It’s estimated by experts that, by 2022, the global aesthetics industry could be worth well over $70 billion a year, in figures that has grown exponentially over the last decade.
For those running within particular circles, it’s often easier to list the names of those you know that have had cosmetic procedures done rather than those who haven’t. Aesthetic adjustments such as fillers, botox, breast augmentation and liposuction have been around for years, of course, but have seen consistent growth in popularity over time.
Taking all this into account, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the aesthetics industry – especially in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States – are well-regulated. Surprisingly, this isn’t always quite the case.
This is a realisation that dawned on aesthetics leader Pyn Lim early on within her cosmetic career – and one that shocked her.
Having moved to Ireland from Manhattan in 2006, she had set about opening an aesthetics clinic and was immediately taken aback by just how easy it was to become an established and registered aesthetic practitioner.
“I realised ‘Oh my goodness, anybody can be treating anybody’,” she told DDW, explaining the problems she had when searching for training programs for the doctors at her practice.
“I was really trying to make sure that all of my doctors were properly trained but I just couldn’t find a single proper training school. At the time, doctors were going to conferences, where they would simply observe on-stage medical procedures, watch videos and talk to practitioners, then they could come back and start injecting people. There was really no control at all.”
The requirements for training were so informal, Pyn told us, that training could sometimes legally be delivered by the manufacturers of the surgical equipment used by doctors.
“A doctor could buy an energy-based device and have their training delivered by the company that made it. They could just shadow someone using it, then go to their practice and begin practicing the procedure on patients with no formal training.”
Realising that the scale of this lack of regulation could spell disaster for the patients at different practices, Pyn knew that something must be done.
“I thought ‘Somebody really needs to set up a proper training school – it has to be thorough and hands-on for people to be properly trained’.”
“That’s where ECAMS was born in 2008.”
ECAMS – the European College Of Aesthetic Medicine & Surgery – is an organisation founded by Pyn Lim with the aim of delivering high-quality, hands-on training to medical doctors looking to offer a wide range of medical procedures.
For each course, Pyn and her team of experts put together a progressive, thorough training program, with tutorials delivered by industry experts handpicked by Pyn herself. Each course offers training at a basic level, moving on to more advanced practices and eventually to additional courses for those working at a higher skill level, in order for doctors to continue developing and honing their skills.
The college started out offering just a few of the most in-demand courses for aesthetic doctors, but has since grown to offer progressive courses in hundreds of areas of the aesthetic industry, including liposuction, breast augmentation, injectables such as botox and fillers, facelifts, complication management and more.
“It’s very practical and it’s very progressive,” Pyn says.
There are more than a few factors that set ECAMS apart from other training programs within the aesthetics industry, with Pyn explaining that ethics and honesty are at the core of what she and her team are working to do. This, she says, is less common than you’d imagine.
“A lot of doctors set up their own training schools because they’ll think ‘Well, I can do injectables now so I can teach others how to do it’,” she explains, “But a lot of them are financially motivated. They’ll allow anyone to come in and learn, even those who haven’t learnt the basics.”
Financial motivation, she says, also leads to some doctors delivering a lesser standard of training in order to prevent the growth of competition.
“They won’t teach everything. There’s important things that they won’t share. There’s always a conflict of interests amongst some doctors.”
ECAMS, she says, doesn’t operate in this way. As an independent training body, there are no financial motivations in delivering less-than-stellar training courses – Pyn and her team aren’t acting for the benefit of doctors, but for the benefit of patients.
One reason why this is so incredibly crucial is the increased risk of complications due to growing numbers of improperly trained doctors across the globe.
“This is a big industry,” Pyn says, “Every doctor is trying to practice in aesthetics as it’s the quickest way to earn money and live the celebrity lifestyle. Nobody is thinking about the high complication rate.”
“‘I always tell my doctors, ‘Your success is not on the car you’re driving or the house you live in – it’s on your patient’s face’.”
“Due to this financial motivation, there are a lot of patients that are misled, not properly educated.”
One reason for this, she told us, is the level of underhand tactics being used by doctors in order to take out their competition or appear to be a higher quality of clinic than they truly are.
“‘Every doctor will say they have the best equipment and the best protocol – nobody’s going to say that they are not good. Sometimes, doctors will leave negative reviews on competitor’s websites, too. There’s a lot of dirty work in this industry.”
“They’re backstabbing each other.”
According to Pyn, offering training is just another tactic practitioners have been using to raise their profile. ECAMS, however, are motivated to raise industry standards by educating every doctor with high-quality training.
“We’re coming from the patient’s point of view. We know that if we don’t teach doctors properly, patients will not receive the right treatment.”
What Pyn aims to do with ECAMS, she explained, is create a safer environment for patients across the globe. One principal that the college holds up strictly in order to work towards this goal is that they will only train medically-trained doctors.
“I can never believe that, in the UK, non-medical practitioners can inject botox or filler into someone’s face. It’s so scary. It’s such a huge market now – I’ll have non-medical practitioners calling me all the time asking to attend our injectables courses and I’ll always refuse. We will only ever train medical doctors.”
Attempting to revolutionise the way that such a huge global market approaches patient safety is no small feat, of course. With each training program offered, Pyn and her ECAMS team have to take on a whole lot of work to ensure things go off without a hitch.
Every month, the college has several courses running, each coming with plenty of work before, during and after the course takes place.
Before each course, there’s weeks of preparation. Trainers are selected, venues are secured, travel and transport for doctors is arranged, cadavers and live models are organised for the training to take place – it’s pretty tireless work.
Pyn and her training team then monitor the attendees to ensure that they’re taking in the education being provided.
“We’ll observe them during the practical training to see how good they are. Do they understand anatomy? Do they understand techniques? Do they understand what tools to use?”
Once the course is over, the work of the ECAMS team continues.
“After the course, we give the doctors and overall grade and then certify them,” Pyn says, “Have them listed on the Aesthrix website.”
Aesthrix is yet another way that Pyn is attempting to create a safer environment for those seeking cosmetic treatment. Described as the ‘world’s first virtual aesthetics and wellness center’, Aesthrix is a hub listing thousands of trusted clinics and doctors across a range of specialities.
Of course, you may have spotted a similar list of clinics and doctors out there before. Pyn says, however, that these websites are also rife with the same underhand tactics. It’s a fairly common occurrence for doctors to pay their way onto such sites, paying higher amounts in order to increase their ranking.
Pyn says that this is yet another danger within the industry that she’s looking to eliminate. The only way for doctors to be listed as a trusted clinic by Aesthrix is to receive ECAMS training and be closely evaluated by the Aesthrix team.
That’s not all the site does, however – Pyn also allows patients to use the site in order to ask for advice ahead of booking medical procedures.
“To those who are looking into cosmetic surgery, I’d say go to Aesthrix and really take a close look around and do your research. If they’re confused they can come to us and we will give them unbiased advice.”
Throughout her career, Pyn Lim has fought tirelessly to change the way that doctors across the largely unregulated aesthetics market are trained and to create a clearer, safer environment for patients globally. So widespread is the problem they’re looking to combat that ECAMS and Aesthrix are made available globally.
Given her determination and drive in revolutionising this side of the industry, it’s unsurprising that she’s been getting a little more recognition for her work. She recently received the All-Star Asian-Irish Business Person Of The Year award, for which she said she was honoured.
Pyn’s biggest career highlight so far, however, is still in the works – she’s currently working on a book about the aesthetics industry for a well-known and reputable publishing company.
“I didn’t expect that,” she told me, “Because I hate writing! I could never envision myself as a writer, but it’s such a huge acknowledgement.”
It hasn’t been a particularly highly-anticipated release amongst some in the industry, however – a group of plastic surgeons recently surveyed by the publishing company expressed a reluctance for such a book to be released. For Pyn, it’s not difficult to understand why.
“I told them that that’s exactly why I need to write it.”
Given this response from plastic surgeons, does Pyn feel as though she’s facing something of an uphill battle in her mission to change the aesthetics industry forever?
“‘To be honest, I believe, one day, that we can finally create a safer aesthetics industry,” she says, “But it has to be patient driven.”
“‘I need patients to further understand the industry and do their research, then there’s hope for this. I need patients to ask their clinics ‘Why aren’t you three-star rated?’, ‘Why aren’t you trained properly?’ or ‘Where did you get your training from?’.”
It’s a long road ahead for Pyn and the ECAMS team – with so much to do, does she ever really switch off?
“‘I’m a workaholic. I enjoy working. You can ask me to go on holiday but I can’t stand doing nothing for more than three days. It would drive me crazy.”
For Pyn, however, that’s just the way she likes it.
“When you don’t feel that it’s a job, you don’t feel that it’s actually stressful.”