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NOSE or boob jobs, or a Botox jab to nix a wrinkle, might be the usual procedures for a brand new look. But under-the-radar body parts from the feet to the privates are now the next big areas to rejuvenate, and for every bit that supposedly no one talks about, there is an expert with a cutting-edge technique to give it a boost.
Rejuvenating down under
Probably best touted as a "mummy makeover", the market for giving post-partum lady bits a boost is a growing one - even though it isn't exactly a subject broached over tea with the gals.
"Vaginal rejuvenation treatments are not as common as other areas such as face, décolletage, body contouring and so on," says Phoon Yi Shan, who conducts hair transplant treatments, Coolsculpting treatments for fat reduction, and other general aesthetics procedures. "However, women are starting to realise there are available treatments such as Viveve, which treats female sexual dysfunction, or lasers and Thermage to tighten and improve the external appearance of the labia."
When once only the uber-affluent could afford vaginoplasty surgery as a "facelift" to rebuild vaginal walls that have slackened after childbirth or with age, the hefty price tag and potential risks of the surgery could be off-putting to say the least. These days, a range of non-invasive alternatives helps treat vaginal laxity such as Viveve, a wand-like device that uses patented radio-frequency technology to zap and tighten the tissues down there. Meanwhile, Thermage, another radio-frequency treatment usually employed to up collagen production and lift the face, can also be used to firm up the labia majora.
"Patients may have noticed decreasing intimacy with their partners, possibly due to diminishing sexual pleasure," explains Dr Phoon, who conducts the treatments at the newly open David Loh Surgery in Orchard. "Viveve has been shown not only to tighten, but also increase lubrication during intercourse, as the vaginal tissues become healthier and rejuvenated. Women these days not only want to look better, they also wish to feel better from within."
With increased awareness of such treatments - French actress Julie Delpy, for example, has opened up about undergoing vaginal rejuvenation surgery right after the birth of her son, the idea of firming up the nether regions is not that outrageous. But for the more bashful among us, even initiating a conversation about treatments to improve what goes on behind closed doors might be an uphill task.
"Couples often do not seek help mainly because they are either too embarrassed to speak up about this problem or they are unaware of the available treatments options for female sexual dysfunction," adds Dr Phoon. "However, many of my patients and I have built up a rapport, and I think the fact that I'm a female doctor makes them feel more at ease."
Everybody has heard of eyebrow embroidery, or might have even had their lash-line tattooed at some point for that permanently wide-eyed effect. But re-pigmenting the areola? That might sound like something in the latest instalment of 50 Shades of Grey. The naked truth is that nipples might discolour due to age or changes in hormonal levels, such as after a pregnancy. More crucially, mastectomy patients who have undergone breast reconstruction might also want to have the appearance of nipples restored. The micro-pigmentation process could also help conceal scars from surgery for a more realistic overall appearance.
"While the plastic surgeons may be able to reconstruct the shape of the nipple and/or areola, they do not restore the colour of the nipple and for that reason they normally refer patients to a tattoo artist," explains Eileen Seah, creative director of Paramedic Aesthetics, a clinical-standard centre for medical tattooing as well as semi-permanent makeup.
But the veteran medical tattooist, who also treats patients suffering from vitiligo - a chronic condition that causes the loss of skin colour in blotches - warns that the tattoo and semi-permanent and permanent makeup industry in Singapore is mostly self-regulated, and there is no enforcement of hygiene standards. There is a risk that a less reputable business might re-use needles or mix the inks in unsterile conditions.
"The combination of good training and natural pigments make for natural-looking results which closely match the client's actual skin tone," says Ms Seah, who uses pigments that contain microscopic iron oxide particles that are more easily absorbed into the skin and provide stronger, more long-lasting colour, without allergens.
She adds that areola reconstruction involves pretty advanced tattooing chops since the therapist needs to be able to work on an uneven surface, and only those who have three years of experience in eyebrow or hairline tattooing can undergo training at Biotouch, a leading trainer for semi-permanent makeup. Furthermore, the practice of areola reconstruction is little known here.
"We work with many doctors and plastic surgeons who refer their patients to us, but the number who eventually opt for areola reconstruction is currently still quite small," reveals Ms Seah. "However, customers who have had mastectomies who come to us to have their areolas reconstructed would have undergone an arduous battle to stay alive; recreating their areolas can help restore a sense of normalcy and bolster their confidence as they try to resume their normal lives."
Toe the line
Long blamed for causing the deformed bulge in the foot known as a bunion, those pointy-toed Blahniks may have been getting a bad reputation for all the wrong reasons. According to podiatrist Dr Mark Reyneker from Family Podiatry Centre, bunions are an inherited disorder and the belief they are linked to ill-fitting shoes is not strongly supported by research. Almost 90 per cent of sufferers have at least one family member who also had a bunion deformity.
But before you spend the day in your favourite vertiginous pumps, beware that the condition is nevertheless aggravated by the wrong shoe. The good news is that whether it is caused by Blahnik or Aunt Beatrice's bloodline, this condition can be managed and treated - without even going under the knife.
According to Dr Reyneker, shockwave therapy reduces inflammation in joints and can stimulate blood flow to the cartilage. Having been successfully used for knee osteoarthritis, the treatment can promote soft tissue healing in the foot and treats inflammation and swelling to reduce the size of those unsightly, growth-like deformities.
But getting rid of bunions isn't quite as simple as zapping them into submission. While it reduces swelling and inflammation, shockwave therapy does not change the angle of the deformity. It has to be combined with various splints, correction of walking anomalies and footwear changes - no walking in vertiginous heels all day - for results. In any case, what's the point of wearing designer shoes 24/7 if someday your bunions would prevent you from wearing them altogether?
"Most are asymptomatic and it only becomes a problem when it makes the foot so wide that most standard shoe sizes can't fit properly," says Dr Reyneker. "Friction and pressure from shoes then cause pain and swelling in various areas."
In short, bunion sufferers might want to give themselves a break from the stiletto of the moment and try on a trending pair of Stan Smiths or plain ol' Keds. Dr Reyneker suggests getting fitted for custom-made orthotics, or insoles that fit inside the shoe, and a night splint to reduce the angle of the deformity.
"Use them strategically," says the doctor, when asked about shoes that look good but don't necessarily do much good for bunions. "Use them when needed for meetings and special occasions, and swap to another pair that you keep in your bag, car or office. Finally, take them off whenever you can on days that you wear them."