Dr Danae Lim is getting some amazing results at her clinic in Alexandria NSW, and we love getting to know strong women leading the way in the aesthetics industry, so we asked Dr Lim to tell us a little bit about herself. We were immediately intrigued when she started by telling us “I’m a little bit obsessive compulsive and I tend to think a little bit outside the box.”
I grew up in sunny Singapore and came to Sydney over 20 years ago – I’m no spring chicken! I finished high school and came here to matriculate and study uni, one of the earliest cohorts of international students. I was always a bit of a bookworm. I went to UNSW initially, then transferred over to the University of Sydney, first studying the Bachelor of Medical Science (BMedSci) and then Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS).
When it comes to my hobbies I’m more of an introvert and I like to cook, and coming from a biochemistry major, actually enjoy the food science more than the cooking process. As I said, I’m a bit OCD. I have an infrared thermometer that I shoot at the pan surface before I cook anything, I make my own miso from scratch – i.e. soybeans, koji and good quality pink salt, and I have made red rice wine before using a very similar process, just to get the fermented residue for a seasoning. My kitchen is more like a lab. I measure and document everything like back when I did experiments, so my results are reproducible. I often look up the most complicated recipes online just for a challenge. It took me about a week to make a Chinese delicacy called “mini Buddha jump over the wall”, from soaking dried abalone to reducing a good quality stock from collagen rich bones. In fact, the breakdown of the bones is not due to mechanical stress from the boiling but from the dissolution of the calcium salts from the bony skeleton, that’s why the bones kind of crumbles into little pieces at the end of the process. A bit of vinegar/acid helps to hasten this process. As I said, I enjoy the science behind it and am a big fan of The Food Lab.
I am also a bit of a fantasy/sci-fi fan – I maintain they are completely different genres – I like anything from spaceships to time travel. In fact, I own Harry Potter magic wands – hand-crafted from fine woods – not the plastic replicas; and also some light sabers. One of them comes with a custom program I can use to change the colour and the sound effects. Don’t get me started on Game of Thrones, I won’t stop talking. I do Cosplay occasionally and collect everything from baroque gowns to kimonos. I make it a point to get a makeover and photoshoot for my birthday each year.
I read a lot. I can finish a 400 page novel a night. I also prefer reading to watching movies or television due to the eye strain.
I was always more of a skincare than makeup junkie. In fact, I started using hyaluronic acid back in 2000 when I started med school and had a bit of free time on my hands. I researched every single thing I could from sunscreens to the best moisturiser. I was using other cosmeceuticals back then as well, but the acids got a bit too strong for my skin, so I relied on very good humectants to condition my skin and rarely anything stronger until I hit my late 20s. I noticed fine lines and wrinkles on my forehead around that time, so recommenced on retinol to stimulate cellular turnover, and with very good results. I did not know anything about injectables and would not have considered surgery at that stage.
I have always been quite procedural, working in emergency for most of my medical career. When I hit my 30s, I found that my facial structure had changed significantly, and what I didn’t realise was that there was an entire field of cosmetic medicine. I googled some courses online and went to an introductory course by the CPSA (the current CPCA), and was quite amazed that there was systematic evidenced based medicine in this. It is quite interesting that mainstream medicine had always been deadset against cosmetic medicine, seeing it as a “fluffy” field when it cannot be farther from the truth – this is cutting edge technology moving faster than almost any other field in traditional medicine.
“I believe in experiencing everything that I would potentially do to someone else.”
CPSA/CPCA were great; they highly recommended I attend the ASAPS conference, and that’s where it all started. I was completely mesmerised by the total facial transformation, the year I attended focused mostly on Asian aesthetics and I went straight to see a plastic surgeon for my own treatments. I believe in experiencing everything that I would potentially do to someone else. I was very strict about getting to know as much as I could before I started treating patients, so I got a few textbooks, signed up for some training courses and joined a corporation that provided full time training, rather than just opt for a one-day training course. It became a full-time journey as I could no longer afford the time to do both emergency and cosmetic medicine, and cosmetic medicine is where my passion lies. I see faces in terms of lines and shadows. With my own clinic I could also choose the technologies I wanted rather than be limited to what was available at someone else’s clinic. I have a very targeted niche market in Asian clientele, and a lot of energy based treatment is simply not appropriate.
Because of my interest in dermal science, I am able to reliably predict someone’s response to a certain (skin) treatment and over the course of time, the improvements are very rewarding. Controlling the variables predictably gives me the results I am after – skin is the largest organ of the human body. With fillers the instantaneous improvements in facial structure is amazing, patients literally just light up. I would say correcting inappropriately performed procedures by other practitioners is quite interesting – which is a significant proportion of my clientele. A lot of these are by illegal operators. Everyone makes mistakes, but the lack of understanding of the science and the correct injection depth/volume is still a huge problem in this industry, as not enough training is provided. I literally have to dissolve most of the fillers in someone’s face and redo the entire procedure.
My biggest career milestone so far was correctly diagnosing someone with a form of epilepsy when he didn’t actually have visible seizures – I was only a resident back then and no one would believe me until he started responding to anti-epileptic medications which I insisted on giving. It was very time sensitive as brain cells start to die after a few minutes of non-stop seizures (even if you can’t see someone jerking their limbs). This was more than a decade ago.
In terms of cosmetic medicine, being one of the founders of the Australasian College of Asian Aesthetics (ACAA) has been by far the biggest thing I have committed to. Classical training in cosmetic medicine just does not address ethnic differences adequately, and with 20% of the population in Sydney being ethnic Chinese, and most cosmetic injectables being in the highest risk areas for facial enhancement, I felt that it was a moral duty to raise safety and treatment standards. A public education stream targeting this demographic is also essential and is in the works. I already hold monthly in house lectures in Chinese regarding skin care and other cosmetic treatments, we had a large scale public Chinese seminar held at Four Points Sheraton in October last year (Myths and Facts in Cosmetic Medicine), as well as a women’s health day for March. Education is just a very big part of what I do and being able to formalise it and help new practitioners start out the right way is just an extension of what I set out to do right from the beginning.
I would say my favourite treatment is cosmetic injectables, because I am almost able to do with a needle what had to be done with a knife traditionally, and every practitioner’s aesthetic judgement is very different even if we are trained the same way. The nuances in someone’s facial structure based on ethnicity, age, personal preference and being able to achieve it safely. I am very grateful for the immense trust my patients place in me – I always explain the risks of the procedure and I prefer my patients are equal partners in their treatment plan. The disclaimer is that combined modalities yield the best results. There is no one single treatment that will address all the causes of ageing, and I will refer to another practitioner be it dermatologist or plastic surgeon, because I can’t do everything.
Seeing patients return with a smile on their face and asking what their treatment plan will be, how their lives have been enhanced just by feeling that much better about themselves.
We have a dedicated customer service mobile that is available after hours, and we are always contactable by email. I nearly always keep patients for observation after cosmetic injectables so if there is any risk of a serious adverse event I already know before they go home. My injection techniques use very small volumes, which further minimises risk. I think I nag my patients too much regarding safety.
To check out my interview with Dr Lim at the recent Non-Surgical Symposium 2017 click here.