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Aesthetic medicine – Vanity or insanity?

Dr. Victor Ti / Khmer Times Share:
A doctor injects Botox for a middle-aged female customer. This is the No. 1 medical aesthetic procedure that is increasingly popular. Photo: Reuters

Admiration of one’s own appearance is vanity. However, excessive concern about it is a psychiatric disease known as body dysmorphic disorder where one becomes preoccupied with an imagined defect in one’s physical appearance leading to a time consuming ritual of mirror-gazing. In layman’s terms, this is insanity. Between vanity and insanity, there lies a continuous spectrum of a varying desire to look good and feel good.

The poor may comment, “It is crazy to pay so much and suffer such tremendous pain for beauty.”

Nevertheless, there are people having lots of money but no beauty complaining, “Money is not my problem. I am depressed over my looks. I want the injection and surgery. If there is no pain, there shall be no gain.”

Craving for beauty is normal. Looking good simply feels good. The young and beautiful certainly attract more attention and admiration.

Looking younger and more beautiful give us a better self-esteem, confidence, self-respect and also respect from others. All these affect the way we present ourselves verbally and non-verbally.

They often determine the outcome of our performance in sales, work, business and interpersonal relationships. They are also important in husband-wife relationships. As I have often heard from married women, “I rather spend on Botox and filler to look younger and more beautiful instead of saving for my husband to look for a younger and more beautiful second lady.” Certainly this is a real concern for many married women in this era where marital relations are getting increasingly fragile.

Have you ever wondered why ‘Barbie Doll looking women’ are employed to stand beside promotional items such as luxury cars or houses? They somehow exert a mysterious magnetic pull on their potential customers to the items and this often results in a sale being made. Indeed, the power and magnetism of beauty on the human mind are mysteriously awesome.

Beauty is important to many, not only among women. Men, too, nowadays are increasingly beauty conscious. Metrosexual men are urban men who are especially meticulous about grooming and appearance; typically spending much time and money on them. They do whatever the women are doing to enhance their appearance.

The beauty industry is an evergreen industry. Whatever products and services related to beauty shall continue to develop and flourish. In the past, they were much simpler and non-invasive. Thus, they were left exclusively to the beauticians. Time marches on and the industry continues to evolve to meet the demand for better products and better standard of services.

Such products and services are getting more complex, sophisticated and invasive. Invasive in the sense that they may necessitate injecting, cutting or the use of products that should be properly introduced so that an informed consent can be obtained before the treatments are done. All these necessitate the involvement of more knowledgeable and ethical professionals to do a good job and avoid unforeseen complications and damage that are often irreversible.

Where there is a demand, there shall be supply. Doctors, rightly, have been approached to do the job. Some of them who were less judgmental viewed beauty as part of their patients’ psychological and social wellbeing. Thus, aesthetic medicine started sprouting as a subspecialty within the ambit of family medicine, dermatology and plastic surgery over the past two to three decades. Indeed, this is a healthy development in response to a rising need in changing times.

Beauticians should confine their roles to cleansing and beautifying with whatever procedure that is non-invasive such as steaming, application of face masks and make-ups. Any procedures that cause bleeding, skin burn, and deep freezing should be left to the doctors.

Sadly, they often cross their borders out of greed or foolishness. Many people are persuaded by beauticians to have eyelid surgery, botox and filler injections done by them, often without any form of anaesthesia. In the eyes of the medical professionals, those who do them are rather cruel and unethical. The complication rates of infection, scarring, etc. are expectedly high.

Many beauticians also attempt to treat pimples or acne. This is a very complex pilosebaceous skin disorder with serious potential psychological implications, if a botched job is done. What these beauticians are doing is certainly inadequate, inappropriate and unethical. Their overall charges are often not cheaper. In addition, the unfortunate victims suffer more pain and a high complication rate of difficult to treat ice-pick scars that often remain throughout their lives.

I have often heard that some beauty centres are flying in doctors to help them out. Such doctors often have no practising certificate in the country and therefore there is no way to confirm their qualification and experience. After two to three days of work at the beauty centres, these doctors then leave the country. Those going to them for treatment are certainly doing it at their own risk.

The high degree of ethical consideration of medical doctors who undergo very special and rigourous training cannot be compared to any beautician who only goes through a short-term vocational course. Without an ethical mind, one can easily be overwhelmed by greed.

The sterility of products used will not appear important and there is no guilt feeling in using inferior black-market products or contaminated equipment such as cutting blades and needles. Allow me to advise that the role of beauticians is to cleanse and beautify. They are not qualified to treat skin diseases nor to inject, cut, burn, or do deep freezing.

The following are some of the treatments that should be exclusively done by a doctor:

Botox injection: This is the No. 1 medical aesthetic procedure that is increasingly popular. It relaxes the muscles on the face to reduce unwanted wrinkles.

Dermal filler: Dermal filler is injected under the skin to fill up lost volume on the face. More superficial injection also corrects wrinkles.

Face lifting threads: These are threads inserted under the skin to lift the sagging skin up.

Liposuction: This is a surgical procedure used to remove fatty tissue under the skin.

Skin peeling: Removal of superficial layers of skin with acids such as alpha hydroxy acid or TCA.

All forms of surgeries: Double eyelid surgery, nose elevation, etc.

My next column will be on: ‘Cigarette smoking – The human hook’.

Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases and excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skill in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via messenger m.me/bhclinic1, Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977

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