An interview with Dr. Li Kai,
Doctor of Medicine; Head of Dermatology & Cosmetology Center of Xijing Hospital, The Fourth Military Medical University
The two dominant parts of the beauty industry – the Medical Aesthetic and Life Beauty – continue to amaze the public with new technologies and innovations. However, we can sense a subtle integration of the two nowadays. Many medical beauty centers want to import life beauty elements while many life beauty owners plan to open medical beauty stores. Is it really a wise decision to cross the boundary? SpaChina invited Dr. Li Kai, a dermatology expert who has rich experience in medical beauty field, to share his insights on the respective strengths of the two, and reveal some of the latest medical beauty trends.
Dr. Kai got his bachelor’s degree of Medicine from The Fourth Military Medical University in 2004, and then a Master’s and doctoral degree of Dermatology and Venereology from the same university in 2007 and 2010. He once went to the Dermatology Department of the Henry Ford Hospital in the US and Perugia Hospital in Italy for academic exchanges. He has so far been responsible for two Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) projects and one hospital-wide fund project, and has participated in various national research projects. Dr. Kai specializes in laser cosmetology, facial rejuvenation, chloasma therapy and scar repair. He has published over twenty essays on Dermatology with SCI.
Do you see a huge demand for health improvement among Chinese people today?
From what I see in my own field, people truly have increasing concerns about their skin health. Even when they had limited access to hospitals during the pandemic in the first half year of 2020, they still actively consulted doctors online.
Meanwhile, I believe education is of great significance. Not only the patients but also we doctors need to be further and continually educated. When I meet my patients, in many cases, I understand that they don’t only have skin problems. I often suggest they visit other departments as well like psychology or TCM departments. The human body is an integral concept. Many conditions are connected to each other. I’m sure it is the same in the spa industry. Spa guests usually have diverse health or beauty concerns.
What changes and new technologies are there in the medical beauty industry in the last two years?
Medical beauty industry saw a robust development in 2019. In that year alone, there were 2,000 registered medical beauty institutions in Shenzhen. The year 2020 began with the coronavirus outbreak during which period the whole industry pressed the pause button. Almost all medical beauty institutions stopped their business from January to March, and a few even went bankrupt due to capital chain rupture. As April came, the pandemic was much alleviated and there was a consumption rebound, so we also welcomed a small development peak. But that didn’t last long since more rational consumption was restored. Later in August and September, the market again became quite vibrant. So after several rounds of test and filter, a more sound medical beauty industry is the result.
The hottest technology in the medical beauty field in 2020 is Thermage. The anatomical mechanism of facial slackness, puffiness and emergence of wrinkles is that the fibrous mediastinum, which originally fixes the superficial fat layer like a honeycomb, becomes loose with the increase of age, which makes the facial fat flow downward, and triggers the emergence of nasolabial folds. The face contour becomes larger and wider. Thermage can heat the fiber mediastinum to finally lift and firm the face. The effect of one session lasts six months to a year. Moreover, the newly launched fifth generation Thermage can be used in the spa since it doesn’t fall into the category of medical device.
Another new technology is DMA. It is a micro-current stimulation mechanism and precedes other electrical stimulation techniques with adjustable and controllable intensity, frequency and depth. So it proves to be safer. It gives 50-750 frequencies of stimulation per minute to the muscles and effectively activates the autonomous contraction of muscles. It can further target specific muscle group and activate its autonomous contraction. As a result, the muscle lines are perfected.
Technologies to achieve microecological balance have begun to show up in recent years. There is a microecological system of bacteria in our digestive tract, respiratory tract, urogenital system, and skin. There are good and healthy bacteria and there are bad and pathogenic bacteria. These two types of bacteria needed to reach a balance. Take skin for example. On the surface of our skin live abundant bacteria and microorganisms that, in an ideal case, reach a balance. However, due to stress, wrong skincare procedures, poor diet and environmental pollution, this balance is easily destroyed. What come after are skin problems like acnes, eczema, chloasma and more. Now more and more skincare products that proclaim to improve the skin microecological system have been launched. These products aim to increase the content of good bacteria by supplementing them with prebiotics (which the good bacteria like to eat) so as to reach a balance. Some of them can directly kill the surplus bad bacterial and restore the balance.
Today many salon and spa owners want to open medical beauty centers and many people in the medical beauty field want to be more spa style. What strengths do they each have?
The biggest strength of medical beauty is its technology and instant effects. The strong points of life beauty is its meticulous service and a long term relationship with guests.
I think the reasons why many spa operators want to open medical beauty clinics are because they can’t find a value-added program or service. To put it more directly, they don’t know which beauty devices or equipment can be used in spas so as to guarantee a stable guest flow, the novelty and effect of programs and finally an increased revenue. The biggest challenge for medical beauty centers is that the doctors there are always placing themselves on a high position in a somehow arrogant way. They fail to give guests the same experience as they can enjoy in the spas. Even though they can decorate their clinic into a spa style, it’s not easy to change that sense of alienation.
As far as I am concerned, the medical beauty and the spa operators should find the things that best suit themselves instead of blindly copying one another.
Take body shaping programs for example. Spas show more advantages than medical beauty centers to launch body shaping programs. One reason is because the doctors at medical centers are usually unwilling to carry out the treatment on a patient’s abdomen for one hour. It is too time-consuming for them. In addition, people who visit medical beauty centers usually seek immediate and obvious effects. So they would rather try plastic surgery for a slim body shape than a long-term treatment which they have one or two sessions a week and go there several weeks. However, in this aspect, spa has obvious advantages. Today in many spas, body shaping programs have taken up more than half of the menu. Data issued in recent years show that the market size of body shaping programs is increasing year by year and the number is estimated to reach 3.44 billion dollars in 2022. That’s why more and more beauty equipment are developed to target the body shaping needs.
However, the popular muscle contraction technology – High-Intensity Focused Electro-Magnetic Technology doesn’t suit spas and life beauty centers. Firstly, the function is quite simple – the sore effect of enhancing muscles. Secondly, the process is painful. However, spa goers usually don’t have much requirement for muscle enhancement, and have high demand for a sense of comfort.
What are the trends of medical beauty consumption among Chinese people in the next two to five years?
From my perspective, the future consumption of medical beauty programs will be more rational. It will be hard to see a 200,000 RMB bill as today. In addition, both male and female consumers will focus more on their daily health management. When choosing products and services, they will have a more holistic consideration. For example, they will study the ingredients, effect, and efficiency more carefully. This is partially because today’s major consumption force are young people who have wider knowledge and experience and tend to make purchase decisions more rationally.