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Sculpting beauty, creating happiness

The art and science of beauty

'My vision is for my practice to be always at the forefront of beauty care and to provide patients with their total beauty needs.' - Dr Steven Ang

AESTHETICS doctor Steven Ang sees the practice of aesthetics medicine as being a sculptor who uses both science and art to create beauty. To him, the pursuit of beauty is not about perfection or vanity. A large proportion of patients are looking to raise their self-esteem, stay competitive in the workplace or use skincare treatments to avoid future problems.

"Creating Happiness is our business. I believe that when a person looks good, he or she will also feel good and become happy. To us, health is more than the absence of disease."

Driven by that motivation to bring happiness, Dr Ang started his own practice in 1998, leaving behind a cushy job as administrator (equivalent of COO) of the National Cancer Centre. Prior to that, he was also in the top management of Toa Payoh Hospital, Changi General Hospital and Singapore General Hospital.

But he foresaw the emergence of medical aesthetic services in 1992 when he was trained to use a new skin laser technology at a clinic where he was working part-time. This spurred him to pursue a Master of Science degree in clinical dermatology at St John's Institute of Dermatology in London, dropping a scholarship from Cranfield University to pursue an MBA. Subsequently, he also received training in cosmetology and beauty therapy.

Dr Ang now runs two clinics - Dr Steven Ang Aesthetic & Family Clinic, which he opened at Redhill Road in 1998, and Dr Steven Aesthetics and Laser Clinic, which he opened in 2014 in Orchard Medical Specialist Centre, Lucky Plaza. Over the last five years, his private practice has grown at a compounded annual rate of 10 per cent in terms of both revenue and client base.

"My vision is for my practice to be always at the forefront of beauty care and to provide patients with their total beauty needs," Dr Ang says. "For example, we are among the pioneers in laser surgery, intense pulsed light technology and Vanquish non-contact radiofrequency body contouring treatment."

Evidence-based treatments

In the past two years, his clinic has invested S$200,000 in acquiring advanced equipment to treat skin ageing, provide body contouring and vagina rejuvenation, as well as to treat skin pigmentation, blemishes, redness and pimples.

"We expect to invest up to $100,000 each year in new aesthetic machines to upgrade our services," Dr Ang says. While the funding can be from internal resources, he is open to external investors, provided that they have complementary strengths such as marketing. Dr Ang stresses "evidence-based treatments" in his aesthetics practice. In other words, he will not provide an aesthetics solution that is not based on certain proven results or use machines that do not have published papers certifying the track record.

"We won't try new machines on patients," he says. "Although we want to be at the forefront of the industry, we want to make sure the technology that we use is established first before we acquire it."

More services in the pipeline

Recently, his clinic introduced a new service to reconstruct nipples using semi-permanent make-up for patients who have undergone breast cancer surgery or those with less than perfect nipples. Dr Ang says that this service may be extended soon on a pro bono basis to the Singapore Breast Cancer Foundation.

Next up, Dr Ang will be moving into a vertical integration of related services. In the next three months, Dr Ang will be introducing therapist treatments such as facial treatments that are machine-assisted and is in the process of hiring a couple of therapists for a start. He may also introduce integrative medicine "to look after the body, mind and soul". Dr Ang coins this the "New Age" Medicine that brings the medical practice back to its roots. "We can work with exercise experts, yoga teachers and dieticians. We can also incorporate mindfulness into our slimming programme so clients can be more mindful when eating," Dr Ang explains.

Another exciting initiative is a tie-up with a group of polytechnic students to explore setting up a portal to market non-prescription skincare products globally. This will be undertaken within the regulatory framework of the ministry of health. Through market research by these students, Dr Ang says he may also come up with another product line that is priced suitably for the student group.

Focus on service quality

Admittedly, competition in the aesthetics field is ratcheting up and clients are highly mobile as they seek out the latest treatments available in the market.

Dr Ang calls this a "bubble tea" period as new clinics sprout up every so often. He reckons that the next five years are important years for the industry to consolidate, and each clinic has to do its best to attract and retain clients.

"To stay competitive, we have built ourselves up as an old, trusted brand," he says. "The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. We serve with a genuine heart, and treat all our clients like our loved ones."

Still, Dr Ang sees an increased need to communicate his brand honestly and ethically with the rise of social media and a proliferation of bloggers seeking out sponsorships and "socialites-for-hires" who are paid for promoting certain brands or practices.

To keep himself updated with aesthetic trends and technologies globally, Dr Ang travels overseas at least four to five times a year to learn about innovative technologies and treatments. "I treat my patients like my relatives and friends," he quips. To provide honest assessments, he recommends not only the necessary treatments but also educates his clients when it is best "not to treat".

It all boils down to having long-term relationships and trust with patients and helping them to be successful, he says. And a successful person is not one who is rich, Dr Ang says, but one "who is always happy and also creates happiness for others".