tell you how a tummy tuck is done and I can tell you about breast augmentation. I owe it to my patients to be able to tell them who the ‘best person for the job’ is in situations where other treatments are recommended.”
When it comes to her greatest achievement, Dr Bell says, “I can’t put my finger on one achievement; I’m happy with what I have achieved in everything; from making people happy, bringing my kids up and opening my practices – I think my life is an achievement.”
Do you have an ethos or motto you follow?
To be kind. If you are going to try and earn the respect of people, do what you expect of them.
What treatment or technology best complements you as a practitioner?
I love doing the 8-point-lift and volumising the cheeks.
What’s the best career advice you have been given?
My mum said, “Just do it! Be fearless, relentless and do it with determined effort.”
How do you think the industry will look in 10 years’ time?
I don’t think regulation will come easily but I think we will get there. I also hope we will be done with the ‘puffy cheeks’ and the overdone-look.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
The truth is, masses! However, I am not the type of person who looks back and says, ‘What if?’ I have travelled, loved, built a business, been a mum and done so many other things, but there is still plenty more to do.
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