Taking Stock Of Your Looks

How an aesthetics clinic can help you look your best, most natural self.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The Christmas decorations have gone up on Orchard Road, and people are going away on their year-end breaks. It’s also the time of year to take stock.

Many patients are coming into the clinic to do just that. They want someone trusted, tried and tested to give them an honest assessment of how the year has played out in terms of their looks, and lead them in the right direction for 2019.

A doctor’s assessment

As a doctor with an interest in aesthetic medicine, I am often asked: “How do you assess what a patient needs, and how much? Is it an occupational hazard to constantly see areas which can be improved aesthetically in those you meet?”

My assessment of a patient’s aesthetic issues begins from the moment we say hello. How the face moves when they’re happy, speaking, or emphasising a point; the side profile; and the skin can all be assessed with the most sophisticated of tools – the eye.

Most times, patients come in with a single problem that affects them most: pigmentation problems, acne scars, droopy eyelids/jowls/ midface, less-than-ideal facial proportions, and so on I address that problem first. And then, if they allow, I give a complete assessment and discuss treatment options.

Patients also worry: “Will I be addicted to the treatments?”, “I don’t want to look too done – will you tell me when to stop?”, “Will it be too obvious? I don’t want anyone to know.”

I tactfully tell them that aesthetic treatments are about improving your looks, not changing them. Any comments you get should be “Hey, you’re looking so good!”, rather than “Hey, did you get something done?”.

Sometimes, patients come with photos – Kylie Jenner’s lips! Angelababy’s nose! I gently suggest it may not be achievable without drastic surgery.

In some cases, I ask to see photographs of patients when they were happiest with themselves. I do this for two reasons: One is to assess the effects and extent of bone and soft-tissue loss, and the impact of gravity. The other is to plan the restoration of what has been lost, in the most natural way for the patient and for those around her (or him).

I am relieved that in the last few years, the desire to have a wrinkle-free and filled-out face has waned. We are heading towards “controlled ageing”, where we retain the features that characterise our uniqueness while not allowing the ravages of time to have their way with our looks.

Looking your best at year end parties

I can’t emphasise this enough: Patients who look their best and respond best to treatments are those who truly take care of themselves.

So start early. Drop the cigarettes. You do not need the free radicals, and frankly, smoking leaves an ashen hue on the skin and stains the lips, teeth and fingernails. The best lasers cannot completely treat this. Also, take your vitamins, cut the sugar, and get at least 30min of cardio exercise daily.

Look at your skincare routine. Has it changed in the past year? The basics should be: a good makeup remover, face cleanser, toner if you have dry or sensitive skin, an antioxidant, retinoid cream, and sunscreen. You may also add or choose products with anti-pigment, anti-acne, hydration or firming effects.

But skincare is not as effective as technology. We are lucky as advances have been made in research for safe and effective technology to stimulate collagen growth, tighten and lift skin and underlying muscle, encourage improved penetration of active ingredients, and fatcell destruction, just to name a few. It means that we have options for producing good and even dramatic results – without using a knife, and with minimal downtime.

It’s among the reasons that North Americans spent US$15 billion (S$21 billion) last year on aesthetic procedures, the most popular being botulinum toxin injections. But it’s also meant that patients (and sometimes doctors) have had to navigate a minefield of treatments that may or may not work, and may or may not be safe.

Experience always counts

Patients value the experience and honing of skills that come with doing the same thing over and over again. Practice makes perfect. In the case of medicine, doctors learn from mistakes (their own as well as their peers’), thus making good techniques better, learning safer practices, and recognising the early signs of complications. All that gives patients a better chance of achieving good results safely and consistently.

But remember, at the end of the day, looking good starts with being at peace in your heart. Be beautiful from the inside, and be your own kind of beautiful.

My Reading Room

Best known for her result-oriented philosophy, Dr Karen Soh, medical director of Prive Clinic, is also a mother of four. When not at work in the clinic, she enjoys cooking, baking, skiing and the occasional whiskey. Follow her on Instagram @ drkarensoh.