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THIS WORKING LIFE: 'I feel like I have been given a second chance in my new aesthetic career'

Dr Eithne BrennerĀ  founder of Manara skin clinics in conversation with Mary McCarthy

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Positive: Dr Eithne Brenner is keen to help people subtly freshen up their looks

Positive: Dr Eithne Brenner is keen to help people subtly freshen up their looks

Positive: Dr Eithne Brenner is keen to help people subtly freshen up their looks

Traumatic trigger

I've been a doctor for 30 years and was a GP for 25, before switching full-time into aesthetic medicine. I did my GP training in the UK, and worked in central London for a decade.

My husband was also a GP, we met at UCC, and over time, the combined stress of two intense careers and young kids took its toll. There were three of us in the marriage and medicine was the most demanding one.

While working as a GP, a patient, who was a drug addict, subjected me to a serious assault; the trauma hit me hard. My marriage faltered and I returned home to Waterford with my two sons, then aged six and nine, to set up my own GP practice.

Fresh start

Around 2005, I started to notice many of my friends were trying Botox. Although it had been used since the 1980s to treat conditions such as muscle disorders, it was only approved for aesthetic use in 2002.

I had a feeling there was a big Irish market waiting for this and did some training. From the start, I was intrigued and found it enjoyable and creative; there is an art to helping people refresh their looks and increase their confidence.

I kept up my GP practice and aesthetic work part-time. I was also doing on-call work for one of the regional sexual assault centres, so life was hectic. Unfortunately, GPs are very poorly resourced to practise preventive and lifestyle medicine, and much of the work is 'fire-fighting'.

I came to a crossroads in 2014 when a poorly judged property deal and very tough cuts in GP fees meant I made the decision to declare bankruptcy. I was exhausted, and divorce and bereavement had left me feeling depressed. I needed to find a sustainable solution for the decades ahead. I loved the human side of GP work, talking to people about their problems. As aesthetic medicine is all about this interaction and also means I can use my technical and artistic skills, it was the obvious solution for me to go for it.

Right reasons

Wrinkles can be reduced; this is the straightforward bit. But how you feel about yourself is more important. People need to be doing it for the right reasons. I turn people away if they want a different shape to their face, or overfilled lips, that I know won't look right or be safe. The majority are happy with subtle treatments. They want to work with what they have and don't want to look drastically different - just fresher.

And it is no longer all women; I am seeing a lot more men in the past couple of years. They want to look youthful for work or perhaps have relaunched on the dating scene. The most popular treatment for women and men is getting rid of the wrinkles between the eyes that can give a permanent angry look.

Unscrupulous operators

Unfortunately, there are young girls under 18 getting fillers done in Ireland. When things go wrong, their mothers bring them to doctors to fix. They are looking to emulate images they see on social media. They want big cheeks and lips like celebrities and there are unscrupulous, untrained operators offering to do this using cheap products in unsafe environments.

Botox is Allergan's version of a prescription-only drug, and can only be injected by a doctor or dentist in Ireland. Filler is classed as a medical device so anyone can legally inject it.

Undercover

Many women in the public eye in Ireland have some regular work done. Yet few will admit this.

I regularly meet clients at events who ignore me and later explain they could not be seen talking to me as their husband has no idea they have been seeing me for years.

Perhaps this will change; it is popular all over Ireland, not just in Dublin.

Carlow is my central base and we have a Dublin clinic. I see people all across the social range: cleaners, nurses, stay-at-home mums, CEOs and celebs.

Eye on the future

I do some work for Allergan (the Mayo-based maker of Botox) and train doctors, dentists and nurses on how to incorporate elements of aesthetics into their work. I love passing on all that I have learned.

While Botox and fillers have become normalised in our society, I do think there is a lot of pressure on young women to look good - and wanting to look like Kim Kardashian is not a good reason to get Botox and fillers.

I have these treatments myself - not because I want to look 35.

I am 54, and I want to look attractive and natural.

I do work long hours, and also keep up with my own training, but I absolutely love it. My boys, who are now 21 and 24, my twin brother Mick and best friend Darina are my rocks.

I feel like I have been given a second chance in my new career.

I have been through tough times personally and financially, but I'm in a great place now and look forward to many more decades of work.

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