You may have searched online and may have found aesthetic clinics, but your search did not return any aesthetic doctors in Singapore. Do you wonder why? How do you even begin choosing an aesthetic clinic among all the others? Are they all the same or very similar? We explore the options available to patients looking to enhance their looks.
What is an aesthetic doctor?
Aesthetic doctors are medically trained doctors approved by the ministry of health to perform a series of treatments targeted to improve the aesthetic outcome. Are they dermatologists? Not necessarily. Although aesthetic doctors perform many treatments to treat different skin conditions, they are mainly for aesthetic purposes like pigmentations, pores, fine lines and wrinkles. Medical skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, skin cancers are probably managed in a GP setting or by a dermatologist.
Do note that Aesthetic medicine is not regarded as a speciality or subspecialty by the Singapore Medical council. This mostly affects the type of titles that doctors are not allowed to use. The use of titles like ‘aesthetic plastic surgeon’ or ‘aesthetic dermatologist’ is not allowed.
Instead, aestheticians can only refer to themselves as ‘plastic surgeon’ or ‘dermatologist’ respectively. As mentioned above, there is a set of guidelines regarding what kinds of procedures certain doctors or specialities can perform and where they can perform them. In general, specialists like dermatologists can perform more procedures than GPs can. 
In this article, I use the term ‘aesthetic doctor’ loosely to refer to any doctor or specialists practising aesthetic medicine.
Are aesthetic doctors GPs?
Aesthetic doctors can either be
- GPs who have undergone specific courses approved by MOH 
- Dermatologist with a special interest in aesthetic medicine
- Plastic surgeons who practice non-invasive procedures for cosmetic purposes
How does one become an aesthetic doctor in Singapore?
Apart from fulfilling the prerequisites in acquiring the qualifications to proceed, it is important to be regularly updated with the up and coming treatments by following closely to medical research papers, conferences and training locally, regionally and internationally.
To get the required training is only a start to practice aesthetic medicine. To be an aesthetic doctor, one must be dedicated to provide the best advice for his or her patients and follow up on their results. A good aesthetic doctor should set the expectations right and provide realistic projections on the expected results prior to starting the treatment.
Above all, an aesthetic doctor must have an open heart and a listening ear that will allow him or her to understand and work on the specific concerns of the patient.  For example, I have had a patient with a birthmark on her face who developed some tiny freckles later on. To her, she had lived with the birthmark for all her life and that was an identity that she did not want to remove. Instead, her concerns were the tiny freckles that had developed later in life. It is important that an aesthetic doctor has respect for the patients and not superimpose what they think is beautiful on the patient.
How much does it typically cost to visit an aesthetic clinic in Singapore?
An aesthetic clinic is, after all, still a clinic. It has to abide by the MOH rules and regulations. There can be no free treatments or consultation. Consultations charges, however, can sometimes be waived at the doctor’s discretion. It is important to do some research online to make sure that the clinic has the treatment you are looking for as consultation charges will still apply even if you do not end up receiving treatment in the clinic ultimately. First consultation charges range from $50-$80 for aesthetic doctors and more if you decide to seek aesthetic treatment with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
If you are seeking regular treatment at the clinic, you will be reviewed each session and consultation charges are usually waived. However, if you see the same doctor for another concern or body part, your doctor may charge for the consultation.
What affects the costs at an aesthetic clinic in Singapore?
Aesthetic clinics are very competitive and there is a rough ‘market’ rate for the standardised treatments like Ulthera and laser treatments,  which are becoming increasingly affordable. Sometimes premium rates are charged as a clinic is deemed premium or if a doctor is highly sought after. In most reputable clinics, the charges are transparent and can be found easily either online or with a quick enquiry. The range can be very drastic and it will be best if you do some background research to make sure your money is well spent!
What differentiates one aesthetic clinic from another?
The major difference I would say is the machines that they have available. There is no clinic that will carry ALL the different machines required to treat ALL problems.
For example, if you have telangiectasia, where your blood vessels are widened and cause red lines/patterns on your skin,  you will be looking for a place with a laser to treat vascular lesions rather than a q-switch machine.  If you were looking to have fillers or thread lifts done, you would want to make sure that the doctor has a good reputation for providing good aesthetic outcomes. Depending on your concerns, the search for the best doctor/clinic for you will be different.
Sometimes I get upset patients who I turn away from the treatment they seek. I would rather refer them to other clinics that have the correct expertise and equipment than to over-promise unrealistic results and provide treatments that I deem futile. I feel that by going to different doctors and clinics, you will experience the difference in how doctors interact with you.  Some clinics recommend the treatment you need and leave you to decide whether or not to undergo the treatment. Others may hard-sell you a variety of treatments that do not address your concern. This, I feel, is the MAJOR difference between clinics apart from the actual hardware.
What should you expect from an aesthetic doctor’s examination?
Depending on your concerns, your doctor will give a diagnosis, identify any associated factors and suggest a treatment plan and subsequent care required. If you are interested in seeking treatment, your doctor will also discuss the procedure, its associated risks and the expected recovery and post-care instructions.
What are the treatment options at an aesthetic clinic in Singapore?
There are a variety of treatments for different conditions available.
- Anti-ageing - filler, botox, skin boosters, rejuran, profhilo, lasers, ultrasound and radiofrequency skin tightening devices
- Active acne - medications, topical creams, chemical peels, pulse-dye lasers
- Acne scars - lasers, subcision, chemical peels, fractional RF
- Pigmentation - topical prescription creams, chemical peels, lasers
- Keloid scars - Lasers, steroidal injections
- Body contouring - ultrasound and radiofrequency devices, cryolipolysis
This is an incomplete list of conditions and treatments. The list goes on. 
How does an aesthetic doctor decide on the best treatment options for you?
An aesthetic doctor should keep up to date with the latest trends and developments and recommend you the most suitable treatment based on evidence-based medicine customised for you. For example in treating the acne scarring, the gold standard treatment may be a fractional CO2 laser. However, a fractional pico laser will be a safer option for you if you are of Fitzpatrick Skin type 3 or 4. The Fitzpatrick scale is a classification of skin colour and how your skin responds to Ultraviolet (UV) light. 
There is not a single treatment that will be the best treatment for all scars or pigmentation. An experienced doctor who has a special interest in treating a certain condition will be able to give you the best advice. It is ideal that an aesthetic doctor has good experience with every condition but each doctor’s personal experience is different. Some doctors may be more experienced with lasers and less with injecting fillers, and even an experienced injector may have more experience injecting a specific type of fillers over the others. The best treatment options are often discussed based on the doctor’s personal experience customised to your needs on top of all the evidence displayed.
How can you find an aesthetic clinic in Singapore for your needs?
There are a couple of things to consider in looking for an aesthetic clinic
- Going to a clinic where the doctor is a regular. If you prefer to be seen by the same doctor who can track your progress as most patients, it is important that you choose a clinic that has a regular full-time or part-time doctor.
- Transparent pricing. This will allow patients to be able to compare treatment available and not having to top-up with each treatment so that a ‘full’ treatment can be done. A trustworthy clinic will be able to clarify its charges on the first visit.
- Comfort with the doctor. With the first consultation, you should be able to establish rapport with your doctor. If you disagree with your doctor, or have a difference in aesthetic sense, it will be unwise to go ahead with treatment. 
- Be careful of clinics that guarantee you 100% results. As in everything in medicine, there is no 100%. I can only guarantee my patients that the machine used and the product used is genuine and that most patients are happy with their treatment. For the same treatment done on two different patients, one might have better results than the other. Sometimes, we do not have explanations for why that might be the case. Every treatment will come with some form of risk, some of which can worsen the pre-existing condition, so how can someone guarantee you 100% results with no risk!
- Read, read, and read some more! it is important for you to read a lot so you know the different treatment options available so you can understand the doctor better during a consultation and address specific concerns you may still have.
- Machine availability. Go to the clinic that has the machine available for the treatment that you seek. When you make an appointment, let them know if your concerns or if you have a specific technology you want to try, make sure they have that machine available. It will be very frustrating if you do not get what you know you already want!
- Price point. Ask for a quotation from a few clinics of interest. Comparing the price will help you better decide the estimated price. Also, if it is for a simple indication, ask for a realistic projection of the number of sessions needed. For example, if you are advised to have 4-5 syringe fillers done but you only have budget for one then it maybe best that you do not proceed to avoid disappointment.
Aesthetic medicine may not be a recognised specialty or subspecialty in Singapore, but we are out there and can be found. In my article, you read what an ‘aesthetic doctor’ is, what treatments are available to you, and what factors to consider when finding an aesthetic clinic. Remember that whether you need dermal fillers or Ultrasound treatment, no one clinic can do the every treatment for you. On the other hand, this means that there is almost definitely a clinic specialising in your condition, so keep looking!
Dr Justin Boey is a medical doctor with Sozo Aesthetic Clinic. Dr Boey has a special interest in facial aesthetics relating to pigmentation, acne scars and facelifts, as well as hair loss.