Know your cosmetic surgery options before saying 'Yes'

Women are constantly on the lookout for the elixir of youth. In 1992, Robert Zemeckis released a satirical catty comedy movie, Death Becomes Her, that cynically highlights women's obsession over beauty. There's also Ryan Murphy's award-winning TV drama series Nip/Tuck focusing on the growing popularity of plastic surgeries.

While some people turn to expensive skincare products to restore their youthful looks, others have no qualms about going under the knife. However, before considering any beauty enhancements, consultant plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon Dr A. Ananda Dorai advises patients to weigh their options carefully, especially who will be administering these procedures, potential risks and complications.

"Some beauticians and bogus fly-by-night 'doctors' conduct corrective surgery without proper certification. It's not worth putting your looks and life at risk without knowing the doctor's qualification. Choose plastic surgeons, dermatologists or aesthetic doctors with significant experience. Find out if they are listed as specialists under the Health Ministry National Specialist Register," says Dr Ananda.

With the rise of counterfeit facial fillers in the market, he encourages patients to be very careful about the authenticity of products used in cosmetic procedures. Patients should ask about contents in the product, and if it is certified by the Health Ministry or other international bodies such as the US Food and Drug Administration.

"Some dubious surgeons claim injectable fillers contain materials such as hyaluronic acids, collagens, or bio-synthetic polymers. But instead, it could contain dangerous substances such as silicone or grease. While their services could be cheaper, the risks cannot be over-emphasised."

Non-medical grade fillers could cause infection and granuloma, in which granulation tissue mass is produced in response to inflammation.

"When our body doesn't accept a foreign body, granuloma can occur, and this can distort a person's physical appearance and may cause severe adverse effects ," he says, adding majority of his patients request for procedures such as botox, fillers, laser treatments and thread-lifts.

Dr Ananda has come across patients with various requests to enhance their looks. Some come with pictures of their favourite celebrities, wanting surgery on certain parts of their face to resemble Tinseltown's A-listers.

"Everyone's facial skeleton, ranging from Asian, Caucasian to African, is unique. It's in our genetic make up so it's impossible to look like someone else. I spend hours talking to patients about their unrealistic expectations, hoping they will understand that it's a far-fetched idea to mimic someone else's looks," says Dr Ananda, adding there is a growing demand for bee-stung lips among patients.

A myth that needs to be laid to rest is the common assumption that the quickest way to lose inches off the body is to sign up for packages at beauty enhancement centres.

"These centres merely rid the body of excess water and toxins. To remove stubborn fat, liposuction or tummy tuck, seek advice from qualified medical professionals. The best way to lose excess weight is through diet and exercise."

Dr Ananda says people should be proud of their looks and identity.

"It's best not to try to look like someone else and be yourself. While it's good to enhance your looks, over-doing it can be unnatural. Think positive and be confident about yourself," he concludes.

Here's what you need to know about dermal facial fillers.

Aesthetic treatment is big business these days. Aesthetic doctor Dr Anna Hoo explains that patients interested in aesthetic treatments range from teenagers up to their 60s. They seek various procedures such as levelling of scars to anti-ageing treatments.

"Malaysian women today are more well-read and more receptive. Even men are showing an increased interest in aesthetic treatments such as facial rejuvenation," she says.

Here's what you need to know about dermal facial fillers.

What are fillers?

Dermal fillers are injectable substances such as hyaluronic acid (HLA) used to "plump" up areas of skin (such under the eyes and hollows of cheeks) where there is volume loss due to ageing. It can also improve hydration and collagen regeneration in the treated areas.

What is HLA?

HLA is a natural-occurring polysaccharide in our body that supplements moisture in skin. However, we produce less HLA as we age, and over time we lose skin suppleness, causing facial volume loss. HLA is biodegradable and eventually eliminated by the body through its natural elimination processes.

What's botox?

Botulinum toxin or better known as botox, contains the purified toxin derived from a bacteria called clostridium botulinum. Botulinum toxin A comes in sterile bottles and is used to relax tense muscles responsible for wrinkles. It is usually administered on crow's feet and glabellar/frown lines (the vertical lines between the eyebrows caused by frowning).

How do the fillers work under the surface of our skin?

Fillers come in pre-packed sterile syringes. These can be injected at different levels of skin that need more volume and/or hydration. Less dense fillers can even out acne scars or improve skin's hydration levels. More dense fillers are used for parts of the face where there is volume loss such as chin, tear troughs (under the eye area) and hollows of cheeks.

What's the difference between long-lasting and short-term fillers?

Long-lasting fillers are non-absorbent and made from silicone (which are not registered in Malaysia). It can remain in the body for many years. Short terms fillers lasts between three months and two years.

Top 5 non-surgical facial procedures

1. Botox - Botulinum toxin is a purified substance derived from bacteria. Botox injections block muscular nerve signals, which weaken the muscle, so it can't contract. It can help smooth crow's feet, forehead furrows, frown lines and skin bands around the neck.

2. Fillers - Filler injections help to diminish facial lines, restore volume and fullness in the face. Fillers are useful for those showing early signs of ageing, or as a value-added part of facial rejuvenation surgery.

3. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) - Blood plasma enriched with platelets, like dermal fillers, are injected into the face for facial rejuvenation.

4. Fat injections - Access fat is harvested from the patient's body which is then re-injected to several areas in the body to enhance the appearance.

5. Thread face lift - Face and neck which are lifted using special surgical threads to restore facial contour and youthful appearance.