Rejuvenating dermal fillers, wrinkle-relaxing botulinum toxin injections, in-office thread lifts, resurfacing and pigment-reducing chemical peels, scar levelling micro-needling, stretch mark and cellulite smoothing carboxytherapy, permanent hair removal lasers, skin tag erasing plasma-based treatments, hair growth stimulating regenerative platelet-rich plasma and platelet-rich fibrin procedures… These represent but a taste of the specialised procedures that aesthetic medical doctors use to keep you looking the way you feel: youthful, rested and filled with vitality. Understandably, one might feel somewhat overwhelmed when first stepping into this novel and rapidly evolving field of modern medicine.
What is an aesthetic medical doctor?
Medical schools in South Africa produce some of the most knowledgeable general practitioner doctors in the world, capable of practising across a wide range of medical specialities. Unfortunately, aesthetic medicine is not one of them!
Nearly the entire medical curriculum is focused on traditional pathology and close to nothing is said on positive ageing. Thus, after 6 years of medical varsity training, 2 years of medical internship and one year of community service, additional training ought to be sought.
In order to gain the theory relating to the anatomical and physiological changes associated with ageing, a two-year post graduate diploma in aesthetic medicine is deemed the bare minimum.
The nuances of assessing one’s patient and creating an individualised treatment plan with the most appropriate procedures can only be nurtured with practice, over time, and only in those doctors with a passion for the field.
Lastly, as the field is speedily advancing, procedures performed a few years ago are often seen as obsolete; having been superseded by more effective and safer techniques.
Accordingly, doctors are obliged to constantly attend congresses, workshops and medical trainings locally, as well as internationally, to stay abreast with the latest standards of aesthetic practice.
South African medical aids generally deem aesthetic medicine as elective and largely decline reimbursement for any aesthetic procedures.
Consequently, there has been a surge of general practitioners, dentists, nurses and even beauty therapists with little more than a weekend workshop or two behind their name looking to make a quick buck.
1. Enquire if the practitioner offers daily deals, two-for-one specials or the like and if so, be cautious. In South Africa, medical doctors are governed by a code of strict guidelines which prohibit such unethical behaviour.
2. Be careful of the practitioner who seems insincere or hurried. When a procedure sounds too good to be true, it probably is! A good doctor will not hesitate to delay performing any treatment until you are completely comfortable to proceed.
3. “Botulinum toxin and bubbles” and “filler parties” should immediately make you run for the hills! Similarly, aesthetic procedure performed at hairdressers, ill-equipped back rooms of gyms and such should raise concern. Medical procedures should be performed in a medical facility where the procedure may be safely performed and any emergency complications immediately treated.
Knowledge is power
Empower yourself with research on the procedures you’re likely to require. Aesthetic doctors should have a comprehensive knowledge base on all the procedures they perform, as well as their limitations.
1. What are the advantages, side effects and possible complications of the recommended procedures?
2. Does your doctor provide aftercare instructions, what to do in case of side effects, or a follow-up schedule?
1. Confirm your doctor’s registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), the South African Association of Cosmetic Doctors (SAACD), the Aesthetic and Anti-Ageing Medicine Society of South Africa (AAMSSA) or international bodies such as the International Mastercourse on Aging Science (IMCAS) and the Dermatological and Surgical International League (DASIL).
2. What training has your doctor received? Two or three weekend training sessions and you’re dealing with an amateur at best!
3. What was the last international congress your doctor attended?
Money, money, money!
While money does matter, when it comes to your health costs should not be the sole determinant when choosing a doctor.
Expert knowledge, a practiced hand and a keen eye are needed to perform aesthetic medicine, where art is carefully combined with medical science.
Years later you might not remember costs, but you will be acutely aware of the quality of your results for the rest of your life!
Be sure to carefully choose a medical doctor that is not only experienced, but also shares your aesthetic vision.
Dr Zeenit Sheikh is a co-founder and medical director at The Aesthetic Doctors.