Non-Surgical Cosmetic Facial Procedures: How Safe Are They?


Dr. Jonathan Yong

Two weeks ago, I was invited to try the HydraFacial treatment at The Wellness Suite, an aesthetics clinic at Paragon helmed by Dr Jonathan Yong.

The 40-minute facial involved the use of a non-invasive skin resurfacing method – the patented 4-in-1 Vortex Technology – to cleanse, exfoliate, extract, hydrate and nourish for clearer and healthier skin.

While the medical terms may be daunting, the procedure was simple enough. There was a peculiar sanding down sensation, and tiny suction forces were applied all over my face – presumably to suck up the nasty stuff. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, I’ll be frank. But it wasn’t as painful as I had imagined it to be. With all that scraping, I’d half-expected to leave the clinic with blotchy patches on my face. What I gained instead was an evident glow.

“There is no downtime to several of the treatments we offer here,” says Dr Yong, a graduate from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the National University of Ireland. “We get 10 to 20 patients a day, and many drop by just before a big event to prep their faces.”

Indeed, it would appear non-surgical facial procedures such as laser treatments are quickly gaining popularity among young adults looking for a quick fix.

But just how safe are they? At Dr Yong’s clinic, a popular procedure – the CO2 Skin Resurfacing Laser – actually burns the skin in small dots to improve the appearance of ageing skin, scars and enlarged pores.

This ablative laser method allows the healthy cells in the non-burnt parts to aid in the recovery of the damaged regions. “It’s a strong laser, no doubt, but it’s a safe procedure,” explains Dr Yong. “With all treatments, however, it’s best to make an informed decision by seeking the advice of your doctor.”

Mediacorp artiste Shona Woo's recent update on Instagram

Just recently, Mediacorp artiste Shona Woo got the scare of her life when she sustained two second-degree burn wounds on her face after a clinical laser treatment in an unidentified clinic. Instead of clearer skin, all the 26-year-old got were two pus-filled patches of skin and plenty of tears as she sought advice online.

What are the risks involved in such treatments, and could the mishap have been prevented? Dr Yong answers some FAQs on the next page.

How do non-invasive facial procedures compare against surgical ones, Dr Yong?

Dr Yong: Not everyone needs to go under the knife. It really depends on the condition of your skin. Unless you have a severe condition, I would recommend a non-invasive procedure instead. Not only are they a lot more convenient with minimal downtime, they are also generally safer than surgical ones. In Singapore, aesthetics doctors have to abide by strict guidelines. 

In that case, what could have caused Shona’s second-degree burn wounds?

I’m not sure what treatment it was, but the laser used was definitely too strong or hot for her skin, and injured it. Unfortunately, at this point, she has to be patient and let the wound heal on its own.

How would you recommend that patients like her care for the wound?

It has to be kept clean. Also, I would recommend an antibiotic ointment to prevent an infection. There’s nothing else she can do as further action may make matters worse.

Should patients disclose anything to their doctors before proceeding with treatments?

Your doctor needs to know about your existing medical conditions, drug allergies and the medications you’re on. He or she also needs to know if you have had prior treatments done to your face. That way, a specific treatment regime can be tailored for your skin type and condition. 

How often can these procedures be done?

It depends on the treatment. Unless specifically advised by your doctor, a monthly visit should suffice for maintenance.

Are they suitable for everyone?

Not everyone needs them. Also, the effects of non-invasive treatments may not be optimal for people with older or really wrinkled skin. For anything you do, be clear what you’re trying to achieve and communicate it clearly to your doctor. Let him or her know your concerns.

What should prospective patients take note of?

Refrain from doing multiple treatments at the same time. Some patients do jump around from doctor to doctor. This is dangerous as you should not be doing several treatments at the same time without your doctors’ knowledge. Such careless behaviour can contribute to undesirable complications.

Finally, are there any myths about aesthetic treatments you wish to bust?

I do get a lot of questions about Botox. Many people have said that once you stop going for Botox treatments, the condition of your skin will worsen. This is a misconception.

The effects of Botox lasts about four to six months. And once it wears off, the condition of your skin simply returns to its original state. Botox can also be used as a preventive measure. Think of your skin as a piece of paper. Once you fold it too much, deeper lines will form. Botox can help prevent it. 


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