Meet Kathryn Khoo | RATIONALE

Journal

Meet Kathryn Khoo

Plastic Surgery + Cosmetic Nurse Specialist, Business Manager and RATIONALE Luminary

If there’s one person who has understood the evolution of the beauty industry in recent years, it’s Kathryn Khoo.


Kathryn Khoo at Gilson

Having started as a plastic surgery nurse close to 10 years ago, Khoo has excelled in many facets of the industry: within the private hospital setting, assisting top plastic surgeons during her private practice days, to her more recent role consulting in the fast-paced clinic environment. If it’s trended on Planet Beauty, Khoo knows about it—and then some.

And while she has worked alongside some of the best plastic surgeons in Australia, it is Khoo’s discipline and precision eye for detail that has earned her a powerful reputation in her own right for her incredible handiwork and impeccable results.

These days the accomplished skinfluencer continues to see her own patients (“treating clients with skin lasers, injectables”) while carving out a niche for herself as a business manager. “I have formed an understanding of this business,” says Khoo. “I consult doctors and business owners in the cosmetic industry on how to build their businesses: business development, staffing, TGA compliance, forming policies, registration…”

Outside of her demanding work schedule, Khoo spends precious time with her two young children and husband at home in Melbourne, travels regularly back to Malaysia to see family and friends, and unwinds by tapping into her inner artist. “I like to draw. I’m very much an amateur but it is sort of my therapy that my father recognised when I was growing up as well,” says Khoo. “So I was sent to art classes when I was younger. I still do that when I have the time; normally at night after the children have gone to sleep.”

In between sips of green juice, we caught up with Khoo to talk childhood sunscreen memories, finding her inner peace and the next big thing in beauty.

Kathryn Khoo and Richard Parker Rationale Head Office

RATIONALE: How did you first get interested in skin and the beauty industry?
“My family has always been in the skin industry. My father started his skin clinic [in Malaysia] 24 years ago now, so I was brought up in an environment where beauty, skin, cosmetics has always been very important. My father always made me very intrigued about this industry. He would talk about it every day during dinner, he would tell me about his clients…he would actually explain to me why people would come and look for him, why people wanted a consultation with him. My mother is a nurse. She’s a strong, strong woman. [She] has always been very conscious about how she looks and presents herself. Grooming was a very big part of it, too. How you present yourself as human, as you present yourself to the world… I’ve always been interested in that. Not the industry as such but human nature: Why are you buying skincare products? What are you trying to achieve there? Are you being influenced? Is it something else? So that intrigued me.”

You touched on your mum and how important personal grooming was to her, was that something she learnt from her mother?
“My family [is] from humble beginnings. My grandmother owned a little coffee shop; my grandfather traded coffee beans. My grandmother, with little means she had, would always have her hair washed, every two days, blow-dried with a beehive. I still remember her smell, she used the old Oil of Ulan. And it wasn’t cheap for her to buy because it was an overseas purchase but with the little money she had, she would still buy it, still have her hair washed, painted her nails and dressed up beautifully. Every single day—even when she was at home. She has a lot of confidence and happiness. She’s so comfortable in her own skin because she has invested in herself. So with my mother, she was brought up like that as well. And I was taught to articulate, speak properly when you do. You can’t look good if there’s no substance! It doesn’t mean anything.”

Do you think placing that importance on grooming is part of your cultural background, too?
“Yes. Being Chinese-Malaysian, I grew up in a culture where clear, beautiful, healthy skin is of the utmost importance to show that you are looking after yourself. Because your skin is essentially…how you present yourself. In the Asian culture we don’t hide under a lot of makeup, people actually want to see skin. Clear, healthy skin is timeless.”

Has that been true of your broader experience within the industry?
“The beauty industry has changed so much…There are [different ideals] of what people deem as ‘beautiful’. But one thing that’s for sure is skin: healthy, beautiful skin. Even if you’re speaking a different language—let’s say someone is sitting beside me and they’re speaking Italian and another one is speaking French—I might not understand anything [they’re saying], I might not appreciate their sense of aesthetics but I appreciate how they are looking after their skin. It’s universal.”

You mentioned how the industry has changed—what do you see as the next big thing?
“Everyone will go through different phases of life—you experiment, you try different things…but I would say, at the end of the day, people want…a routine and to have someone that you trust and a company that you trust to actually look after your skin. Not just getting you to buy the product but inspiring you, understanding you and catering to you. Not changing the person you are—enhancing. So individualising and catering to what you need, that will be the next thing. Personalisation of skincare.”

Kathryn Khoo Rationale

Speaking of skincare, when did that take shape for you?
“I remember my skincare regimen started at four years old! I smelt like sunscreen growing up. Every day, head to toe. I was the oiliest, greasiest girl in class and it was that old-style sunscreen. It was as ‘sunscreen’ as you could get. I started using actives at the age of 15 when I started to get pimples because there was someone at home to address it for me, to tell me ‘this is what you do’ or ‘this is not working for you’. I had that access to that sort of knowledge—and that’s why my skin has maintained [good health].”

And how did you first discover RATIONALE?
“It was eight years ago. I was doing my post grad on plastic surgery construction. Richard [Parker, Founder of RATIONALE] came to the private hospital I was working at and gave a talk on ingredients. I was in awe of what he was saying because…there was actually someone who was spending so much time, money and research on creating beautiful skin. Coming from Malaysia, I wasn’t sure if it would work on Asian skin; my products were all Malaysian. I tried it and it was amazing. With as little budget as I had as a nurse, I went into RATIONALE and bought it. I realised a little goes a long way. And that you don’t have to invest in other things when you have good [skincare] products.”

What does your beauty routine look like now?
“I’m a busy mum of two. I have a one-year-old and a four-year-old. I have quite minimal sleep; she still wakes up at night, so I try to look my best every day because it gives me some sort of self-worth. In the morning I wake up, I have a glass of water, then I wash my face. I have green juice every day. I like RATIONALE’s Immunologist Serum—I’ve been using that for six years. After that I have my sunscreen on. I never go out of the house without it—or if I don’t go out—I still put my sunscreen on. At night, I cleanse my face again and make sure my makeup is off without stripping my skin. [Then] I use RATIONALE 5 and 6. I love the actives in it. Besides that, every three weeks I have an enzyme peel…just very light ones. I don’t get the same one [each time], I just see what I need.”

What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt since becoming a mother?
“I want to be a good role model for my children. I need to let them know that independence and self-worth are very important because at the end of the day, it’s that quiet moment when you are on your own, when you look into the mirror: what do you see? Growing up, my mum always told me, ‘look for your inner peace.’ And that’s what I’ve learnt: do good, be kind, be honest. Be honest with [yourself]. Live for others but know that you are trying your best every day. And be kind to others. And then you can live very peacefully.”

Last question: do you have any guilty pleasures?
“I don’t mind a glass of wine now and then—I do have two young children! Guilty pleasures…I work very hard! (laughs) I’m not justifying (laughs) but I take pride in how I look and how I present myself. I like sparkly things. So how do I say this? I like to go shopping once in a while (laughs).”

Interview by Hélène Pappas