SINGAPORE (Oct 1): Dr Low Chai Ling, whose mantra is “Live without limits”, has always believed in venturing beyond the traditional. She is known for having founded The Sloane Clinic in 2003 with her husband, Dr Kenneth Lee. The couple left in 2017 to work on their latest pet project, named SW1, at Paragon Medical Centre.

True to her motto, Low did not hesitate to pull out all the stops, beginning with the very foundations of SW1: a Hollywood glamour-inspired 7,000 sq ft space with dusty pink walls and bronze accents, each of its many rooms named after classic icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. In its entirety, SW1 — named after the postcode district where Low once lived in the UK — serves as an umbrella for three distinct concepts.

The first and main business is SW1 Clinic, which offers comprehensive aesthetic and plastic surgery treatments and, together with it, services under SW1 Spa, which delivers medical-grade yet therapeutic facials in a spa-like setting. On the retail front, SW1 Shop carries a full range of SW1 and chái branded skincare products formulated by Low herself. These three concepts combined form what its founders call a “wellness movement”, marrying both non-invasive cosmetic dermatology with cutting-edge plastic surgery in an environment that feels anything but clinical.

Revage 670 Laser is especially effective for individuals with diffuse pattern thinning (scattered hair loss) and general weakening of hair

SW1 Clinic’s services are so extensive that they are categorised as “clinics” on their own. Apart from the Face Clinic, Skin Clinic and Body Clinic, the latest is the Hair Clinic: a star suite of under-the-hour hair restoration and removal solutions for the time-poor professional.

Among the newest medical revelations offered is Kera-Clone, a less extensive form of hair transplantation that can be completed in as little as 30 minutes without the extensive grafting of the scalp. Described in layman's terms as a “miniature hair transplant” by SW1 medical consultant Dr Chua Han Boon (pictured, main image), its downtime and pain levels are significantly less than those of the traditional procedure, which typically stretches over 10 to 15 hours. Results from each Kera-Clone treatment last a year or two, depending on how the rate of hair loss progresses for the individual, and the patient typically returns to their regular activities by the next day.

However, Kera-Clone is a more extreme measure compared with the Hair Clinic’s non-invasive hair loss treatments, including Revage 670 Laser, a low-level laser therapy that utilises Rotational PhotoTherapy to rejuvenate thinning hair on both men and women by stimulating dormant hair follicles into the active growth phase. Also available is Revitascalp, or what SW1 calls a “hair-cial” (a play on the word “facial”). This treatment introduces a target blast of nutrients such as vitamins, amino acids and minoxidil to stimulate and support the healthy growth of hair.

Chua, who holds diplomas in family medicine and practical dermatology, as well as a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree from the National University of Singapore, is one of seven aesthetic doctors at SW1 Clinic. He shares that patients with hair loss concerns are often prescribed a combination of treatments for optimum results. They should also look at these treatments starting from the initial to moderate stages of hair loss and balding, he adds, so that the rate of hair fall can be slowed as early as possible and perhaps even reversed. “It is ideal for patients to come with a head full of hair that we can prevent from dropping. Even for early to mild hair loss, these treatments still serve as measures for -secondary -prevention [detecting and treating a condition early on],” explains Chua.

“Hair is a major component of beauty and cosmetics, but this is often neglected in the aesthetics industry. At SW1 -Clinic, we view patients’ needs in totality. All our doctors here are trained in multiple fields, from plastic surgery to skin rejuvenation and now, with the Hair Clinic, hair loss and removal solutions as well.”

Based on his observations, the prevalence of alopecia is definitely greater among men, although his female patients appear to be more concerned and therefore are more likely to seek consultation earlier. “Our primary focus is to catch [hair loss problems] early because we want to preserve as much hair as -possible before the hair follicles die off. Once that happens, [the hair follicles] are gone forever,” he says.

Chua, whose training and experience in hair loss and hair transplant solutions spans nearly six years, says he has witnessed an increase in the number of both men and women coming to him with hair-related medical concerns, especially recently. The doctor attributes this phenomenon to stress and hectic schedules, which in turn lead to poor lifestyle habits that exacerbate the condition such as poor diet and sleep patterns.

He first took an interest in this aesthetic niche due to concerns over his family history. Based on the Norwood Hamilton Scale used to characterise male pattern baldness, his father has stage five hair loss (thinning across the crown, vertex and front temporal regions of the scalp), while his mother’s siblings have also shown signs of balding. The 42-year-old reveals that he is at stage two of the scale as his hair is receding at the front area of the scalp — a condition which he attributes to his age and sex.

But, more importantly, he emphasises that it is never too late to address hair concerns although it is best to tackle the problem when the first signs emerge. “It takes a long time, sometimes 10 to 15 years, for hair follicles to die,” says Chua.

“If we manage to catch the patient during this period when their hair follicles are dying, there is a very good chance we can reverse it. In the most extreme cases, the last resort would require a major hair transplant; that is, moving hair follicles from the back of the scalp to the front. Hair growth at the back and the sides of the head will generally continue until we die, so even in the most severe cases of balding, at least a tuft of [hair] will still remain.”

Five hair myths debunked

• Transplanting hair is akin to growing hair.

This common misconception is entirely untrue, says Chua, as the process of transplanting hair is basically shifting existing hair follicles from one location to another.

• Hair transplants solve all cases of balding.

According to the doctor, the process is rather tricky in very severe cases of balding. Taking too many follicles from a hair-dense region would leave it with a thinner appearance. In such a scenario, there is a limit to how much hair can be transplanted.

• Consuming foods high in sodium and MSG will cause hair loss.

There is no hard evidence to back this claim, says Chua. A poor diet and general lack of nutrients are, however, a major contributing factor of hair-related problems.

• Cutting your hair short will slow the rate of hair fall.

This is true to a certain extent, admits Chua. For example, people who braid their hair very tightly on a daily basis would experience a higher rate of hair fall compared with someone with short hair. However, these will grow back as long as the hair follicles are still alive and intact.

• Male- and female-pattern baldness are exclusive to their associated sexes.

Though rare, it is possible for men to experience female-pattern baldness and vice versa depending on the individual’s sex hormone levels, shares Chua. Such cases are therefore treated using hormonal therapy.

This article appeared in Issue 850 (Oct 1) of The Edge Singapore.

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