About Time You Met: Dr Saira Vasdev, Founder of Skin & SanctuaryBy Mayola Fernandes
Dr Saira Vasdev is a Founder and Medical Director at Skin & Sanctuary. Regarded as one of London’s top cosmetic doctors, Saira spent years specialising in Intensive Care and Anaesthetics in some of London’s top hospitals, before moving into Aesthetic Medicine. Now dedicating her entire practice to the field of Aesthetic Medicine, Saira has carried through her passion for knowledge, care, safety and excellence. We sat down with Saira to talk inspiration, safe practice and advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs:
What motivated you to choose your speciality as a doctor?
As a doctor, I have always been fascinated by the science behind medicine, the anatomy of the human body and motivated by the wellbeing of my patients. As a woman, I have always loved all things beautiful, including the art of beauty and the allure of healthy skin. Aesthetics allows me to indulge both of my passions at the same time – it was a no brainer!
Additionally, I made my transition into this specialty at the time when the cosmetic industry was really struggling under the weight of poor regulation, under-qualified practitioners and media scrutiny over rising numbers of botched cases. I was determined to use my NHS experience as an Intensive Care Doctor to lead amongst a new generation of medical practitioners to champion safety in Aesthetics, and to protect the wellbeing of patients with responsible and ethical treatments.
What was the inspiration behind founding Skin & Sanctuary?
The inspiration to found Skin & Sanctuary came from a desire to create a safe space for all individuals to come and discuss their concerns, with a team of experts who are genuinely caring and passionate about their job. Having worked in the Harley Street area for a few years, I noticed that aesthetic services had become a little stale and a bit dated. We wanted to bring some freshness into the industry by creating a beautiful clinic in Hackney which provided more of an experience for our clients.
Each room has its unique theme and cocoons you with both comfort and luxury whilst maintaining a clean and professional environment. We didn’t just want to bring Harley Street to Hackney, but to give something truly special to the East London community (and beyond). I think clients truly enjoy their time with us, and the low-key relaxed vibe really works to take the edge off any anxieties about undergoing aesthetic treatments
What’s the best thing about your job?
The most satisfying part of my job is seeing how my patient’s confidence increases as they progress towards their aesthetic goals. You can see it in their body language, in their smile and it only contributes to their overall glow – skin or otherwise. The part I love the most about my job is that what our team does is help you to become the best version of yourself. By taking away some of the stress, burden and anxiety of compromised skin health or other aesthetic concerns, it gives our patients the headspace to just focus on whats really important in life. And that is my ultimate gratification.
What challenges come with working in the cosmetics industry?
The biggest challenge still has to be the absence of strict medical regulation. Although this has improved significantly over the last few years, there are still huge numbers of non medical injectors out there administering inappropriate aesthetic treatments. And the victims are predominantly the young and the vulnerable. There can be barriers to accessing a highly qualified and experienced medical practitioner. A lack of reliable information about aesthetic treatments and cost are the main culprits. When you pay for cut price treatments you are taking a serious gamble with your health. Aesthetic treatments can be considered expensive but with a responsible medical practitioner you are investing in their first-class education, knowledge, experience and an ability to recognise and treat complications when they occur. This is how to avoid potentially catastrophic outcomes.
Do think the media are largely to blame for low self-confidence?
I feel like we are finally emerging from dark times in regards to the media’s influence on self-confidence. Thankfully we are starting to see more positive images and messages about realistic aesthetic goals and more inclusivity. There are lots of great health bloggers and campaigns out there that champion mental health awareness, body positivity, balance, and valuing your self worth. There is greater diversity in models and celebrities chosen to represent certain beauty brands and I believe this is acting to empower women and men to not constantly be at war with their own bodies, but to accept their imperfections as our beautiful little human differences.
What is your advice to women who’d like to build their body confidence?
My advice would be instead of focusing on a specific outcome (whether it be a specific weight, size or shape) try to focus on action. Move your body every day in different ways. Whether it be a stroll in the park, a swim, a sweaty weights sesh or even just stretching. Get it done. And rather than focus on restriction when it comes to food, focus on nourishment. Eat a varied and delicious diet rich in nutrients that not only support a healthy body, but also benefit your skin, hair and nails. Think of that extra glow! Compliment this with plenty of water and beauty sleep and in time you will start to feel so amazing on the inside that you won’t be able to help loving your physical body for allowing you to live a beautiful life. Also with regards to social media, anything or anyone that makes you feel even slightly inadequate or question your own self-worth… unfollow with immediate effect.
If you could change one thing in the beauty world, what would it be?
It would be to stop normalising the abnormal. With the rise of the selfie obsession we have seen a big trend towards overly sculpted cheekbones, sharp angular jawlines, noticeably filled lips and unnaturally smooth foreheads. The beauty industry and social media are feeding this lie of what is beautiful. This Kardashian type effect has made unnatural looking results the new normal and it is promoting mental health issues among the younger generation. It is a “trend” that has to be controlled as it is having a negative impact on society as a whole.
As doctors we have a duty of care to our patients and we are socially responsible for the health and wellbeing of all people. I would like to see the promotion of more achievable aesthetic outcomes by the beauty industry that work only to enhance the natural profile and address true ageing processes.
Why do you pose a strong emphasis on carrying out treatments that enhance the natural profile?
“Faces are books written in foreign languages” This was a quote I once learned from world-renowned plastic surgeon and aesthetic master Dr. Mauricio de Maio. I believe that our faces tell our own unique and individual stories and the messages that it communicates are what defines our true beauty. It is my privilege to be able to manipulate these messages through aesthetic treatments to reveal a person’s maximal beauty. What this means is if I can minimise messages of tiredness or sadness on a face, if I can enhance youthfulness, femininity/masculinity, or even highlight a person’s most positive feature – I have achieved a desirable result.
What would your advice be to anyone who is considering aesthetic treatments but is unsure?
Take your time. Do your research. Book a consultation with a reputable medical practitioner. The consultation process is absolutely crucial. Firstly to ascertain whether the aesthetic treatment is right for you in the first place, and secondly to understand whether the treatment will match your expectations. Its amazing how often a patient presents at consultation with a specific concern or treatment in mind, but after a thorough assessment and time taken to understand underlying concerns, the advice or recommended treatment might be completely different to the initial presentation. You should feel as if your practitioner has really taken the time to understand what your goals and motivations are, and explains all potential options clearly. You should never feel pressurised into undergoing treatment.
I always recommend a “cooling off” period after consultation so all information and options can be considered carefully in your own headspace away from the clinic environment. If you are still unsure I’d suggest you maybe look at the bigger picture. Are you missing a step? Perhaps you might benefit from optimising your skin care routine before moving to injectables. Addressing skin quality is a great way to prep for injectable treatments and will only work to maximise your results when you do make that important decision to go ahead.
What advice would you give aspiring female entrepreneurs on starting their own business?
My advice would be to regularly check in with your “WHY?”. In a competitive market it’s easy to get distracted by what others are doing. This can make us doubt our own abilities, especially when starting out. Choose to create your own space by staying true to your own vision. We are all influenced by other professionals. Take the positives and incorporate them into your own journey, but do not try and imitate others. Nothing kills a business quicker than a weak vision. Be authentic. Stand out for the right reasons. People buy into people over products every time. You are what makes your business unique. Just keep doing you.
What advice would you give to other doctors who aspire to specialise in the same field as you?
I would urge them to ask themselves why they want to transition into Aesthetic Medicine. Is it for the right reasons. It’s true that the Aesthetic market can be lucrative for medical professionals but financial gain is not why most people choose to become doctors in the first place. The desire is to use our knowledge and skills to help and protect others at a time when they are most vulnerable. If Aesthetic Medicine is something that they have a true passion for, then my advice would be to be prepared to work really hard, put in the hours and build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills. It takes time to build technical ability and confidence in your skills. Don’t try to cut corners and to always be risk averse. The more experience I have, the more cautious I become. Always work well within the boundaries of your abilities.
Finally, what is your personal beauty mantra?
To “LIVE BEAUTIFULLY.” And it is the philosophy behind Skin & Sanctuary. The meaning of this is to seek and find joy in the beauty of everyday things. To nourish your soul by feeding both physical and emotional health. This might be to tending to your skin’s daily needs by investing a small amount of time per day towards a skincare routine. It might mean getting a daily dose of exercise. Enjoying social interaction or experiencing nature in the great outdoors. It might mean preparing and eating a delicious meal rich in nutrients or practising daily mindfulness. The point is that true beauty starts with inner radiance. To be beautiful is to feel beautiful in normality of the every day.
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