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Interview: Sylvia Ramirez talks about balancing her marriage and work life

Originally from the Phillipines and now a Singapore citizen, the ever-busy Sylvia Ramirez has dedicated her career to the health and beauty industries. We chat about her business and her work partnership with her other half (yes, it’s possible!), and we learn a lot about aesthetics in the process.   

 

Sylvia set up Cutis Medical Laser Clinics with her husband in 2009 with the hopes of making a difference in people's lives 

What first inspired you to start up your own clinic here in Singapore?
Before we started our own business, I focused on doing non-profit work. After working at NUS, I then moved to a not-for-profit healthcare think tank in the United States where I led projects for the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  These projects aimed to improve the quality and reduce the cost of care for patients with high-cost chronic conditions such as kidney failure. I now continue to work on these projects in a consulting capacity.

It was actually my husband’s idea to combine our two main areas of expertise – aesthetic dermatology, and research and evidence-based clinical care – to set up a clinic aimed at making a difference in people’s lives. With my background in medicine and experience in research, we felt we could offer people with different needs an alternative option for treatment, and help them look and feel their best. We set up Cutis Medical Laser Clinics in 2009 to offer dermatological, aesthetic and age-management services.

The most gratifying part of my work is the chance to get to know so many incredible individuals from all parts of the world. I not only get the opportunity to spend a block of focused time with a patient during their treatment, but also to learn about the person. I think it’s a very privileged thing, and I’ve grown so much by taking care of people from all over the world. 

You run your business with your husband; how does that partnership work out for you both?
Absolutely fantastically. Our aspirations are very similar, and we’re very committed to each other, so the business never takes priority over our relationship. We respect each other’s thoughts and contributions, and each of us handles different areas of the business.

 

When it comes to fashion, Sylvia has stopped following trends and opts for clothes that suit her instead 

You always look immaculate; what are your beauty secrets?
That’s kind of you to say! Like most women, I know it’s not always easy to look and feel your best. We have to take moment-by-moment decisions to make the right choices when it comes to our health and wellbeing, be that physical, emotional or spiritual. I try to exercise regularly and choose nutritious food, and I use good quality preventative skin care and treatments. When it comes to fashion, I’ve learnt over the years what types of clothes suit me and have stopped following trends – I wear what works for me and my body, and I stick to that formula.

Are there any typical beauty concerns you’ve noticed trending in Singapore?
Over half of our patients are expats aged 30 and up. They tend to be content with their overall features, but would like to reverse some of the physical signs of ageing: wrinkles, skin laxity and sagging are the typical culprits. Many are looking for a subtle, natural-looking rejuvenation. It’s my personal philosophy that every woman has a strong and defining feature, and the goal of any treatment should be to remove distractions from that beauty. This is typically best achieved with a combination of treatments, since ageing impacts every layer of skin, fat and even bone.

On the flip side, some women, including Asian women and some younger Caucasian women, look for real structural changes to their faces, for instance, sharpening of the nose or chin; this is typically achieved through the placement of denser fillers that can modify facial shape and structure.

What are the most requested aesthetic treatments by women today?
I’d say Botox and dermal fillers. Botox can reverse and prevent permanent creasing of the skin, and has a track record of safety for both cosmetic and medical uses. There is a misconception that Botox makes you look “frozen”, but this totally depends on the technique and the dosage used. I think the mark of any good cosmetic treatment is that everyone can see a positive change, but they can’t quite put their finger on it.

Dermal fillers are one of the best treatments to restore youthfulness and elasticity to the skin. They’re composed of hyaluronic acid, which mimics the hydrating molecules present in our own skin, which we lose over the years. Another popular treatment is the “Liquid Lift”, a technique using advanced dermal fillers to lift and contour the face, which restores a sharper jawline and smoothes lines and wrinkles. It also improves the quality of the skin over time through its collagen-building properties.
 

For a healthy glow, Sylvia believes in the benefits of exercise, a good diet and staying hydrated 

What key questions should people ask their doctors before considering any aesthetic treatment?

1. Go to a doctor who is very experienced in his or her field. Personal referrals are a good way to go.

2. If you decide to proceed with a treatment like Botox, ask your doctor to start with small doses. It’s easy to review and reassess your response after 10 to 14 days, and add more if necessary.

3. Always start with a detailed discussion, and proceed only once you’re ready and when you feel comfortable. Never feel pressured to rush into any treatment.

4. For lasers and other mechanical procedures such as Coolsculpting, ask about the quality of the machines. This may be difficult to judge as a customer, but it’s important to ask for evidence that every claim is backed by clinical studies. Also, a USFDA seal adds a cushion of safety.

What would be your skincare advice for healthy, glowing skin?

I believe in treatments that improve facial balance. As with muscle mass, we start losing facial collagen in our twenties; so collagen-building treatments are essential to re-deposit into our “collagen bank”. Good skincare is also crucial – I use sunblock every day, as well as a topical Vitamin C serum and Vitamin A (usually available by prescription only), which helps to improve skin turnover and reverse sun damage. Finally, for a healthy glow, you can never underestimate the benefits of a bit of exercise, along with a good diet and staying hydrated. Sometimes I find that the best overall remedy is working up a good sweat – it does wonders for my sense of self.

How do you spend your downtime in Singapore?
To be honest, my husband and I devote so much to our businesses that we’re working and travelling most of the time! When I’m not in the clinic, I also work as the Chief Medical Officer for a US-based dialysis chain. For real downtime, we spend hours catching up on great books, or bingeing on TV shows (Nordic Noir – a type of Scandinavian crime fiction – currently being our genre of choice!).

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