Perfect Skin For The Holidays

Perfect Skin For The Holidays

May 8, 2022   Return

Dr Ch’ng Chin Chwen

Consultant Dermatologist


Well, there is no such thing as perfect, but with some tender loving care (and the help of a skin specialist), we can certainly make improvements to our complexion.

We all want to look our best during the holiday season. But how do we do that when we all have different skin qualms? This month, consultant dermatologist Dr Ch’ng Chin Chwen provides some tips about some of the most common skin troubles we face and how to fix the problem.



It depends on the type of acne you have and whether the acne is matured. Generally, there are two types of acne:

  • Non-inflammatory acne

Also known as comedones or more commonly referred to as blackheads and whiteheads. It is best not to squeeze or pick these. Anti-acne medications are able to dissolve them. Be careful though; comedones typically do not leave scars, but forcefully squeezing them might cause scarring.

  • Inflammatory Acne

These include pustular and cystic acne. If you have pustular acne and it is matured and ready to pop, I would recommend extracting it, but make sure your hands and equipment are clean or sterile. Cystic acne is more severe and would normally require oral medication to treat. Furthermore, some larger cystic acne may need to be injected with a low dose of steroids to reduce inflammation and to shrink it. This way, scars are less likely to form. Pustular and cystic acne tend to leave scars if not treated properly.




For mild cases of acne, topical anti-acne gels and creams are effective. These come in the form of antimicrobials, topical retinoids, azelaic acid and others. Some products contain AHA and BHA which can help dissolve comedones. With these products, you’ve got to be patient because it takes a few weeks for improvements to be seen. When applying topical products, I would not advise people to only dot the product on the pimples. It is better to apply a thin layer onto the entire face to prevent new ones from popping up.

Oral medication for acne includes oral antibiotics, synthetic retinoids and hormonal treatment (for women). However, more and more dermatologists are steering away from these options, particularly antibiotics and hormonal treatment. Previously, doctors would first prescribe antibiotics to acne patients for three to six months to try. If it doesn’t work, they upgrade to other treatment options. But on top of the unwanted side effects of long-term use of antibiotics, doctors found that when the patients stopped taking them, the acne came back. Hormonal treatment is a good option for women, especially those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which also causes acne. However, the side effects of hormone treatments include bloating, weight gain and water retention. Retinoids are considered the gold standard of acne treatment, but are not suitable for women of childbearing age because retinoids can pass through the placenta and cause neural tube defects.

Physical methods to treat acne are gaining popularity. These include light-based therapy, laser treatment, chemical peels and radiofrequency. Each method works differently, but they all share the common aim of shrinking the sebaceous glands that cause acne. For me, creams and oral medications are still the first line treatments, and physical methods are used as adjunct treatments.


Food with high glycaemic index (sugary foods and bad carbs) aggravate acne. It’s best to avoid them when having a breakout.


If you get pigmentation which appears immediately after a breakout, these will fade eventually on its own. Scars that are protruding (keloid scars) will need procedures such as low- dose steroid injections to get rid of them.

Those with scars that are sunken (for example, ice pick scars), can opt for the chemical reconstruction of skin scars (CROSS) technique. This procedure involves trichloroacetic acid being dotted into scarred areas to smoothen them. Box scars or uneven skin can benefit from fractional ablative laser treatment. This involves a dermatologist dotting small injuries onto the scarred skin, so that the area will heal with a reduction of scarring.



Ageing is a natural and inevitable process, and unfortunately, we get wrinkles as we age. Intrinsically and genetically, our cells continuously multiply throughout our lifetime. As this happens, our telomeres shorten and we accumulate cell damage as we go along. Extrinsically, environmental factors like sun exposure makes you age faster. Collagen begins to break down after 15 minutes of being in the sun. People who smoke will also age faster and develop fine lines.


There are two types of wrinkles: dynamic wrinkles are those that appear when your face muscles move, and fine lines are those that are there even if there is no movement.

People with less facial expression tend to get less dynamic wrinkles. But if you really want to slow down wrinkle formation, having a healthy lifestyle is the best way to go about it. Diligent sun protection helps too. In terms of products, retinol or retinoids and antioxidants are key ingredients that slow down the appearance of fine lines. You can’t completely prevent wrinkles from forming, but you can slow down the process.


You could opt for botulinum toxin injections – these are most effective for lessening dynamic wrinkles. For fine lines, you can use retinoids or retinol products, or you can go for laser treatments or chemical peels which stimulate collagen production.

Lines that are very deep are called fixed lines. These initially appear as dynamic lines, but over time they become fixed and are there even when you don’t smile or frown. To lessen these, you would need fillers. Wrinkles can also appear due to sagging, especially when you lose weight. People who have these will benefit from skin tightening procedures and fillers.




There are many kinds of pigmentations, caused by various factors. Freckles occur due to genetic reasons. Solar lentigo is caused by accumulated years of sun exposure. Melasma is a little more complicated. It can appear due to emotional factors such as stress but can also be caused by hormonal factors and excessive sun exposure. Some people call melasma a mask of pregnancy because women can get it when they are pregnant.


No matter the cause of pigmentation, the best way to prevent them is sun protection. Freckles, melasma and solar lentigo all darken and worsen when exposed to the sun.


Again, sun protection. If you protect your skin from the sun enough, it will lighten with time since the skin has the ability to self-repair. If you feel your skin needs some extra help, there are products and procedures that can lighten pigmentation.

Bleaching creams have hydroquinone in them, but I wouldn’t advise to use these long-term because you might get side effects like developing a greenish/bluish tint to the skin (it happens if you use too high of a concentration for too long). Another key ingredient that works is arbutin. It is safe to use as long as your skin is not allergic.

Alternatively, you can go for laser treatments or chemical peels to lighten your skin tone. All these treatment options must be followed by sun protection because freckles and pigmentation can potentially reappear again.


Get a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA. Textbooks will tell you that you’ll need SPF  of at least 30 or 35, but that’s based on a measurement of 2g per cm2 (that’s a thick layer). Most people do not apply that much due to the white cast it gives and it might not feel very comfortable on the skin.

I would advise people to get as high an SPF as they can afford. You are not going to get the exact level of SPF labelled on the bottle. For example, if you apply SPF 35, you might get 7 in actuality.


Don’t forget to apply on areas like the ears, neck, hands and toes. Also, note that each application does not protect you for long hours. Guidelines say if you are indoors, you should re-apply every two hours, and if you are outdoors, every hour. Although you have sunscreen on, it’s still important to seek shade especially when the sun is strong. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and large sunglasses for more protection. If you’re worried about vitamin D deficiency, you can always get it from food such as salmon or vitamin supplements.



The reason for redness on the skin depends on whether a person has any pre-existing conditions. People can get redness due to acne, eczema or rosacea. Rosacea generally does not get enough awareness in Asia. It is characterized by facial flushing with redness, visible blood vessels, rough skin or even acne-like eruptions, which is why when acne appears on mature skin, we always need to make sure it is not rosacea. People with rosacea tend to get flushes of redness especially when they are hot or eat spicy food.

Other uncommon causes of redness on the skin include photosensitivity – certain people cannot tolerate sunlight and whenever they get exposed, they get red. Some autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can cause redness too.


It is important to get the diagnosis right, and then to treat accordingly. If you get lots of redness on your skin and you’re concerned, it’s best to consult a dermatologist. HT



May 8, 2022   Return


Body sculpting treatments have been around for quite some time now. With the promise of being a safe, non-invasive method of removing even the most stubborn fat, it has become a popular beauty treatment across the world.

But does it really work? What are the risks involved? Dr Ian Tan answer our questions.

How does body sculpting work? 

Body sculpting refers to a non-surgical treatment that gets rid of fat cells from the body. One of the most common examples is the cryolipolysis procedure, which has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

In this treatment, fat cells underneath the skin are crystallized (frozen) using cold, before being gradually being removed from the body through the body’s natural degradation process. See Figure 1 for more information.

Let’s get the million-dollar question out of the way: is this the weight loss solution that we have all been dreaming of?

Body sculpting is not a weight loss programme. It is not intended to be a solution for weight loss!

Rather, it is a fat-reduction procedure and a great way to reduce the amount of subcutaneous fat in stubborn areas without having to undergo surgery. 

To ensure the results last as long as possible, it is important to maintain your weight with a healthy diet, a healthy lifestyle, and regular exercise.

How can body sculpting complement efforts to lose weight, such as eating healthy, balanced meals and exercising?

After losing weight through diet and exercise, your fat cells become smaller, but the number of fat cells remains the same. There are areas in the body where the fat cells shrink less than others and persist in their size despite the amount of exercise that you do. These places include: the love handles, the underarms and the back of your thighs. Cryolipolysis treats this by reducing the number of fat cells at treated areas by 20-25% in a single treatment. It effectively reduces the number of fat cells rather than the size of those fat cells.

Are the treatments performed by a medical doctor?

Clinical assessments and treatment planning are to be performed by a trained medical doctor. The treatments may be carried out with the assistance of trained nurses that specialize in body sculpting procedures.

Here, I would like to stress that it’s not just about performing this treatment, but selecting the best candidate for the treatment to get the best possible outcome. 

Who would benefit most from body sculpting treatments?

The cryolipolysis procedure is specially designed for those who wish to get rid of unwanted fat in targeted areas but are not keen to go under the knife. The non-invasive nature of this treatment makes it one of the most popular fat-loss treatments in this current era. 

Which parts of the body are the body sculpting treatments usually done on?

The cryolipolysis procedures can be performed on many parts of the body. It can treat:

• Visible fat bulges in the under the chin (double chin)

• Fat in the inner and outer thighs

• The abdomen and flanks (love handles)

• Bra fat, back fat and fat underneath the buttocks (also known as banana rolls)

• Fat in the arms

Your medical practitioner will work with you to create a customized treatment plan that’s tailored to your body and your goals. 

What can patients realistically expect from this treatment?

Patients can expect up to an average of 20% to 25% reduction of fat in the treated area. 

Because the body requires time to eliminate the dead fat cells, results from these body sculpting treatments are not immediate. 

While some people may see results as early as one month after the initial treatment, the optimal results is typically seen three months after the procedure. 

Depending on your desired results, you may request for more than one treatment to achieve your goals and to get the most out of this body sculpting technology.

How long do the results last?

The fat cells in treated areas are gone for good. The results are long-term, as long as you maintain your weight, stay active, and partake in periodic maintenance treatments.

However, if you eat poorly and gain weight after your body sculpting procedure, the surrounding fat cells may overgrow. When this happens, the likelihood of the lasting effects of your body sculpting treatment will be lessened.

Are there risks involved in these treatments? Does it hurt?

Body sculpting treatments are relatively low risk, and no, it does not hurt. During the first few minutes of the session, you may feel an intense cold, tingling, and a cramping sensation. But these feelings subside as soon as the area becomes numb. You may also experience sensations of pulling, tugging or mild pinching when suction is applied during the treatment. Generally, there is a slight discomfort, but the treatment does not cause pain.

Is there any downtime involved after a body sculpting session?

I would say most patients experience little to no downtime after the treatment. Often, patients can return to work immediately after their body sculpting treatment. 

Sometimes but rarely, there is minor redness, swelling, bruising or soreness at the treated area, but it typically subsides over a week or two.

Toners – A Consumer’s Trap?

Toners – A Consumer’s Trap?

May 8, 2022   Return

What do toners actually do? Are they necessary in your skincare regimen?

Words Hannah May-Lee Wong

Every skincare brand has their own series of toners. They come in big hefty bottles and, for the most part, look like fancy packaged water. We are reminded time and time again that the full cleansing regimen consists of cleansing, toning and moisturising. Yet, toners have always been that in-between product – the step that’s easiest to skip and opt out of, mainly because we don’t know if they’re worth the time or money. After all, they may as well just be glorified bottles of spring water.

To make matters worse, some beauty lovers – even the avid ones – aren’t exactly sure what toners are for. That said, every time we pass by a beauty counter, we can’t help but wonder: should we give it another shot? Why are there so many types? How do we choose the right one? How would it benefit my skin? Well, it’s time we investigate some of these questions.

Removing residues

Options for toners are aplenty. You may find that different toners claim very different skincare benefits. It all depends on the ingredients contained in each product. For the most part, they do have some things in common. Overall, most toners work as an aid to your cleansers. Even after cleansing with your regular face wash, there may still be traces of oil, makeup residue, dirt and dead skin cells that might have been missed. Toners help remove these.

Preparation for moisturising

After cleansing and drying, patting a toner onto your face wets it again in preparation for other products to lay atop. Moist skin is known to help other products (such as your serum or moisturiser) penetrate faster and absorb more effectively. But wait, wouldn’t plain water do the trick as well? Yes, it would. However, most toners have an added benefit of containing ingredients that shrink the pores after cleansing. This helps prevent dirt and impurities from re-entering the skin. Furthermore, the newer toners act as water-based vessels that carry other active ingredients as well.


Active ingredients

The beauty industry is competitive and brands find all sorts of ways to incorporate popular ingredients into their products to market them as multi-functional. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With good guidance in choosing the right products for your skin, you will likely reap the benefits and most probably will end up with a multi-functional product that you love. More specifically, many toners double up as exfoliators, moisturizing lotions or pH balancers. It all depends on the formulation of the product. Active ingredients could range from certain acids, glycerin, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and even anti-aging ingredients.

The acids are helpful for oily, acne-prone skin. Salicylic and glycolic acid help exfoliate the skin, prevent clogged pores (which cause blackheads and pimples) and prevent ingrown hairs. Antioxidants such as vitamin C brighten the complexion, while aloe vera and vitamin E are anti-inflammatories which calm red and sensitive skin.

Glycerin and glycol are good humectants, which means they bind to and help retain moisture on the skin. They also buffer the skin’s pH levels. Due to the alkaline properties of most cleansers and soaps, they could leave your skin’s pH levels imbalanced after washing. In turn, the cleansing process may stress your skin out, leading to an overproduction of oil. Toners with these ingredients help bring your pH back to its natural acidic pH of between 5-6.

Beware of harsh ingredients

Some toners, especially the older generation, traditional ones, are also known as astringents. These are potent but harsh alcohol-based products, and their main function is to remove excess oil from the skin. Alcohol as a skincare ingredient is good for oil control as it is drying and has antibacterial properties for fighting acne. Unfortunately, too much of it may irritate and strip the skin of its natural barriers. Most dermatologists advise against using products like these as they can bring more harm than good. Plus, there are many other options out there that are not as harsh on the skin.

How and when to use toners

Toners are best used immediately after cleansing. Some beauty gurus even say you should apply within a minute after cleansing. There are many methods of application, but as with most matters of beauty, there are no rules set in stone (so you should just have fun with it!). You may want to use a cotton ball or pad to pat it on your face, spritz it on (if it comes in a spray) or even tap it into your skin with your bare fingers; it’s up to you. Just be sure to cover your entire face and neck while applying. It’s worth to note that some toners contain particles of ingredients that settle at the bottom of the bottle, so don’t forget to shake thoroughly before use.

Bonus: If you’re really looking to amp up your beauty regimen, try the newest Korean beauty craze that claims to maximize hydration by fully utilizing your toner. It’s called the “7 Skin Method”, so named because in Korea, toners are popularly referred to as “skins”. Typically, a hydrating alcohol-free toner or essence should be used. Although the method is as easy as ABC, it is time consuming. As the name suggests, you apply your toner seven times, and you wait for your toner to dry on your skin each time before applying the next layer (it takes 2-3 minutes each time).

For more insight, here is an expert’s take on toners.

Dr Ch’ng Chin Chwen

Consultant Dermatologist

Are toners necessary?

First of all, what are toners? The “first generation” toners were mainly astringents containing alcohol, which are drying to the skin. Some people, especially those who feel their skin is “too oily”, use it as a second cleansing step to wipe off sebum on the skin’s surface. Others use it to enhance the absorption of serums and moisturisers, which are often applied after the toner. If you are referring to these types of toners, then they are absolutely not necessary to incorporate into your regimen. In fact, I will advise against using these types of toners as they strip away your natural moisturising factors and are harmful to the skin’s barrier function.

The “newer generation” toners have somehow evolved into something more like “water moisturisers”. They restore the skin’s pH and moisture levels after face wash, and some even have antioxidants added into them. That said, toners are still not completely necessary, but they can be beneficial. If you don’t mind an extra step in your skin care routine and if you have the budget for some pricey “broths of water”, then why not?

How do you choose the right toner for your skin?

If you have acne-prone skin, choose those that contain AHA, BHA or glycolic acid. Those with salicylic acid may help too but use with caution as they can be irritating.

If you have dry and sensitive skin, choose those with pH balancing and hydrating properties. Avoid those with parfum (fragrance) or those that have sensitisers as preservatives. Beware, even those labelled “hypoallergenic” may sensitise the skin too. Apart from parfum and known skin sensitisers, please avoid the following ingredients: denatured alcohol (SD), witch hazel and menthol (unless used in very minimal concentrations, as this “refreshing feel” ingredient can be irritating to the skin).

Lastly, if you have dull or mature skin, choose a toner with antioxidants and hydrating properties.

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A Hairy Situation

A Hairy Situation

May 3, 2022   Return

There are a few things in life which can deal a blow to your self-esteem like the way hair loss does. While your friends are busy discussing the latest hairstyle trends (hair strobing, anyone?), you’re panicking over the increasing strands of hair that are clogging your bathroom’s shower drain and the thinning hair on your head. You have tried various ways to remedy the situation, from diligently using serums which claim to boost hair growth to signing up for pricey treatments at hair care centres. However, none of them works. If anything, your hair seems to be thinning out all the more!

If you can relate to the above situation, you aren’t alone. While there are people who gradually accept their hair loss and learn to wear their baldness confidently, many wish for healthy, luscious locks. And who can blame them – hair is perceived to be our crowning glory, after all. If you are one of the latter, read on to discover what Dr Ruban Nathan, a consultant dermatologist has to say about this predicament.

Should you be worried?

“There are various forms of hair loss. But the most common form of hair loss in both men and women is known as androgenic alopecia,” Dr Ruban says. “It begins after puberty and is mainly due to genetic factors. More often than not, androgenic alopecia is inherited from the mother’s side of the family. It is also due to hormonal changes at the hair follicle levels. This is why hair loss occurs in a typical pattern.” When asked how this pattern differs between men and women, he says, “The woman’s hairline remains intact whilst gradually diminishing in density. For men, the hair starts receding at the crown and the top of the scalp.

While there is no factual data about its prevalence in Malaysia, Dr Ruban cites studies from neighbouring countries. “A Singaporean study found that its prevalence increases with age – from 32% among young adults aged 17-26 years old to almost 100% among people in their 80s. Additionally, a Bangkok research reported an incidence of 38.5% from 18-90 years of age.”

Touching on factors which could up someone’s risk of androgenic alopecia, he says, “Smoking, stress, lack of physical activity and sleep problems are risk factors.” But he is quick to assure that ‘while these factors may exacerbate this condition, they aren’t definite causes.’


Are you doomed?

To those who are dealing with androgenic alopecia, Dr Ruban offers hope. “Rest assured, this condition can be treated via various methods. Oral medications like finasteride and minoxidil, for instance can help. Finasteride can retain already-present hair follicles while increasing hair density.”

What about supplements, then? “The effect of supplements on hair loss hasn’t been stringently studied but it’s conventional for us to prescribe supplements like biotin and zinc. In the event that the hair loss is compounded by anaemia, the person will be given haematinics (e.g. folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron) as well.”

Do you need a hair transplant?

“Not everyone needs hair transplantation but it’s necessary for individuals with – for lack of a better word – sufficient baldness and a good donor area (in cases like this, hair is normally harvested from the back of the scalp),” he explains. But what if the donor area is deficient? “Not to worry. Now, the beard and chest areas can be used as donor areas too.”

What can you expect?

Discussing hair transplantation in more detail, Dr Ruban says, “It’s performed under local anaethesia. We start with the donor area first. The harvesting can be as quick as 30 minutes but it can go up to several hours. It depends on the type of hair transplantation – either follicular unit transplantation [FUT] or follicular unit extraction [FUE].”

“If the transplantation is via FUE, the entire scalp is shaved before the surgical procedure begins. If it’s via FUT, only a minimal strip is harvested – hence, allowing the patient to resume their daily routine more quickly i.e. in a couple of days.”

What happens next? “Next, the grafts are prepped and stored in chilled plates. After local anaesthesia has been administered to the scalp’s recipient area, sites or slit are created so the grafts can be inserted. This is done by a team of trained transplant nurses. This in itself will take several hours but it ultimately depends on the team’s expertise and the number of grafts. This is why it’s crucial to choose a good team as you don’t want the grafts to remain too long outside the body,” he emphasises.

Elaborating further, he says, “People may have the misconception that hair transplantation is painful when in fact, it’s very well-tolerated. Also, you needn’t worry about strip scarring. It isn’t bad; all you need is roughly 1cm length of hair to cover the scar.”

If you are wondering whether hair loss can resume after transplantation, he says, “Yes. As a result, those who have undergone transplant surgery require maintenance therapy. This involves consuming finasteride regularly, especially if you are under 40 years old.”

Does it actually work?

Addressing doubts that people may have concerning the efficacy of hair transplants, Dr Ruban says, “Hair transplantation technology has evolved by leaps and bounds over the years. The biggest advancement to date has been identifying how each graft occurs in natural groups of 1-4 hair follicular units or grafts. This allows us to use more single grafts in the hairline area and to create more hair density using the double and quadruple grafts where necessary. In short, near-perfect cosmetic results can now be expected without the old ‘doll’s hair’ appearance.”

“The reason why some people still struggle with hair loss despite having gone to many hair care centres is because those centres are non-medical. Don’t be misguided. Remember, medications like finasteride, supplements and hair transplants are the only therapies which have been proven to be effective in treating androgenic alopecia. Therefore, always go for clinically proven therapies offered by medical hair care centres,” he concludes.

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Be a Natural Beauty

Be a Natural Beauty

May 1, 2022   Return


Young girls even before they reach puberty are pampered with beauty routines consisting of hair care, massage and a purifying bath.

The traditional way

Mashed noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia) is applied to their hair followed by a scalp massage using coconut oil, keremak leaves (Alternanthera sessilis L.), buah keras (Aleurites moluccana) and pandan leaves (Pandanus odorus). This hair routine is believed to strengthen hair roots and promote the growth of thick, glossy hair besides making it fragrant.


A mixture of thick coconut milk and a pinch of salt is applied on their skin to make it strong and to add shine. Fresh coconut water or rice water is used to wash their face to soften skin and get rid of dead skin cells while keeping skin moist.


Bedak sejuk made from rice flour, jasmine roots and turmeric diluted with a little rose water is lightly applied to their face and neck. This helps to refresh skin while keeping it smooth and supple. For dry skin, bedak sejuk is mixed with coconut oil or olive oil.

Crushed guava leaves (Psidium guajava) are used in purifying baths. Before having a bath, a scented herbal scrub or lulut, is applied all over their body. The scrub contains either normal or glutinous rice, cekur (Kaempferia galanga), sandalwood, ginger and jerangau (Acorus calamus). These ingredients are ground finely and mixed with rose or pandan water to form a paste. The scrub is thought to exfoliate dead skin cells and encourage new cell growth.

From your kitchen and garden

You can always use natural products from your kitchen or garden in your beauty routine. For starters, when you soak rice before cooking it, keep the water as you can use it as a cleanser. For toner, you can use turnip, lime or cucumber juice.

Soaked rice when pounded with turmeric makes for a good scrub. For masks, try honey or egg. Coconut oil can be used to massage the scalp while coconut milk can be used as a hair conditioner.


The western approach

You can also use local or imported produce from supermarkets nearby in your beauty routine. Eight ingredients namely avocado, cucumber, whole grains, banana, papaya, coconut oil, strawberries and apples, are featured here.

Avocado can balance oil production in your skin and hair while protecting against damage caused by sunlight and pollution. You can apply plain mashed avocado to your face, body and hair, or add 1 tablespoon each of raw organic honey and organic mayonnaise or almond oil. Leave it for 15 minutes then rinse well and shampoo if needed.

Cucumber is good for cell growth and skin repair – you can apply sliced cucumbers on your face and neck. You can also blend cucumber into a smooth puree and apply to your scalp. For a mask, add ¼ cup plain organic yogurt, 1 teaspoon aloe vera juice and a pinch of sea salt to 1 pureed or diced cucumber. Mix well, apply to your face and hair and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse off.

Whole grains like oats and quinoa are good for detoxing, exfoliating, hydrating and softening skin. You need to cook ½ cup whole or ground organic oats or quinoa with water or almond/ rice milk. Let it cool, apply and rinse off.

For anti-aging, try banana fudge on your skin, hair and nails. Just mix 1 ripe banana, ½ cup cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons macadamia nut oil or butter, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 tablespoon organic brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon powder. Apply this fudge on your face, body and scalp, leave it for 15 minutes and rinse off.

For glowing skin, mix 1 papaya (blended), 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon fresh orange or tangerine juice and 2 tablespoons raw organic warmed honey. Apply to your face and neck and rinse off after 10 minutes.

For healthy hair and skin, mix 2 tablespoons coconut oil, ½ cup pureed organic carrot, 10 drops of geranium oil, 5 drops of chamomile oil, 5 drops of jasmine oil and a pinch of rosemary, sage and sea salt. Apply on your skin and hair and leave it for 20 minutes. Rinse off. You may need to shampoo lightly.

Besides cleansing, toning and brightening your skin, strawberries can also be used to whiten your teeth. Blend 1 tablespoon of crushed fresh organic strawberries, 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar or baking soda, ½ teaspoon of fresh organic lemon or lime juice and 1 teaspoon of organic tooth powder or non-toxic toothpaste. Apply to your teeth, leave it for 5 minutes and rinse off. You can do this once a week.

Apples can be used to revive dull saggy skin, tighten pores and reduce inflammation. For this, you need a full bath. Add 1 finely sliced apple, 1 cup of rose petals and 3 bags of chamomile tea. Soak in this fragrant bath until you feel refreshed. If you are rushed for time, just boil the ingredients for 10 minutes and leave it to cool. Strain the mixture into a spray bottle and spray your face and body to refresh yourself whenever you need to.

Natural is not always safe especially if you are prone to allergies. Always test a small amount on your hand before applying it on your face and the rest of your body. Here’s to a naturally beautiful you!


8 Natural Beauty Treatments – From Your Kitchen. Available at

Bodeker G, ed. Health and Beauty from the Rainforest – Malaysian Traditions of Ramuan. Kuala Lumpur: Editions Didier Millet; 2009.

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Goodbye, Acne Scars!

Goodbye, Acne Scars!

April 28, 2022   Return

E_Dr Lim Ing Kien

Dr Lim Ing Kien   Aesthetic & Skin Doctor

Acne, jerawat, cheng chun tao, blemish, pimples – many cultures have their own name for one common problem. Acne can be treated but what happens after acne disappears? Sometimes, scars are left behind, much to one’s dismay

Aesthetic and Skin Doctor Dr Lim Ing Kien says that 2 things happen after acne: redness (probably due to inflammation) and scarring. Redness usually disappears after about 48 weeks but scars will remain.

“Post acne scar prevalence is 59%, which means more than half of those with acne will get some form of acne scarring. A 2014 study showed that 6-in-10 Malaysians with acne will scar. So, in a population of about 30 million in Malaysia, that’s  15 million people! This condition should not be taken lightly,” says Dr Lim.

Why do scars form?

There is open skin damage when acne is formed, due to inflammation and bacterial infection. Treatment can clear up the acne but one may end up with deep gaping holes in the skin.

Now, the nice firm and elastic layer of the skin is made of type 1 collagen, which takes years to build up. When the skin is injured due to acne, the body acts to plug the hole as fast as possible by produces type 2 collagen. This process can take place within days.

“Type 2 collagen is weaker than type 1 collagen and is less dense. So, what happens is that after the hole is plugged, there will be a depression in the affected scar area. In some people, collagen is produced at a faster rate, resulting in a raised scar,” says Dr Lim.

There are 4 main types of scars: ice pick, boxcar, rolling and hypertrophic. If the acne was small but deep, it will leave an ice pick scar. Larger and deeper acne leave boxcar scars, while large and shallow acnes tend to leave rolling scars. If too much scar tissue is formed, , the result is a hypertrophic scar.

What can you do to prevent or treat scars?

Firstly, acknowledge that you have a problem with acne. Then, see your doctor or pharmacist to get appropriate treatment. Ensure that you follow through with the treatment until you are completely free of acne.

While undergoing treatment for acne, you can use a post-acne scar product to prevent or treat scars. “When you have acne, act quick so you have less scars,” says Dr Lim.

These products, which typically contain allantoin, vitamin E, aloe vera, pionin and/or Allium cepa, help to prevent and treat acne scars. Allantoin moisturises and exfoliates the skin while promoting wound healing. Vitamin E promotes normal cell healing. Aloe vera also moisturizes and promotes normal cell healing. These ingredients prevent the formation of type 2 collagen and also encourage your body to produce type 1 collagen. Pionin has antibacterial properties and can kill any remaining bacteria in the skin. Allium cepa reduces the redness of scars.

If post acne scar products do not show results after 4 to 8 weeks, you should visit a dermatologist. Dermatologists can treat your scars using various treatments such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, dermarollers/ dermapens, laser and surgery, says Dr Lim.


References: 1. Muthupalaniappen L., et al. (2014). Acne prevalence, severity and risk factors among medical students in Malaysia. Clinical Therapeutics 165(4): 187-92.

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“Doctor, Make My Eyes Prettier.”

“Doctor, Make My Eyes Prettier.”

April 28, 2022   Return

Words Hannah May-Lee Wong

Dr Somasundaram Sathappan

Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon

Having large, round eyes with well-defined double eyelids has been a long-standing trait of conventional beauty. Genetically, however, many Asians are born with a mono-lid (single eyelid) or have upper eyelid folds that are covered with excess skin, making them less obvious. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder and double eyelids are certainly not a necessity to look and feel beautiful, men and women can opt for a blepharoplasty if they desire to add the double eyelid to their looks. Dr Somasundaram explains the procedure and the risks involved.


A blepharoplasty refers to surgery on the eyelid and is also known as the double eyelid surgery. It is one of the most common cosmetic procedures that plastic surgeons perform in Malaysia. The procedure involves the removal of excess skin from the upper eyelid and reconstruction of the eyelid to create a fold when you open your eyes. Actually, most people already have a fold in their upper eyelid, but in most Asian people, the fold is covered by excess skin, so you can’t see it.

If a person has puffy eyes, the surgeon will also remove some fat during the blepharoplasty, but not too much. If the surgeon removes too much fat from the eyelid, the person may have hollow-looking eyes, and those tend to look a little sickly (not a good thing aesthetically).

The age range of people getting blepharoplasties is quite wide. People can get it done anytime from their teens to their 80s. Older folks may have more excess fat and skin which could droop over the eye and block their vision. When these are removed during the blepharoplasty, their vision would be improved.

A double eyelid surgery is different from an eye lift. An eye lift is done via an eyebrow lift, whereby the surgeon increases the distance between the eyelash and eyebrow. People do it because they may think that the distance between eyebrow and eyelash is very short, which may not look very pretty – the preferable distance is at least 1.5cm. To create that ideal distance, surgeons make a cut and raise the eyebrow. They can also do this with botulinum toxin, a method not involving surgery.

What happens during a blepharoplasty?

It’s a very straightforward procedure. A patient will come for a preoperative consultation. We go through their medical history, allergy tests and make sure they are not on any blood thinning products, vitamin E or gingko biloba that can cause bleeding.

Before we tell the patients what they can do to their face to make them happier and prettier, we assess their face anatomically. We take note of their condition before surgery: whether they have extra skin or extra fat around the eyelids and whether their eyebrows are drooping. Then, we can recommend the type of procedure they should go for based on the results they want. It could involve raising their eyebrows, removing excess skin to create a double eyelid or both. The choice of procedure also depends on how much time the patient has to recover as they will need to take time off work. Of course, we must take the cost into consideration as well.

Once that’s all done, we show the patients before and after pictures, especially of past patients who have similar facial features. If they are happy with the expected results, we explain the complications of surgery before making a booking. A blepharoplasty is usually done under local anaesthesia, with pre-operative markings on the eyelids indicating how much skin is needed to be excised. The surgery will take around half an hour to 45 minutes; it’s a fairly quick day procedure and patients can go back home on the same day. In five days to a week after the surgery, the patient comes back to the hospital to get the stitches removed. Thereafter, there may be swelling for two to three weeks before it subsides completely and the patient gets the results that he or she was hoping for.

What are the risks?

When you put a knife to the skin, there are always risks. The possible complications could include bleeding, allergies to medications or infections (which are rare). In eyelid surgery, asymmetry may happen, where the right and left eyelid turn out to be uneven. In fact, 1-2mm asymmetry is quite common, and may be present even before surgery. If the patient already has asymmetry before the blepharoplasty, it is the surgeon’s duty to point it out as the surgeon may not be able to equalize the eyelids perfectly. There is also a small risk of blindness, but that is extremely rare. As far as I know, blindness caused by a double eyelid procedure has never happened in Malaysia, but there have been reports of it happening overseas.

How does a person prepare for a blepharoplasty?

If a patient has existing medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or is on medications, we run a blood test to make sure they are fit for surgery.

Patients have to take at least a week off work and they’ll need to get someone to drive them home after the surgery (because their eyes are going to be bandaged). Although they are still able to see clearly, their eyes are going to feel heavy after the surgery and injections. Post operation, the patient manages with antibiotics, painkillers and ice packs.

Will the result of blepharoplasty stand the test of time?

Aging is a constant process. It is genetically induced and you age according to your genetic make-up; it is also affected by the stressors you put your body through. A poor diet, lack of sleep and exercise and binging on alcohol or cigarettes can make a person age a lot faster than someone who leads a healthy lifestyle. But whatever procedure you do, it will deteriorate over time. Generally, a blepharoplasty lasts a long time, up to 15 to 20 years. But if excess skin redevelops, it will have to be removed again.

Can a patient have other aesthetic procedures done at the same time?

Yes, the combination of eyelid surgery, face lift and neck lift is quite popular. It takes about four-and-a-half hours.

In recent years, there has been a trend of going to Korea to get cosmetic procedures done. Do plastic surgeons in Malaysia provide the same services as they do in Korea?

Yes, Malaysian surgeons offer the same aesthetic procedures that are available in Korea, it’s just that the Korean marketing may be a lot better. Unfortunately, we have been seeing a lot of complications. Sometimes, patients return from Korea with problems such as bleeding, unevenness or infections and local doctors have to manage those complications.

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Laser Your Way To Perfect Skin

Laser Your Way To Perfect Skin

 April 27, 2022   Return


Can you believe that zapping your skin with laser beams can vaporize some of your deepest insecurities? This technology has come a long way in the aesthetic industry. Laser therapy for the skin can be used to resurface acne scars, remove freckles and tattoos, lessen wrinkles and more.


There are different types of lasers out there. Each laser machine emits lasers at a specific wavelength. By tweaking the wavelength of the laser, we can treat different skin conditions.

We use carefully chosen wavelengths, pulse durations, and energy strength to target an area and minimize injury to the surrounding healthy skin. Generally, lasers can be used to improve acne scars, reduce pigmentation, wrinkles, blood capillaries, remove tattoos and rejuvenate the skin.

Laser machines work by emitting light of a single wavelength that is absorbed by target chromophores. In the beauty industry, lasers target chromophores (target cells) such as tattoo pigments, melanin, haemoglobin and water. What happens is that certain light waves would target broken capillaries and vessels, while others target dark spots and pigments. When light energy is absorbed by these targets, the vessels or pigments would break down and get swept away by white blood cells or macrophages in the body. In other words, after being zapped by lasers, these imperfections will disappear or fade.

Some lasers are used for rejuvenation. In these cases, the energy from the laser is absorbed deep within the skin and creates a “controlled injury”. This process would stimulate the inner layers of the skin to produce more collagen. As a result, fine lines would appear less visible and the skin would look firmer.

“By tweaking the wavelength of the laser, we can treat different skin conditions.”

However, this is not a one-size- fits-all kind of treatment. The intensity of each laser therapy depends on what the patient hopes to target, skin type, the age of the skin and the gender of the patient. For example, the skin of a 60-year-old gentleman would be thicker and rougher compared to that of a 20-year-old lady. Hence, the settings of the machine used during each treatment needs to be carefully tuned by the doctor to achieve the best possible results.

With more technological innovation, newer machines now provide faster results, are safer for use and have less risk of complications.


By definition, “ablation” means to surgically remove. Ablative lasers work like sandpaper — they “sand away” or “resurface” the top layer of your skin and they may cause peeling. With non- ablative lasers, the top part of your skin remains unharmed, because the wavelength and energy used penetrates deeper into the skin and stimulates collagen production. Non-ablative lasers do not cause any injury to the top layer of your skin.


Yes. In Malaysia, laser procedures for the skin are supposed to be done by doctors who are trained and certified to use laser machines. These doctors need to obtain a Letter of Credentialing & Privileging (LCP) from the Ministry of Health before being allowed to practise. This is to ensure patient safety. Improper use of lasers may cause burns to the skin and even damage to the eyes.


Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are advised not to go for lasers. Also, those who have recent sunburn would have to wait for a couple of days for the skin to heal before going for laser therapy.


The patient would first have to come for a consultation session. The doctor would discuss the patient’s expectations and explain the possible risks and complications. Once the patient is fully informed, treatment can be started.

Before the doctor performs the laser procedure, a nurse would wash the patient’s face to remove impurities and apply numbing cream. It takes 30 to 45 minutes for the numbing cream to set in. After that, the doctor performs the laser procedure, which typically lasts for 20 to 30 minutes. Once that is completed, the nurse would wash the patient’s face, do a post-laser care regime and apply a cooling mask to soothe the treated skin.

The doctor may prescribe some medication to help with the discomfort and inflammation. The patient is usually given some skincare to take home too. Patients are required to protect their skin with sunscreen, daily. Overexposure to the sun after the laser treatment to remove pigmentation may result in the treated skin turning darker.


It depends on the patient’s pain tolerance and what treatment the patient goes for. If the patient receives more intense treatments like tattoo removal, birth mark removal or vascular lesion reduction, light sedation or local anaesthesia may be given. Generally, ablative laser treatments are slightly more painful, and they also require local anaesthesia or sedation.

Non-ablative lasers tend to hurt less. Don’t worry, numbing cream is usually applied before these procedures to reduce the pain sensation, so it will be tolerable. The sensation is akin to being snapped by a rubber band.


Again, it depends on what you get treated for. If you do laser treatment for rejuvenation or lessening wrinkles (milder treatments), your face would only appear pinkish for a day. If you go for lasers to remove or reduce the appearance of a scar (a stronger treatment with the use of higher energy lasers), it takes up to a week to recover. In those cases, your face would appear red for some time, followed by some peeling of the skin which normally occurs after day five of treatment.


This is very subjective and it depends on which treatment you opt for. Most of the time, if you’re looking to treat pigmentation issues like solar lentigo (darkened patches of skin due to exposure to the sun), bulky skin lesions like seborrheic keratosis or treatment to brighten up the skin, results sometimes can be seen after just one session.

However, for treatment of melasma (patches of brown on the skin), it will be more challenging and would take around six or more sessions to get good results.


It depends. The rule of thumb is that the more you take care of yourself, the longer the results last. If you don’t smoke, sleep early, have a healthy diet and drink lots of water, the results remain for a long time.

Also, if you go for laser therapy to remove hyperpigmentation, you’ll need to protect your skin from the sun diligently because exposure to the sun may cause the pigmentation to reappear.


Lasers are at large, safe for use. However, in inexperienced hands the risk of complication would  be much higher. Complications can include damage to the eyes, burns on the skin and pigmentation becoming darker or very much lighter (post-inflammatory hyper/ hypopigmentation). During tattoo removal, if the power of the laser is set too strong, the person might develop blisters, which may lead to infection.

Remember, always get your treatment from a licensed doctor to minimize your risk of complications. Your health and safety are of utmost importance and this should not be compromised. While we all want flawless skin, we need to remind ourselves that the procedures we go for should be done safely and with minimal risk. HT

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Need A Lift?

Need A Lift?

 April 27, 2022   Return



Dr William Hoo

Medical Director

Botulinum toxin injections and dermal fillers may seem similar, but they are two very different things. Although they are both injectable cosmetic treatments performed by aesthetic physicians, that’s pretty much where their similarities end. An expert in the field answers some frequently asked questions and tells us all we need to know about these two popular non-invasive procedures.



Tell us about the Botulinum toxin.

Botulinum toxin (BTX) is a type of protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. There are many different types and brand names of BTX that are registered as medication and are approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

In the medical field, BTX can be used to treat chronic migraines, muscle spasms (e.g. in children with cerebral palsy or in stroke patients who have lost control of their muscle movement), hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) and more. In the medical aesthetic industry however, BTX is mainly used to reduce wrinkles.

How is it used in the beauty industry?

BTX can be used to reduce dynamic wrinkles, which are wrinkles caused by repeated muscle movement associated with facial expressions, e.g. squinting, frowning and smiling. Common areas for injection are the glabella (frown lines), crow’s feet and forehead lines.

A popular procedure in Asia is using BTX for face reshaping—for example, reshaping a square face to a more feminine oval face via size reduction of the masseter muscle. With special injection techniques, BTX can also be used for face lifting.

BTX can help reduce the appearance of a “gummy smile”—a smile that shows gum excessively. This is done by weakening the muscles that strongly pulls up the upper lip. For men, many get BTX injections at the frown lines to get a more approachable, refreshing and “less angry” look.


Does it hurt?

The needles used for BTX injections are very fine. Additionally, the doctor may apply ice packs or numbing cream beforehand, so that you may only feel minimal discomfort during the injection.

However, after the treatment, you might feel a bit heavy in the injected muscle area. BTX works by blocking nerve signals in the muscles where it was injected. As a result, the injected muscle would be temporarily relaxed or “asleep”. Extra effort is needed to move the affected muscle, so that area might feel heavy. Don’t worry, the sensation only lasts about 1 to 2 weeks, and then you’ll adapt to it.

“BTX can be used to reduce dynamic wrinkles, which are wrinkles caused by repeated muscle movement”

What is the after-care like?

There will be a needle injection mark at the injected site, therefore the goal is to prevent contamination and infection in the area. After treatment, avoid swimming and going for sauna sessions or massages. Don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol, as alcohol causes vasodilation (the dilation of blood vessels). Avoid going for laser or facial treatments for about 3 days.

How long do the effects last?

The effects of BTX lasts around 3 to 6 months.

What are the risks and possible complications?

The toxin effect of BTX may spread. If BTX is injected over the forehead, there is a small chance that the toxin may spread downwards and cause the eyelids to droop (ptosis) or cause the patient to have double vision. There are medications available to treat this if it happens.

Some patients may experience headaches after treatment. BTX can also cause breathing difficulty or difficulty in pronouncing certain words when it is injected around the mouth area.

If the doctor injects unequal doses on the left and right side of the face, it may cause asymmetry, which can become obvious when a person is making expressions. Not to worry, you may go back to your doctor to correct the asymmetry; these effects are temporary and can be reversed after a period of time.


Who should NOT get this treatment?

Pregnant women, those who are allergic or those who have had adverse reactions to BTX before.

Can it become addictive?

BTX in itself is not addictive, but people can get addicted to the beauty effects of BTX. The communication between the patient and the doctor is very important. The doctor needs to know when to advise the patient to stop, as too much BTX may make facial features and expressions to become unnatural (stiff or mask-like).



What are fillers and how are they different from BTX injections?

Fillers are substances used to restore volume loss, whereas BTX is used to weaken the muscles that cause wrinkles. They are entirely different.

There are different types of fillers: hyaluronic acid fillers, synthetic fillers (e.g. calcium hydroxylapatite, silicone, etc.) and autologous fillers (i.e. fat transfer) which is a method of using fats from other parts of the body for reinjecting over the face. Hyaluronic acid fillers tend to be a popular choice in the aesthetic industry because it is the only type of filler which has an antidote, called hyaluronidase. If anything goes wrong during the treatment, it can be reversed quickly by the antidote.

Where in the face are fillers typically injected?

Previously, fillers were mainly used to restore volume, especially in the sunken under-eye area and in the lips. Nowadays, we use fillers for much more than that; fillers can be used to correct certain features on the face.

As we age, our features tend to sag and look tired. Many women experience volume loss in the under-eye area. The corners of the mouth and the lateral canthus of the eyes also tend to point downwards as a person gets older, which may make a woman look angry or sad all the time. Fillers can be used to plump up and restore volume in these areas, and it will overall result in the woman looking refreshed, and more feminine and youthful.

Common areas for filler injections are over the cheeks; under the eyes; at the temples; on the chin and on the lips. Some people who are allergic to BTX can opt for fillers too, as fillers can limit muscle movement and reduce the appearance of wrinkles—we call this myomodulation. Lastly, fillers can also be used to reduce the appearance of acne scars.


How long do the effects last?

Some fillers produce effects, which last around 6 to 9 months, while others for up to 24 months. It all depends on the brand, the method of preparation and the concentration of fillers used.

It’s worth noting that if you get fillers for the second or third time, the amount of fillers needed will be less than before, and the effects will probably last longer. This is because when fillers are injected into an area, it stimulates collagen production.

What are the risks?

The skill of the medical professional performing this treatment is a very important factor. Sometimes, fillers can cause asymmetry if the dose injected is not equal on both sides. Filler injections can cause lumps and bumps in the skin if the level of injection is too superficial. Sometimes, after getting fillers, some people might have redness, rashes, bruising or swelling over the treated area.

The more serious complications arise when the fillers are accidentally injected into a blood vessel—it can cause skin necrosis (cell death) or blindness.

The probability of risk also depends on the type of fillers being injected. Fillers are riskier if injected on the central area of the face—there are more blood vessels connected to the eyes, brain and nerves in the central area of the face. Hyaluronic acid fillers are more popular because it has an antidote to reverse the adverse effects, in case anything goes wrong.

It is highly advisable to consult a trained and certified medical professional from a reputable clinic, which uses good quality products. Regulation by the MOH requires the doctor to have a license to perform these procedures, and the clinic must also have an aesthetics treatment license. Lastly, all products used must be registered and approved by the MOH. HT

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Oral Piercing: A New Fad in Body Piercing

Oral Piercing: A New Fad in Body Piercing

 April 25, 2022   Return



Consultant Oral Surgeon

Private Dental Practice Klang, Selangor.


Body piercing, including oral piercing, is a form of body art or self-expression with similarities to body tattooing. By definition, body piercing is the practice of puncturing or cutting a part of the human body, in which jewelry or implants can then be inserted. They are often physically visible but sometimes hidden, such as in the case of charm needles (susuk), which are embedded subdermally on the face. In this article, Dr Andrew Chan Kieng Hock discusses some of the more common side- effects due directly to oral piercings and steps that can be taken to minimize them.

The History of Body Piercing

Ample historical records indicated that this practice has been common since ancient times and is practiced by both sexes. The hardware can be metallic or non-metallic objects such as stainless steel, niobium, titanium, gold alloy, silver, bone, ivory, stone, horn or even synthetic materials like PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene).

The reasons for practicing body piercing are numerous. They include religious or spiritual aspects; to conform to a certain popular or tribal culture; for aesthetic value or body adornment; self-expression in making a fashion statement; eccentric lifestyle choices, and even for sexual pleasure.

The most common sites for body piercing are the ear lobes and the noses. Even though in this age of modernity the practice is rampant, some countries—including several states in the US as well as certain European countries—prohibit or ban such practices until the person is at least 16 or 18 years of age; otherwise, parental consent is required. Most state schools, churches, or corporate companies do not allow their members to openly exhibit or display their body piercings due to dress code violation.

Contrary to popular belief, any form of piercing including in the oral cavity is an invasive and risky surgical procedure. Dentists are seeing more and more cases of oral piercings which went wrong, resulting in serious complications.

As far as oral healthcare providers are concerned, oral piercings irrespective of site or materials are not harmless but often come with some side-effects, which most owners are ignorant about. These complications, which have been reported in scientific journals as well as personally encountered by practicing dentists, include:

  • Speech, swallowing, and chewing impairment
  • Tooth fracture and chipping as well as damage to fillings and dental prosthetics due to the knocking effect from the jewelry
  • Gingival trauma and recession
  • Profuse bleeding especially in the tongue region as the organ is highly vascularized (blood vessels)
  • Pain
  • Loss of taste
  • Risk of blood-borne infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, and tetanus due to contaminated equipment
  • Increased salivary flow resulting in uncontrolled drooling
  • Numbness due to nerve damage
  • Infection at the pierced site which in rare cases can lead to septicaemia and bacteria endocarditis. This is because the mouth is home to numerous microorganisms
  • Swelling which can compromise or obstruct the airway
  • Interference when taking X-ray
  • Foreign body reaction leading to keloid scarring
  • Allergic reactions to the material especially metal alloy with nickel elements.

What role can a dentist play?

If patients intend to perform oral piercing but have yet to do so, they must be advised against it by explaining all the possible side-effects. Nonetheless, in the event they insist on proceeding with the piercing, they should be advised to get the procedure done by a professional or trained body piercer in a piercing studio, which is kept in a clean and hygienic condition at all times, since it is an invasive and risky surgical procedure. The American Dental Association (ADA) lists very helpful guidelines to patients who have existing oral piercings.

List of guidelines from the American Dental Association (ADA) regarding oral piercings:

  • Contact a dentist or physician immediately if there are any signs of infection such as swelling, pain, fever, chills, shaking, or a red- streaked appearance around the site of the piercing.
  • Keep the piercing site clean and free of any matter that may collect on the jewelry by using a mouth rinse after every meal.
  • Try to avoid clicking the jewelry against teeth and avoid putting pressure on the piercing.
  • Be gentle and aware of the jewelry’s movement when talking and chewing.
  • Check the tightness of the jewelry periodically with clean hands. This can help prevent from swallowing or choking if the jewelry becomes dislodged.
  • When taking part in sports, remove the jewelry and protect the mouth with a mouthguard.
  • See a dentist regularly and remember to brush twice a day and floss daily.

Dentists need to stress to owners of piercings that they need to maintain good oral hygiene and keep up with their dental check-ups regularly. Oral piercings seem to be on an increasing trend as dentists encounter not only more but also younger patients with various forms of oral piercings. This type of body art is associated with real complications, which dentists should themselves be familiar with, so that they in turn can educate patients professionally and appropriately on this issue.

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1. ADA. Guidelines on oral piercing. Retrieved from piercing.

2. Levin, L., et al. (2005). Oral and dental complications of intra-oral piercing. Dent Traumatol.;21(6):341–343. 3. De Moor, R.J., et al. (2005). Dental and oral complications of lip and tongue piercings. Br Dent J.;199(8):506–509.