Enter the Skin Club, ideally located in the heart of metropolitan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s hotel & tourist district. It’s a literal hop and a skip away from the popular KLCC Twin Towers, and marks it’s accessible presence in the bustling region.
It does feel almost refreshing to walk through it’s glass doors. One is instantly impressed by modern and spacious interiors. Here’ the Skin Club hallmark attention to detail that reveals itself even in this first impression.
Greeted with the care and regard, the SkinClub offers the perks of the grace that comes with Asian service industry. Leaving one feeling both assured and nurtured.
The Skin Club by Dermagenesis is hailed as Asia's most Advanced Cosmetic Procedure Center.
If their immaculate beauty experience have not come to your attention as yet, it’s time to pay heed to this establishment that revels in the impeccable and draws in high profile clientele, celebrities and devoted regulars.
Equipped with a range of lasers and medical expertise, treatments designed with a no frills and with a "straight to the point concept.Unlike other aesthetics centers it’s position is not just cosmetic in nature. I found that the SkinClub also aims to deliver beauty in the most beneficial and healthy means that is possible.
The all-rounded drive for beauty, health, wellness and longevity combined is intriguing, and not quite your regular cosmetic experience.
Dr Morthy shares “ For the purposes of slimming we have ultrasound and carbon dioxide threapies to melt fat, though we’re a strong believer that when it comes to weight management we still feel that lifestyle and dietary modification are the thing, which is why we don’t focus so much on weight management. This why we don’t focus so much on weight management, rather we focus on skincare, anti-ageing and genomic medicine. We will also be including the field of cosmetic dentistry. ”
And so I sat with the medical director of Skin Club & Dermagenesis, Malaysia, Dr Morthy to find out more. It was a pleasure to meet the doctor, who was not only considerate and gentlemanly, but possessed a down to earth humility. Unusual, considering the high profile clientele he deals with and the extent of his success.
More about the good doctor
I asked the doctor to spill it all, to give up the secrets to his mindset that engineered the humble beginnings that grew to the remarkable success of today.
He begins to share his story …
Dr Morthy embarked on his medical path began when he did his MBBS in India, and then returned home to Malaysia. Initially undergoing a regular housemanship, he felt a strong desire to do something off the beaten path, to enter a different field, rather than the expected general practice.
Says Dr Morthy, “ I was looking for something different. Some of the beauty centers hired me as a consultant to advise on skincare. But I came to realize that they were not delivering the true dermatological experience. It wasn’t in line with medicine. And that drew me to study more. I went up to Cardiff to do my dermatology in Wales. During that time, my brother was working with Nestle as a research scientist in Switzerland. So he got me a job in L’Oreal as a product specialist in a cosmetic science lab. I was passionate. I got really into it, how the ingredients can actually alter the skin structure, the epidermal barrier, things like that. That was interesting to me.”
Next stop Spain & the Americas
“ Then I went to Barcelona to do my electromedical engineering for a year, specializing in lasers. That’s when I gained the interest in lasers and I went off to Salt Lake City in Utah, did my laser courses there. Finally, I returned back to Malaysia. I started Dermagenesis in the year 1999. At that time lasers were not very well received. Especially in Asia, people had a very bad impression of lasers. Lasers meant skin burns to most. So it took me a while to teach them to understand that lasers are not that bad. So we ran a lot of laser awareness campaigns to teach and educate the public and it slowly started picking up. We used to do talk shows on tv and radio, write for magazines and articles. And we saw that the public slowly started having a change of intentions about lasers. So that was good. "
Beginning with a bang, a 3 storey center in Hartamas
" Next we started our center in Desa Sri Hartamas, near Mont Kiara. We had a 3 floor center there. But we always wanted to cater to the international market, so that’s why we moved to the heart of town. We moved here about 41/2 years ago because all the hotels are around here and right now at least 40% of our clients are from overseas.So majority of them when they come here for a holiday they will definitely drop by. And during that time we were working with Prince Court Medical Center so when it came to surgicals we would refer them there. Non-surgicals we would do them in-house. But our clients were very comfortable with us, they don’t feel like they’re in a hospital or a clinic, they feel like they’re at home. So that’s when we decided, let’s start doing minor surgical procedures here. We don’t want to do anything major in a non-hospital environment. So when it came to double eyelids, a little bit of a lip job, or nose job, we don’t mind doing it here. So with mini-lipos, we decided let’s do it here.”
New Beginnings, Skin Club and Dermagenesis in the city
Dr Morthy “That’s why we divided the Skin Club into 2 quadrants, or the sterile zone and the laser zone. We have 12 rooms here. 8 rooms in the laser area and 4 rooms in the sterile area- 2 of which are for recovery and 2 are for minor surgeries. For the laser medicine, we have one lady doctor Dr Arthy, we have 2 plastic surgeons , who come in on a rotational basis and one gynaecologist. “
“ We are also starting cosmetic dentistry soon, that’s a field that’s also picking up very well. When comes to the industry of cosmetic medicine, they all fall into the category of clientele at the end of the day.
We have seen people come in to do a lip augementation or peri-augmentation for wrinkles and at the end of the day when we see them smile, we see that their teeth are not just right. So when we make a suggestion we tell them we do have a solution for this, and we will try to get the doctors in for it. So there will be one dentist joining us around early 2013 and that should make our practise complete.
Cosmetic dentistry is picking up greatly in Malaysia, especially with regards to laser teeth whitening.”
Will you remain in the same location ?
" Due to our growth in anti-ageing and wellness, we do feel that this area we have might not be sufficient for us. We might take up another lot downstairs within the same building. Or we are considering building a retreat concept with chalets in the region of Penang. With some treatments we include a massive detox procedure and its necessary to rest at least 5 days. Here we can monitor their diet for these 5 days and we would include meditation, relaxation for the optimal healing experience. "
Sharing his vast knowledge, lecturing and teaching.
" I like to teach, I enjoy teaching. I joined up with UCSI in KL as one of their associate lecturers and I helped them design their masters course in Aesthetic Medicine. I am one of their lecturers so I will lecture there 3 or 4 times a week when I am not travelling. The post-graduate doctors actually join in for the Masters program. I teach on the subjects of aesthetic medicine and anti-ageing. We cover everything from from botulim, to fillers, lasers, the works. "
Did you know that aesthetics was your destiny ?
Dr Morthy shares quite candidly, “ No, I did not. I just walked …. And it just came through my walk.”
“ When I first started cosmetic medicine, my dad would ask me why are you becoming a beautician or a make-up artist. My sister though was very supportive. She’s a financial VP in Australia and she used to encourage me and tell me that she was sure I would do well in this line. "
Facing the opposition
" My dad on the other hand would make fun of me and ask me ‘ Why are you going into this line, I made you a doctor and you’re becoming a beautician!” But I thought, let’s just give it a shot, because I always wanted to do something different and now I can see that even when I first started, a lot of my colleagues viewed me differently. They questioned me asking “ Why are you doing beauty?” and my response would be” Why not it’s still a branch of medicine “. And they didn’t see it that way. "
The growth of aesthetic medicine
" Eight years ago aesthetic medicine was a stigma but now you can see that ophthamologists, gynaecologists even orthopaedic surgeons are jumping into the aesthetic medicine realm. They feel that well there are no calls, there are no emergency cases, they can lead a normal life being an aesthetic medicine practitioner, but the unfortunate thing about aesthetic medicine is that it’s still a very grey area. It’s very grey and the kind of patients you see are very different. "
So how different is your clientele ?
“ Number one, the kind of expectations they have tend to be very unrealistic. A few have realistic expectations but they are the minority. We have some patients who come in, guys especially who have much more unrealistic expectations than our female clients. I have male patients who come in with magazine advertisments who say, “Make me look like him.” We have to keep advising them that we cannot do that. But the expectations are high and most are also not willing to be patient as most cannot afford the down time of recovery.
When we do a strong laser resurfacing for example, at least for one week your skin is going to be very awful and you’re not going to like your skin and they can’t stand that one week time period. Some even enter a state of depression during the recovery. We do our best to emphasize and assure them that it is temporary, but when they leave our doors, it really brings them down. And they also have to realize that there is always room for complications, no matter how careful you are. Everybody’s skin reacts differently and there are many other variables to consider in one’s lifestyle. “
Pampering patients is a must
Now we are catering for an environment of wellness not illness. So we cannot exactly treat our clients the same way you would treat an emergency case. Here there should be zero pain, lots of comfort, lots of pampering. That’s what they are looking out for, We cannot just enter the room in a white lab coat and a stethoscope and say, “We’re giving you this and that’s that . Goodbye.” Our clients expect us to sit down with them and thoroughly detail what will transpire and what to expect as well as how to prepare and recuperate after each treatment.So that’s one significant part of it, catering to out clients needs. That’s on the consumer side.
What’s lacking in the local aesthetic field
" On the medical side I feel that a lot of doctors are not well trained as yet. A lot of doctors are still learning the ropes on aesthetic medicine and laser science. Laser science has never been taught to any one of us in medical college. It’s very new. I even have dermatologists and plastic surgeons who come to me to study and practise on lasers. We have plastic surgeons and dermatologists who come in on a 1 week attachment and they will learn how to use lasers.
We tied up with the Academy of Aesthetic Medicine in Australia and their doctors come here at least once a month for a one week or a longer attachment on lasers, because it’s still a very new field.
And some doctors when their not familiar with lasers unfortunately the suppliers try to teach them how to use the lasers. And they come back with very bad complications, so that’s when things go wrong. And that’s why we are really advocating the fact that doctors must learn and be trained on lasers if they want to use it on clients. And we’re trying to influence the Ministry of Health to come up with a proper module but there’s a lot of controversy around that at the moment. They were supposed to come up with the Cosmetology Acts & Guidelines but it is still in the process.
Singapore has a one day training and Thailand has a very good training module for the doctors in some universities. But in Malaysia it’s still very slow here. These are the challenges the aesthetic medicine arena is facing, making it a very grey area. "
Artistry and skills required in cosmetic medicine
" You have to listen, discern and you have to know what the patient has in mind. And what they have in mind and what you have in mind may not be on par. That’s where sometime we lack.
We do about 30-40 noses a month just by using fillers and almost all of my clients will come in with a picture, they’ll have a photograph of some artiste and say, I want this nose. But the treatment cannot achieve the exact nose that is depicted.You will not achieve the exact nose. You may get very close to it, but it will not be an exact copy. You see there is a basic foundation upon which you can apply certain techniques. This is what I try to explain to my clients.
We use hyaluronic acid most of the time .For some clients whom we are more familiar with we use or a longer lasting injection that will last 2 or 3 years. If necessary, if the client wants to revert back to their original nose, we can remove it or reverse it.
That’s the advantage of using a filler, there are no scars and no implants. Its temporary results nevertheless its safe. Its an in and out procedure. They come in, we apply an anaesthetic agent, if they have a phobia for needles we do a bit of a sedation, if not we just do a little bit of a local and that’s it."
What people want ?
The 3 most popular services are
1) nose augmentation,
2) botox for wrinkles or reshaping of the jawline
3) fractional CO2 laser or any kind of laser procedure including laser hair removal.
" 60 – 70 % are ladies, and 30-40% are men.
When we were in Sri Hartamas we used to get more of the age group of 30 and above, but moving out here we started to get more of the office executives, so the age group has come down to about 22 or 23 till up to about 60. We cater to the anti-ageing aspect through genomic medicine, so the age group of 50-60 tends to patronize us more."
More on Genomic Medicine
“ We have an affiliation with Dermagenesis in Australia. We have a unit in Sydney and there we do a lot of research on genomic medicine. So what we do is we take a hair sample and probably a nail sample and we send it over, and they will do a DNA breakdown. It falls under the field of predictive medicine. They will try to find out what are the diseases you may get in about 20 years from now. So let’s say are you susceptible to get Parkinson’s , Alzheimer’s , or any kind of degenerative disorders diabetes, melitis ( things like that ) , and based on the prediction, they would try to advise them on lifestyle modification starting 10 years ahead. So that’s what we do. That is picking up very well actually right now.”
“ Sometimes if lets say they feel it requires supplemental changes or certain multivitamins, or ingredients such as antioxidants, or selenium perhaps, then we liase with a company in Korea called GoodGene, which stands for Good Genetics basically and they will custom make certain nutriceuticals for them. For example a supplement that is rich in anti-oxidants . Based on their profiling, we will recommend that they begin consuming them. So that’s one of our competitive edges right now.
A majority of the time it’s dietary modification that’s required. At least about 10-20% of the time is when they will suggest certain supplements that we are not able to get in food, such as selenium or super-oxi, barley green , wheat grass, etc . They will get that in the form of tablets and they will supply it to them. “
“ Our anti-ageing treatments that include stem cell treatment, are not really done here locally.
The other affiliation we have is with Villa Medica in Germany. We refer patients out there for stem cell and live cell replacement, These are the two anti-ageing modalities that we have. In South East Asia, we are positioned as a referral center for them. We do the initial screening , and we refer them to the right people for them and we do the post treatment for them.
The majority of the time, with genomic medicine screening if we discover the probability that the person is going to develop Alzheimers or Parkinsons in about 10 years or so, we also notice a very strong family history associated with that most of the time. In such instances we will normally refer them to Villa Medica in Germany. So there they would do a live cell replacement. They don’t do stem cell therapy, they do live cells, which means that they actually take the cells from animals. They centrifuge it, they sterilize it and then they send it back to human beings. Similar to what is done in La Prairie and Paul Niehans center.
Stem cells at the moment are acquired from one’s one fat. Stem cells are originally acquired from the bone marrow, it’s actually from the umbilical cord or the cord blood. If you miss that, they will have to take it from the bone marrow. And if you miss that then you will have to harvest it from the fat, not from the peripheral blood. From the peripheral blood your stem cell counts are very minimal and almost negligible. But from the peripheral blood, you only get the platelets. So a lot of time they have mistaken the platelets for stem cells. People have actually taken the peripheral blood and injected back into the body claiming its stem cells, but actually you’re only getting platelets. That’s where your platelet rich plasma (PRP ) comes from.
Stem cells are also found in the embryo of humans as well as animals such as sheep, rabbits, dolphins. Etc. Stem cells are what we call pluripotent cells. That means that they have the capability to change or convert into any cell. Paul Niehans is the founder of cell therapy , and his teachings are different. If you think there is a defect in the heart or the brain cells you access the particular cells from the animal, you extract the brain cells or heart cells from the animal and transfer it back to the human. La Prairie in Mont Cruz Switzerland and Paul Niehans in Varies Switzerland use the same concept.
Sometimes in genomic medicine we also come across incidents where they are low in hormones. The pioneer in hormone replace is Dr Alan Miens in Las Vegas, Nevada. We refer to most of them. Hormone therapy on the other hand is something that we do here. Because hormones are available in Malaysia and they are approved here. So either we will give them human growth hormones or testosterone and estrogen. It comes under HRT, hormone replacement therapy. It’s in injectable form and its done for at least 2-3 months and that’s it.
This is why we focus more on anti-ageing wellness as one division and skin care as the other division. "
" When people come to us for weight management most of the time we advise them on diet, lifestyle modification, exercise. Unfortunately most clients want a quick fix, they want instant results. In such cases, we either refer them off for liposuction or other treatments. We don’t want to take the burden with those who seek rapid weight loss. We see a lot of cases where there is no exercise, no dietary modification and yet they lose weight through weight-loss treatments. Yes you do lose weight but what about your cholesterol sugar levels and insulin ? They will definitely be affected, usually adversely
Very often we see this yo-yo effect , where an individual loses weight fast and they gain back weight even faster. Remember it is important to detox through the process of losing weight too. That’s why we try not to enter that line. Our advice is this. If you want to lose weight, lose it the right way. Lose the weight but gain your health.
We are comfortable in the fields of wellness, and anti-ageing though. If you don’t know what’s happening in your system so are here to give you a helping hand to find out what is going on with you and advise accordingly with supplemental, hormonal or live cell treatments.
Stem cells, we don’t do it that actively over here at the moment, because if you’re going to do stem cells you’re going to need a good amount of fat. So sometimes we refer them to the plastic surgeons to extract the stem cells out. And then we will use their stem cells, we send them to Tropicana Medical center in Kota Damansara where the stem cells bank. We remove their stem cells and bank it there first.
If we require stem cells we don’t do it here, we have chosen a hospital environment to do it for us. We send patients to the hospital, they will extract the stem cells for us and store them in a stem cell bank . When we need to transfer the stem cells, we will call them and they will send it here. They send it here, and we perform the stem cell injections for them.
So that is the proper way of doing it rather than doing it in a clinical set up or a beauty salon set up and just taking some blood and centrifuging it. You’re not going to get any stem cells there, just platelets. And these are being injected with the claim that they are stem cells. The results are not comparable either.
We are working on the concept of a large retreat spa, on the borders of Penang, where we are working on bringing together some experts on anti-ageing and wellness. We are trying to bring genomic medicine into this country per se, so we need a lab and a few other facilities. Instead of taking the samples and taking it to Australia and to Korea. We’re going all over the world, but we’re trying to get as many things as possible done here locally at the moment and the only thing is that the Malaysian government does not approve the use of animal cells yet. The injection of live cells is not allowed though I know some people who are still doing that.
Now we have no intention to go against government policy. The Malaysian government doesn’t approve live cells such as placenta cells, etc. We don’t want to do something that is not approved and wetting that approved might take a couple of years down the line. However when it comes to stem cells and platelet rich plasma, that is approved because they are contrived from the human body itself. You’re taking it from your own body and injecting it back, there is no medical controversy involved there. "
Live cell injections from animals
" There are a lot of people in Malaysia using live cells from animals , but we have seen cases of skin necrosis, when complications arise from the injection of animal cells into the human body. Sometimes the human body will reject animal cells, they can’t accept it. There is always a compatibility issue and they may go into severe allergic reactions.
So when you inject animal cells into the human body, we have seen people who have just collapsed . When I was being trained in Paul Niehans clinic in La Prairie, we have seen this happen. These kinds of procedures have to be done in an emergency setup where you have an anesthesioslogist and cardiologist to resuscitate if necessary. And we have seen many cases here where people just fall down and collapse after the injection. We have people being referred here for skin grafting because of the necrosis they face after the injection of animal cells. So things can go very wrong if it’s not done properly. Clinical environments sometimes may not be completely sterile either, so that’s why we prefer to do it in a hospital environment. "
" When it comes to scar revision, it depends on the type of scar that we manage. If it’s an elevated or hypertrophic scar we will normally try to flatten it with a steroid injection. Once we have flattened it we will try to approximate the edges of the scar either by cutting it up or by burning it up with a laser. If it’s a very fair skinned person, we prefer to burn it up. We will use a fractional CO2, and we burn it in such a way that we get a little bit of contracture. And then we will again cover it up with steroids to prevent scar formation again.
That’s the common practise that we use here at the moment. But if we think the person is susceptible to laser burns then we will try not to laser them. We will try to cut it out, made the edges very, very smooth and use subcutaneous sutures, let it heal and as it is healing we will do a little bit of laser just to smooth the edges off. We’ve done quite well with most of these scar revision cases. "
" With body scars we don’t mind being a little more daring and explorative with them, but when it comes to facial scars we are a bit more reserved. We cannot afford to make any form of mistake with a facial scar. I’ve seen cases where they’ve been wearing face masks for 8 years of their life. They were them to cover their acne scars unless they are at home around people whom they know, but when they are out in society they always use a face mask. Even when they walk into our office, they arrive with a face mask. So we can assume a fair amount of mental trauma that they are experiencing. Counseling such a case itself is a task for us . We try to make sure that we don’t over-promise on results. If we feel that the individual has a very high expectation then we will have to consider if we want to proceed with the case.
When there’s a very high expectation, the burden becomes almost impossible to us. It’s not that we don’t want to take them in, but we will always suggest that we will take on their case when they have a more realistic approach. We give them some time to think about it first. "
Do you get a lot of tai tais, celebrities, high profile personalities ?
“Yes we do and when they do come in, we bring them into a private section as they like to come in incognito. They normally don’t take the common lift, but they will take the basement lift that comes right here and they will sneak in through the back. We try to accommodate such cases because we understand what they are faced with. Even with the politicians who come in, they like to come in a very incognito, very quiet, very discreet.
Previously we used to open up after office hours for them. But now we are trying to cut down as we are all getting tired of working long hours.”
Longevity and Recognition
“We have been around for almost about 12 ½ years now. 4 1/2 years in our new location and 8 years in Hartamas. “
Skin Club and Dermagenesis has built up quite a name in KL
“Yes we have our own product range. Right now instead of doing in in Malaysia locally, we actually give the ingredients to Dermagenesis Australia. So they are doing it and they are sending it back to us here and we send it to our distributors in other parts of the world as well. "
Did you customize the product range ?
" Yes that’s right. We keep it very simple, we have a cleanser, bodycare cream, moisturizer, sunblock and a post laser cream to help the skin heal faster after laser procedures. "
So how would you describe yourself ?
He laughs, “My friends always say that I major on the minors. They say I’m a perfectionist. When I write letters, I pay attention to every detail, the commas, the full stop, the spacing. When I walk into the office I’ll wipe the table as I walk in to see if there’s dust.
Some of my friends call me The Monk, they tease me saying I’m an OCD character. But I feel that these are the fine details you need in this industry. I’ve got patients who come in with a photograph with an outline of the spots on their face which we cant even see , so they are that precise. So we have to be equally precise as well.
That’s one of my major traits, the eye for detail and perfectionism. Everyone tells me the same thing, you always major through the minors, if I go through a letter I’ll review it 6 or 7 times to make sure it’s aligned and in perfect order. And if my staff is going to send out a letter on my behalf, I’ll make sure they cc it to me so that everything is in proper English. So they will actually check it 7 or 8 times before they send it to me, because they know how immaculate I am. My unit manager tells me all the time, we don’t know how it happens that we check letters out all the time but you will still pick out something.
I don’t know how I do it but it just comes to me naturally. You could say that’s just one of my flaws or my asset.
That’s why some of my clients up till today, when it comes to injectables, they still insist that I do it for them. Because I spend more time trying to study how their lines are being formed and their expressions rather than just jabbing them. You have to study their facial lines and see which muscle is working. The technique is almost about the same but I like to mix my dilutions when I’m using botulim toxin, I like to use a higher dilution in some areas and a lower dilution in others to get a certain effect and that makes a difference. Even when my doctors do it with the same technique, my patients say, no its different when you do it. So that in a way ties me down with injectables. It’s my forte along with genomic medicines.”
I noticed that the doctor himself had remarkable skin and I asked him for his secret. Was he undergoing laser treatments himself?
Dr Morthy says ”I do Fraxel once in a while when I have the time to recover. Although when I teach my students, I tend to be the model and they’ll be firing the laser on me. It does help my skin but sometimes they’ve burnt my skin a couple of times as they’re learning.” He laughs candidly.
SkinClub and Dermagenesis branches
Dr Morthy goes on to share “We have two branches. One here and one in Australia. As for the Malaysian branch, the whole area is together but we have partitioned it into two because we are trying to keep one area sterile since we are starting minor surgical procedures, we will be starting a minor OT here under local anaesthesia or under sedation, so we have two plastic surgeons on board. So they are joining us and we have a gynaecologist onboard to do cosmetic gynaecology. So this area, will be covered for those instances.”
Dr Morthy’s bio
Dr Morthy is the Medical Director of Skin Club (Malaysia), DermaGenesis (Malaysia) and DermaGenesis (Australia). Dr. Morthy, formerly the president of the Malaysian Society of Aesthetic Medicine, graduated from Manipal University and obtained his Diploma in Dermatology from University of Wales, Cardiff and his certification in Dermatologic Laser Surgery from Bangkok. Subsequently he acquired experience in Aesthetic Medicine from various renowned establishments in Spain and Switzerland and his certification in Mesotherapy from Paris. His vast experience in Aesthetic Medicine since year 1997 has made him one of the pioneers in the industry. Dr. He is a Member of the Society for Anti Aging & Aesthetic Medicine Malaysia, American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery, Korean Academy of Anti Aging Medicine and Aesthetic Doctors Society of Indonesia. In addition to contributing articles to major publications, he is also a well-known honorary international speaker and trainer for many doctors, healthcare professionals in Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Korea.
The doctor is popularly sought by celebrities, VIPs and many others for their aesthetic needs. In addition, to supervising the doctors operating at Skin Club he personally overlooks the quality of medical practice, ethics and the well-being of all the Clients.