With the human form as his medium, Dr. Trevor Born elevates cosmetic surgery to a fine art

The Renaissance masters began to marry art with science in the 15th-century, establishing realistic linear perspective in painting and architecture. That we would one day be interpreting those same maxims for the purposes of aesthetic surgical alteration was surely the furthest thing from their collective minds. But listen to cosmetic surgeon Dr. Trevor Born talk about his craft, and the influences are unmistakable.

Widely recognized as one of North America’s preeminent cosmetic surgeons, Dr. Born, who has offices in New York and Toronto, sets himself apart by acknowledging that the whole of a patient is in fact greater than the sum of their parts. “The human body has underlying differences and subtleties,” he says. “It’s important to look at the shape of the face, for example, and apply basic principles of aesthetic beauty to it while examining the frames within it.”

By frames, Dr. Born is referring to the apertures of the eyes and mouth, areas that some of his peers do not consider, instead approaching an ”alteration” myopically.

“You can tell when most people have had their lips done because they end up with ‘ducky lips,’” he says. “In those individuals the frame of the mouth has been ignored and the lips have been attached to the face in a singular focused approach. You have to look at the chin, the jaw line, everything that is surrounding the mouth to know how much bigger you can make the lips without looking distorted.”

Dr. Trevor Born, plastic surgeon
Dr. Trevor Born, plastic surgeon
Dr. Trevor Born, plastic surgeon
Dr. Trevor Born, plastic surgeon
Dr. Trevor Born, plastic surgeon

A recent trip to Tuscany and his first face-to-face encounter with Michelangelo’s David put his own work into perspective. Though Dr. Born is quick to point out that his talent is nowhere near that of Michelangelo, he draws parallels. “Much like working with marble, there are limits to what you can do to the human body because of the underlying bone structure. But you can create a beautiful shape, even if there is an unaesthetic distortion.”

If a painter has his brush and a sculptor his chisel, then a key tool within Dr. Born’s kit would be his syringe. He’s been doing injections since 1998 and has developed a method that involves different sized needles and mixtures of hyaluronic acids, which he prefers to Botox as he sees the popular procedure as technically not as artistic because it weakens the muscle thus requiring a more surgical approach. His “free-flowing process” allows him to inject different areas of the face and as with any artistic process, make judgment calls along the way. “For ideal results, I look to reestablish the frames of the face with volume around the eyes, mouth and temples, but I give my patients a range of what I’ll do and a general idea of what to expect.”

"Much like working with marble, there are limits to what you can do to the human body because of the underlying bone structure.
– Dr. Trevor Born"

Despite sounding dangerously omnipotent, he assures that the study is as focused as the final piece: “I lock down my patient’s mind by conversing with them about their expectations. Then I observe them from up close and far away, making my own description of what I see based on the different perspectives. I can’t always deliver what they want so I compose a plan A and a plan B to help provide an ultimate result that is pleasing.”

Observation is a crucial element of Dr. Born’s approach, one he attributes to his mentor Dr. Bruce Connell – a man who was once described in a Los Angeles Times article as the “Michelangelo of plastic surgery.” He recalls outings with Dr. Connell where they would walk through a mall and discuss every face they passed, analyzing every feature. “He taught me how to understand beauty and what can be done to enhance it.”

Asked to elaborate on what “beauty” is, and Dr. Born falls back on typical plastic surgeon speak: “The upside down triangle shape with a wide temple and forehead that tapers to high cheekbones and a narrow chin is the ideal for women, whereas men strive for a stronger, more square shape.” But he quickly admits that there no longer exists one fixed standard of beauty.

"Art needs to be translated into what the patient wants.
- Dr. Trevor Born"

Art was never his strong suit in school, though he points to the abstract sculpture of Constantin Brancusi as an inspiration, and attributes Greek and Roman history with helping to train his eye to see the diversity in beauty. But the passion he’s fostered for painting and sculpture in particular has shaped his approach to his work: “Art needs to be translated into what the patient wants.” And so Dr. Born continues to carve out his chefs-d’oeuvre day after day, perhaps making him even more prolific than Michelangelo himself.