Dr Steven Liew is Founder and Medical Director of The Shape Clinic of Darlinghurst in Sydney. His reputation expands far beyond that though. Dr Liew is a world leader in combining cosmetic surgery procedures with more non-invasive techniques to provide a more whole approach to a person’s beauty. Specialising in face and breast surgery, Dr Liew has developed ground-breaking new techniques to reshape and rejuvenate the face, marking him a revolutionary in the modern day aesthetics industry.
I was able to sit down and chat with Dr Liew at the recent Non-Surgical Symposium 2015 held in Melbourne earlier this month where he was one of the keynote speakers. Dr Liew gives us some insight into his approach, and details the process to find a great practitioner!
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: Dr Liew, can you tell us a little about total facial beautification and what it is about, or what it means?
DR LIEW: It stems from the fact that traditionally, patients come to see us and say, I don’t like “this”, and we treat them. The problem with that is; (the) ageing process is a global – every part of our face and body age at about the same time, maybe a different rate. So the whole idea being is, if you just concentrate on one area, and don’t think of other areas – you become disproportionately enhanced all the time; you actually look quite odd, which is what we are seeing. So the way we should think about it is; we should think about getting bits and pieces done over a prolonged period of time. Start out with an area that is affecting the face more. For most women, the area that we age initially is from the eyes and the cheek, followed by around the lip. So most times, I tend to actually provide a little support in the cheek. I’m not suggesting to making them plumper. I’m suggesting that reducing or providing some of the fat loss that we can see just a little bit. The patient will notice an instant improvement. Their friends will notice they look much better, but they can’t really tell what’s been done. I think that’s the secret of having anything done. And then, you know, maybe six months, a year down the track… maybe we look at other areas. And we can do that nowadays because we have a lot of modalities where there are fillers that last a lot longer; whether it’s skin care, laser, or sometimes machinery just to lift or tighten things up. So the whole concept is, don’t have everything done in one hit, or don’t wait till you are 65 and say, “listen, I want everything done”. It just doesn’t work. What I’m doing now in my line of research is to see whether, you know, a younger patient, (in their) late 20s, (will) come and in will do a tiny bit… what I call supporting the structure to reduce the rate it’s falling… and hopefully I can show that perhaps 10 years down the track that the patient looks so good that they hardly need anything done in the long run; whether it’s surgery or perhaps just a small amount of fillers over the time – and I know what the result is going to be. And what I want to do is also, is manage it over the time to see that this is in fact a cost effective way for us to look better because we are all living a lot longer now. And sometimes, as most people say, I feel so good but sometimes “this” fails me. I think that’s the way that we’re all seeing it and hopefully with time I can prove that to the world.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: So it’s not about looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking “oh my God I need to do something”. It’s about, what do I need to have done to improve my overall look.
DR LIEW: I think, a lot of people gradually realise now, that we all want to look the best for our age. We don’t necessarily want to look 20 because (a) it’s physically impossible – our personality will change; we don’t have the technology: (and) it’s just simply inappropriate. So my concept is, total facial beautification, is when (the) patient comes in I want them to make them look the best that they could at that particular stage of their lives.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: And not look like they’ve had a lot of work done.
DR LIEW: Correct. Yeah.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: Ok. That’s great. So, one thing that’s really interesting for a lot of our viewers is the difference in the Asian face and the non-Asian face, or the western face. So you’re the Chairman and Consultant for the Facial Aesthetic Council of Japan. Do you find that the trends for both surgical and non surgical procedures are different than they are for Western society?
DR LIEW: Well, two things, I think no matter who we are or where we come from, we all want to look good for our age at any stage… so that’s number one. The second thing is, the Japanese are as a whole a lot more conservative than us, in this country and the western world. And as a result, they’re still slightly lag behind in the types of things that we’re doing. They’re slowly catching on because they are getting access to the type of fillers that we have now, that’s number one. And with my help and collaboration with some very talented surgeons, they’re slowly getting the message across because the population are asking for it. Everything is global – they see it on the internet, what’s available and all this stuff. So, I’ve been the chairman of the council since 2010. And in the last five years, they are almost 80% towards what we’re doing now.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: Wow, so it does have a big influence.
DR LIEW: It does have a big influence.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: Another thing that you’ve been involved in is the development of an app which is called Complete Face? Can you tell us a little bit about that and what it’s for?
DR LIEW: Yes, so Complete Face app stems from the fact that since 2010 I’ve been having this private workshop for doctors throughout the world who come to Sydney. And because it’s a small workshop, I only allow 15 to 20 of those advanced injectors. And because of the time frame, I only do it once a year. Each time there’s a few hundred doctors who wanted to come. So I have to actually cut them down. So what I thought is, I’ll do an app – it’s almost exactly how I do my workshop so doctors throughout the world can actually step by step learn what they want to learn because it’s very comprehensive. It has cadaver dissection, it has me doing live injection assessment… so they can have it at their finger tip anytime they want it.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: Ok, so even for aspiring doctors and people getting into these industries as well, it’s fantastic. So it’s like a little training…
DR LIEW: Correct. It’s a training kit.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: Great. Fantastic!
DR LIEW: From the very, very basic to the super advanced.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: Ok, you can get that in an apps store, Android and Apple?
DR LIEW: Correct. Only for the tablet and for iPad.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: Ok, fantastic, thank you. And the last thing I’m going to ask… two things actually. So, if I’m sitting in my home somewhere in Australia, and I’m thinking I really want to go and have enhancements; I want to stop the ageing process… how do I make a choice? How does one pick who’s someone good, someone bad? We’ve all seen those horror stories of where people that come in and you think “oh my God what’s happened?” How can one avoid that?
DR LIEW: It’s a very difficult thing. First of all, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. The best thing to do is word of mouth. The second thing to do is, when you walk into the doctor’s or whoever injector’s office, if you see those people waiting in the waiting area, number one, or the staff of the doctors… they look quite odd – it is the first sign not to go there. I’ll give an example. A very dear patient of mine who has now moved to London was recommended to this very well known doctor and she has been my patient for the last 10 years. She walked in there, she looked at the staff, the receptionist, the nurses and whoever is sitting in there and she walked out. I think that’s probably the best way to judge it. And of course, the people that you see need to be very well trained. Non surgical is something that everyone claims they can do. The difference between a good injector versus a not so good injector is the consistency… their approach to it. Many times, I actually tell my patient, “You don’t need this”. They’ll say, I’ve waited for you. But I say I’m sorry you don’t need it. The ability to say no to someone who has reached a level and say, you don’t need it, rather, because this is a business. It’s easy for them to take your money. And the person who says, you don’t need it, I think that’s the person that you should respect the most.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: So. it’s basically, look around, speak to a few people and if you walk in and…
DR LIEW: You don’t have a good feeling, I think you should walk away.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: I’ve done that. I’ve done that myself. Ok so that’s best way. And the last question is, you are obviously aware of the recommendation paper released by the medical board of Australia outline concerns for regulations in the cosmetic industry. Do you think this is a good thing and if not why? Can you tell us why?
DR LIEW: I think it is a good thing. It is a good thing to implement but I think it’s also a very difficult thing to make that decision. We, as a plastic surgeon, we spend quite a long time being trained from the very basic – from a trauma patient to the cosmetic patient. That keeps us very grounded. Keeps us understanding of what not to do. I think that is a good thing. But, we are also aware that there are some very good cosmetic physicians who are very ethical, who actually have the same ethos as us as a plastic surgeon; and that’s the hardest thing to regulate – to differentiate between who is good and who should be doing it. But, it is important for us to know that this, after all, is non surgical… (however), it’s a medical procedure… it should be done in a proper setting; it should not be done in a hair salon… and those sort of things, because complications can happen. If (complications) happen you want to be in a setting that you feel safe… and things are readily available to actually help you. I think that’s probably the more important thing to come out of it, rather than walk into any hair salon and get it done in a perhaps less ideal, less optimal and perhaps not hygienic environment.
PLASTIC SURGERY HUB: I agree totally its buyer beware where you go – it’s not a small thing. Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
DR LIEW: Thank you for having me. Bye.