It has been hard not to become at least a bit more analytical of ourselves and our surroundings during lockdown.

Gardeners, decorators and interior designers have all seen a boom in business as people have been forced to spend more time at home.

However, another industry has benefited from us having to come face-to-face, almost literally, with ourselves.

All those hours spent looking at our own image on video calls are - at least partially - driving people to seek out beauty treatments and one business fulfilling the need is VL Aesthetics, in Carlisle.

"I think if anything the whole lockdown thing has made people more aware about how they look, despite being isolated from other people physically," says managing director Vanessa Brown.

"Obviously people will be seeing their reflections on camera and they start pinpointing certain things that they want to change. That was a big trend that we have seen coming out of lockdown.”

This, combined with the pent up demand released as lockdown restrictions have eased, has given VL Aesthetics a brimming appointments book filled with customers for the coming months.

The company was originally started by Vanessa’s mum Lana as Vibralife Health Club in 2010, with a particular focus on health and wellbeing.

However, Vanessa took the lead role in the business in 2017 after graduating with a degree in international business management from Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh.

As part of her degree she studied overseas in Dubai, as well as completing a placement in New York working with a marketing and PR agency working with clients including Pepsi.

"I took the business over and rebranded it and over the years it's naturally developed into a medical aesthetics business," she says.

Since 2017 the business has grown from having one treatment room to nine, offering treatments covering everything from wrinkle reduction to removing cellulite and clearing acne.

It has carved out a niche providing treatments that are hard to find anywhere else in Cumbria or even in the country. Vanessa says that in May the clinic became the first place in the UK to offer the Emerald Laser Treatment, developed in America, which uses a low-level green laser to break down fat and remove cellulite.

The business treats hundreds of people every week and employs 10 people, remaining a true family business with Lana and Vanessa’s brother Max and dad Stewart all still involved.

Despite being in an industry where the focus is mainly on the exterior, Vanessa says it tries to bring benefits that are more than just skin deep.

"Everything we do we do from a wellbeing standpoint to improve the way people look and feel, we like to take the holistic view,” she says.

A big part of this involves providing non-surgical aesthetic treatments, which allow people to walk out of the door and continue with normal life straight away rather than being forced to have downtime while they recover.

"You can get really effective results without having to do that," says Vanessa.

"Why would you want the risk, why would you want the downtime, when there are other ways to do it these days? We want people to feel good.”

Men make up an increasing proportion of its customers - seeking out everything from laser hair removal to wrinkle removal - while Vanessa says the aging population is also creating a growing market who want to continue looking good into older age.

"Because of the range of different services that we provide and the quality of care we pride ourselves on people keep coming back. We’re going to keep innovating and make sure that we bring the best treatments to Cumbria.

“We focus on making people happy, not simply treating them because they feel under pressure to look a particular way. Both men and women should be doing things for ourselves not for somebody else.

“There’s a line we have to be aware of and where we have to make ethical judgments.

One example of this has been around Botox and filler treatment.

Up until a law change this year it was legal for beauty clinics to give under 18’s Botox or filler treatment for cosmetic reasons.

However, Vanessa says VL Aesthetics has always self-regulated by refusing to treat children, despite receiving regular requests.

"The problem with the industry is that it is too easy for people to get into it, and the safety element of it needs to be changed but we take steps independently to make sure that we are as safe as possible,” says Vanessa.

The business is registered with the Care Quality Commission and holds a ‘good’ rating and also has an ‘excellence’ rating with the government-recognised Save Face accreditation scheme for non-surgical cosmetic treatments.

Vanessa says she is in favour of tighter regulation for the industry to ensure people’s safety and help protect its reputation in general.

“These are very serious procedures which can have lifelong consequences if they’re carried out incorrectly and as a business it’s important we can assure people they will get a high quality and safe service,” she says.

“I would welcome tighter regulation because it’s a classic example of those who are doing things right, like us, having nothing to fear.”