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This startup almost convinced me to get Botox

I never thought I’d be one to get a cosmetic treatment. Then, I walked into EverBody.

This startup almost convinced me to get Botox
[Photo: Nadav Havakook, courtesy of EverBody]

In the Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo, across the street from the pink neon glow of a Benefit cosmetics sign and next to a Coach store, is a newcomer in teal called EverBody. The light-filled storefront, with its green walls and minimalist entryway, may seem like a setting for the latest fitness craze, but EverBody deals in high-tech facials, fillers, and Botox. The company wants to make body modification feel as refreshing as buying a smoothie.

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“Is the moss alive?” I ask Kate Twist, CEO of EverBody, as we walk away from a vanity nook intended for selfies and past a moss-covered wall that serves as an introduction to the front desk.

Kate Twist [Photo: courtesy of EverBody]
“It’s preserved,” says Twist, “because I can’t keep anything alive.”

The “preserved” moss is a good metaphor for what EverBody is trying to do: help people look natural while retaining peak freshness. The name EverBody itself implies both “everybody” and also “forever body,” the latter of which speaks to the agreed-upon intention of those going under the needle in 2019: my body, but always the best version.

Twist has beautiful peach skin and grey eyes. During my tour around EverBody’s clinic, she wore a purple gauzy silk dress that ruffles around her neck. She spent four and a half years of her career at Clinique, where she rose to director of global marketing. Her cofounders have similarly impressive track records: COO Maggie Lu last held a role as executive of strategy at Peloton, and CTO Karen Castelletti spent five years at Google as a software engineer. “If there’s going to be an Elizabeth Arden of this generation, that company should be led by women,” Twist says.

Botulinum toxin injections—known best under the brand name Botox—are getting more and more popular. There were 7.4 million botulinum toxin procedures in 2018, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, compared to less than a million in 2000. In 2010, the year Instagram launched, the muscle-paralyzing injections jumped up 12% from the year prior. It should come as no surprise that the people who are getting procedures done are trending younger, with the bulk of growth occurring among people ages 30 to 39.

In addition to botulinum injections and fillers, EverBody offers a series of facials: diamond-tipped brushes remove dead skin cells, and lights and lasers zap dark spots. There is also body contouring, where a machine sends electricity to your abs, forcing them to contract and yielding more definition. The startup has procedures for hair loss and hair removal on the menu as well.

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Cosmetic procedures in general have also steadily ticked up over the last two decades. The stigma of getting work done is far from dissipated—as evidenced by the 2014 media frenzy around the possibility that actress Renée Zellweger may have undergone extreme plastic surgery (though she never confirmed it). Since then, several celebrities have gotten more cavalier with the subject, with Kylie Jenner copping to lip injections, Chrissy Teigen freely admitting she got Botox in her armpits so she would stop sweating, and Cardi B speaking openly about getting everything from illegal butt implants in a basement in Queens to liposuction after having her first child.

[Photo: Nadav Havakook, courtesy of EverBody]
Celebrities have a good reason for cosmetic surgery: They make money off their faces and, in some cases, other body parts. But does the everyday person need Botox? EverBody is one of a few brands that are aiming to bring high-tech beauty to the masses. Its laser facials and light-touch injectables start at $225 per session, and it sells clean beauty products from brands like SkinCeuticals.

EverBody’s emergence points to a culture of obsession with our bodies as well as a slowly growing acceptance of getting work done. The proliferation of online platforms that have the ability to make a person famous on a moment’s notice have us all looking a little more closely in the mirror. On our social media feeds, we are all little celebrities now, our lives on view for our own small audience. But life online is a delicate balance of projecting your best self and showing your true one: Our fellow internet users require we be our most authentic selves at all times, or risk being called out as a fake. This makes partaking in cosmetic procedures an inherently fraught experience, one that EverBody is hoping to soften.

The lure to look a little more perfect

I have never considered getting anything done to my face—at least not outside a regular visit to the dermatologist for acne—so I’m curious to see how a visit to EverBody might change my mind. When I go in for a consultation at the company’s SoHo clinic, I have the luxury of meeting with Jared Jagdeo, the company’s medical director. Jagdeo has intensely clear skin that is smooth like the inside of a shell. He says that he is “about 40.” I ask him if he’s gotten work done. “Do I get high on my own supply? No,” he laughs. He says his beauty regimen is more serums and gels than needles and lasers.

I’m seated in a white chair in a light, wood-paneled room with a big screen to my left where we examine photos of my face that his assistant, Taylor, had taken earlier. I generally like what I see, and Jagdeo doesn’t push me to examine further. But I’m curious, so we move in closer to really magnify the potential problems that might unnerve my vanity.

“Now I’ll have you just sit up and then look into here,” he says, pulling out a mirror and putting it into my hands. He asks me to tell him what I see. I count the eleven lines between my eyes and describe some visible blood vessels on my nose. Jagdeo is complimentary and tells me I look fantastic. One of EverBody’s guiding principles is it does not want to push people to get injections they don’t want. But I want to know what he really thinks about my face.

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[Photo: Nadav Havakook, courtesy of EverBody]
“See these lines that—while you’re at rest—come across your face,” he points to thin little lines across my forehead I hadn’t previously noticed. He tells me that using a relaxer, I could reduce these and still have movement in my face. “We use the finest of needles,” he assures me.

That’s not all I could fix.

He points to the area below my eyes, where there are some light depressions. This is normal for people as they age, he explains, but he could perk that area back up with filler, just above my cheeks—a procedure he claims to have perfected. “No one will know, but everyone will notice,” he smiles.

I know well enough that I am not ready for fillers, but I’m considering the Botox—something I never thought I would do. EverBody has something called “Baby Botox,” which Taylor tells me is a light sprinkling of Botox around the forehead (at the ripe age of 23, she’s already gotten this treatment and assures me it’s not too bad). I text several people to see if I should do it. Several of my friends advise me against it, arguing that once I start, I won’t be able to stop. Another thinks I should try it, but that I should go somewhere with reviews. “I wouldn’t get a procedure done anywhere other than a dermatologist office, by a dermatologist,” a third friend says. So far, none of my friends have had any cosmetic procedures—but many have talked about doing one.

At a dinner party after our interview, Twist admitted that she was a little conflicted about the consequences of launching this company. Cosmetic procedures can make people feel more confident about their appearance, but they also feed into unrealistic beauty standards. She started the company in part because she used these services and wanted a better, less stigmatized experience for herself. But the idea that we could all look a little more perfect is a nagging one. It can wear on a person, even one not inclined toward cosmetic procedures.

Rebranding injectables for everyone

The global medical spa business is on the rise: It was worth $12 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $34 billion by 2026, according to Grand View Research, in part due to disposable income and the rise of wellness tourism, a trend where people travel for everything from meditation to yoga to facials. Perhaps not surprisingly, North America, home to many of the most famous people who have gone under the knife, is dominating the industry in terms of sales.

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Along with EverBody, startups are popping up to take advantage of increasing demand. Three years ago, Los Angeles-based Alchemy 43 launched a pastel-colored clinic that tried to make injectables seem as normal as getting a blowout. The company has opened five millennial pink locations, most of which are in or around Los Angeles. Others businesses, such as Skin Laundry and Kate Somerville, are making names for themselves as purveyors of high-tech facials.

[Photo: Nadav Havakook, courtesy of EverBody]
But unlike these competitors, Twist designed EverBody’s branding to be neutral, with an ivy green as the dominant color, so it feels open to men, women, and those who don’t identify within a gender binary.

For Brian Yee, a partner at venture capital firm ACME Capital, this inclusive branding is representative of the opportunity he sees for the company. His firm has participated in a $17 million fundraising round in the company along with Tiger Global and Redesign Health, which is being announced today.

“I think much like Hims and Roman tapped this undercurrent of the male consumer with some of these healthcare services, I do think there’s a real opportunity to cater to men,” he says, referencing two direct-to-consumer startups that sell men’s products in minimally designed packages for everything from hair loss to erectile dysfunction. “These things have been around for decades, but primarily targeted at women.” He also sees potential for EverBody to expand as a brand, from in-person treatments to pre- and post-procedure care via an app on your phone, to a whole skincare line.

Part of what venture capitalists see in EverBody is a new audience to the world of cosmetic procedures—people who are interested but have been too intimidated to give it a try. Not only did he invest in this most recent round, but Yee tells me he’ll be coming in for his first cosmetic procedure next week. “Probably Botox,” he says.

Creating a new business model for Botox

It is not just branding that the company has reimagined. The company is also trying to shift the economics of the business model with new approaches to keeping customers hooked and balancing real estate commitments.

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In addition to the traditional à la carte procedures, EverBody is pushing $39-per-month memberships. The membership program includes an annual complimentary service and gets members a 15% discount on all other services. The hope is that with a loyalty program, EverBody can convince customers to make what it calls its “high performance beauty service” an integral part of their self-care routine. Incentivizing recurring treatments also takes pressure off the company’s clinicians to convince customers to buy procedures. (Competitor Alchemy 43 also has a membership program.)

In some ways, EverBody feels like a spa. Its treatment rooms are sleek wood-paneled boxes with lights that glow so softly you feel like you’re inside of a ring light, a common tool of beauty vloggers. They’re also modular. Each of the company’s treatment cubes is built offsite and plopped into the clinic. Because of this prefab approach, EverBody was able to set up its first retail location in 10 weeks.

[Photo: Nadav Havakook, courtesy of EverBody]
Even the sinks are self-contained inside each modular unit, and they use water from a tank rather than being hooked up to the building’s water lines. It’s one of the ways that EverBody is able to build its retail spaces so quickly. By designing the sinks to run using water tanks, EverBody avoids the traditional process of installing a sink, as you would in most doctors’ offices, which requires landlord permission, permits, and plumbers—all of which take time and cost money.

“The typical investor perspective on retail is it’s slow, it’s bloated,” Yee says. But the prefab nature of these treatment rooms means that EverBody can relocate quickly if a new location isn’t working out.

“If the situation for whatever reason isn’t the best for us, we will take these pods and we’ll move them across the street,” says Twist. At the first Manhattan location, she has decided to take a two-year lease rather than signing a longer-term contract. The company plans to open another 10 stores by 2020.

The problems with medical spas

While EverBody attempts to make cosmetic procedures into just another wellness trend, there are problems with the industry as a whole. Critics say that medical spas pressure people to try services they are not adequately prepared for financially, physically, or emotionally.

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After all, these procedures don’t always go smoothly. “The problem is there are risks and things that go awry,” says Kathleen Cook Suozzi, an assistant professor of dermatology at Yale University. These risks, which are rare, range from blindness to necrosis, where skin dies because it’s been cut off from its blood supply. She recommends always going to a dermatologist for these procedures.

There is also growing concern that the professionals poking holes into your face are not adequately trained. Laws vary from state to state on who can administer injectables, and it’s often unclear which medical spas are truly legit. There are few well-established companies that people know they can trust; most of the more than 4,000 medical spas in the United States are single locations.

“While some medical spas are legitimate, physician-owned facilities, it’s hard for a patient . . . to readily identify which spas are safe and if they are in fact being injected or treated by a practitioner who is adequately trained or supervised,” Suozzi says.

[Photo: Nadav Havakook, courtesy of EverBody]
Price may be a factor in people seeking procedures outside of the doctor’s office. “You’re more likely to find Botox Groupons in medical spa settings, but it’s not always the price that’s the driver,” says Suozzi. “Sometimes patients think that when they’re in that sort of spa setting it doesn’t feel as clinical.”

In many ways, this is the very problem that EverBody hopes to solve for. Its treatment rooms feel much more like a high-end fitness-boutique dressing room than a doctor’s office, and the company claims to be obsessed with quality. Jagdeo, EverBody’s medical director, who gave me the consultation, is a board-certified dermatologist and published academic. He trains EverBody’s nurse practitioners, he says, and ensures they are all up to the same standard. “It involves 100 hours of observation, classroom-style training over several days, and a written knowledge assessment that everyone must score 100% [on] or they’re not allowed to proceed on to treat [patients],” he says.

Getting work done

When I go in for my treatment the following week, I am met by Julie, a nurse practitioner with a dirty blonde bob who used to prepare patients for organ transplant. She explains that intense pulsating light (or IPL), the laser treatment I opted for to get rid of the visible blood vessels on my nose, can feel very warm. “Especially if we’re around the eyes, it will be a little bright and a little hot,” she says. “I was just reading over your medical history—are you still using the retinol?”

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I am. I’ve just started using it, thanks to another dermatology startup that prescribes online and delivers. Retinol can make you more sensitive to the light, she says. “I usually have people reschedule—I think that’s best.”

We find a time on another day, and I am grateful that she was hesitant to treat me. In the end, I do get the laser treatment. Julie rubs my face down with gel and affixes goggles to my face, though they don’t block out the light entirely, because it pulsates through my face and into the back of my eyes. Every time she zaps my face I feel a zing of heat and see rainbow flashes of light. It is not painful, but my body is shocked by it. Heat runs through me, and my palms are noticeably sweating. The whole process probably takes 15 minutes. After we finish, Julie reminds me that this one treatment may not be my last. It can take a few sessions of light zaps to make those vessels go away. I wonder whether this is the gateway to future alterations.

I think about that slippery slope, the downhill flight that leads to constant body tweaks, and wonder who I am changing for. Is it me? An empowered woman, who does what she wants with her face?

Renée Zellweger recently appeared on the cover of New York Magazine, squinting at the camera, crow’s-feet blooming from the corners of her eyes like starbursts. She looks like the Zellweger that we’ve always known, but older. In the story, she reflects on that 2014 moment where she was torn to shreds for drastically changing her appearance. “I like my weird quirkiness, my off-kilter mix of things. It enables me to do what I do,” she says. “So why was I suddenly trying to fit into some mold that didn’t belong to me?”

I like my mold. Still, I wonder if it couldn’t be just a little bit smoother.

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About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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