With more than 20 years' experience working as a dermatologist and undertaking research in Germany, the United Kingdom and China, Dr. Yumei Wu is an expert in her field. This includes treating skin diseases and tumors along with various cosmetic procedures, from fruit acid peeling to botox injections.
Currently serving as Chief of the Dermatology Department at SinoUnited Health, Dr. Wu shares her views on beauty and health, the basics of good skincare and her experiences working in Shanghai.
You have been practicing dermatology for over 20 years. What led you to this particular field?
I did not choose to be a dermatologist; dermatology chose me. years ago, when I graduated from medical school, I was sent to a local hospital. The hospital needed a dermatologist, so I became one. At that time, the policies in China were different from overseas. I was reluctant to practice dermatology when I began. But as time went on, I became increasingly passionate about it. Gone are the days when all I could do was prescribe a simple skin cream. With advances in dermatologic surgery and cosmetics, my job has become much more interesting. If you want to practice dermatology today, you have to be an internal doctor. You also have to be a surgeon, because you need to undertake laser treatments, give botox injections and perform operations.
Our skin is the place where health and aesthetics coincide. How does healthy skin contribute to our overall well-being; not only physically, but also regarding mental health?
As we all know, the skin is the largest organ in the human body. It not only fulfills basic physiological functions, but it also plays a crucial role in shaping our self-image. Our skin reflects our hormone levels and can tell us whether our body’s nutrition is balanced. Beautiful skin is a sign of good overall health. I think beautiful skin across the world is smooth, shining, with an even color. The texture must also be very soft. People with healthy skin are more confident, which makes them feel better about themselves and, as a result, they are happier. This is why in modern societies people of all ages are seeking treatment for their skin.
What are some of the most common cases you treat in Shanghai?
Eczema is common. I also see fungal or viral infections, bacterial infections such as warts, herpes or athlete’s foot. Acne is also a significant concern. But there is a change. Pollution, an unhealthy diet and our stressful lifestyle are making people lose their hair at a younger age. Many people come to me for hair loss. More people are also coming for botox injections or to even out their pigmentation.
What is the most memorable case you have treated in Shanghai?
When I worked at Parkway Health, I met a couple in their 60s. The husband wanted some cream for a rash on his arm. When he sat down, I noticed a small white spot on his forehead. He refused to let me examine the spot, and they left after I prescribed the cream he requested. One week later I called the patient, and he advised the rash had gone. I still insisted on checking the spot. It took me three tries. When we finally did a biopsy, the spot turned out to be basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. After this, the couple came to me every year for a skin cancer screening. We became great friends. Around 2015, I noticed the husband was unusually quiet. This is when I was told he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. When they came to see me again in 2017, the husband could no longer speak and he no longer recognized anyone. When he sat down, he smiled at me and his wife was amazed. She told me he almost never smiled. She said, "He likes you, he always wants to come here." I will always remember this case.
What is your primary advice regarding routine skin care?
Clean, moisturize, sun-protection! Cleaning your skin removes oil, dead skin and makeup residues. This clears your skin, making it absorb the moisturizer more efficiently. The moisture level in our skin varies with the seasons. Our skin is dryer during winter, so we should use a cream rather than a lotion. Dry skin can be easily damaged, making it easier for bacteria and viruses to enter our body. Moisturizing protects against infection. Most important is a good sunscreen. For many dermatologists, sunscreen is the best anti-aging product. People who use sunscreen every day have fewer wrinkles and better pigmentation.
You are engaged in both research and practice in the field of dermatology. How do you see skincare developing in the future?
In the future, the concept of skincare will extend. The dermatologist’s area of responsibility is becoming broader, encompassing new areas of medicine and cosmetics. Before, people came to me to remove their hair. Now they want to grow it back! The way doctors interact with their patients will also change. At a local hospital in Shanghai, the doctor has only three to five minutes to see a patient. This is not enough. In a clinic like SinoUnited Health, patients become better educated about skincare, because the doctor can spend more time with them.
[Cover image via Pexels. Profile via SinoUnited Health]
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