Chicago-based Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon, Dr Steven Dayan has received numerous awards, and appeared in a wide variety of media for his revolutionary approach to aesthetic medicine. He is also renowned for presenting cutting-edge trends and techniques – as well as thought provoking and controversial insights on a number of topics. A2 Magazine interview this leading educator, researcher and surgeon on his vision and latest ventures. By Sally Harvey
What is your vision for your business, yourself and your role in the medical aesthetics arena?
My goal has always been to challenge the conventional wisdoms of thinking when it comes to aesthetics and the way we practice. My driving force has never been financial; it is about changing the way people think, and that is why I have dedicated so much of my time to writing, researching and lecturing on topics that, in my opinion, challenge convention.
Can you describe the different roles you play as an artist, surgeon and educator – and how you feel all these aspects interrelate in order to achieve your vision?
We are all a composite of our experiences. For me, this includes my time spent in the art studio, studying abstract philosophies and religion, as well as my role as a surgeon. The combination of these elements is what has allowed me to bring in different spheres of influence to impact how I perform my craft and how I think. They are all contributory and all important. We should never become limited by narrow-thought and one-field influence, but rather look at a multiple approach in order to reach a greater vision.
How do you use the artistic side of yourself to enhance your craft?
Sculpting clay in an art studio has had a positive influence on how I will go about shaping the face during surgery. It allows me to take my understanding of anatomy and one or two dimensional aspects, and combine it with a three dimensional approach – looking at the form from multiple angles and focusing on how to lighten shadows in order to best affect the appearance of the face.
You have a passion for making people feel good about themselves through your work and inspiring thought. If you had to give advice to someone considering surgery or other aesthetic procedures, what would be the most important points to convey, both from a physical and mental approach?
It is important for both the physician and the person interested in plastic surgery or cosmetic treatments to understand why they are doing it and what they are attempting to achieve. And, this might not always be clear, for either the provider or the patient.
In certain cases, a patient is going through a change in life, such as a new job or a recent divorce, and self-esteem improvements are all that is needed. It is, however, vital for the patient to understand that the treatments themselves might not be the answer to all their needs.
For example, a new nose is not going to automatically make you more beautiful, make you more money and enable you to get a new boyfriend… it will most certainly make you feel better about yourself (there is enough evidence to support this) but it should never be seen as the one-stop solution to a certain outcome.
The same applies to the physicians. It is not always about the perfect nose or the perfect jaw line or the perfect breasts – they need to consider what this person is looking for and help them achieve that goal.
For example, a person who has an unsightly scar on their fore head, might be more concerned about a blemish on their chin. It is important to listen to the patient and ask enough questions.
If you were providing advice to other surgeons or aesthetic practitioners regarding running a successful business; what inspiring advice and motivation would you give them in order to succeed at what they do – and ensuring their patients are satisfied?
Success all starts with a mission statement, which clearly defines why you do what you do. It needs to be real – no phony or fake statements, and it needs to clearly convey why you come to work every day. You need to make sure that everyone in your staff is well aware of it and is able to communicate it in all aspects of their work. What will make you successful is that you are genuine with who you are, what you do and why you do it.
In terms of your book Subliminally Exposed, what inspired you to write this book and what was the purpose thereof?
I have an immense interest in what we as human beings do on a daily basis, which led me to start teaching a college course on The Science of Beauty and its Impact on Culture and Business. This helped me better understand my role as a plastic surgeon as I wanted to better understand how and why I was making people happy and what was the actual reason for beauty. So, I studied and studied, travelled the world, investigated beauty from ancient times to present day, and read hundreds of articles outside my scope of practice – from neuropsychiatry to evolutionary biology. This all led me to recognise one profound truth – there is a deeper meaning to beauty and the effect it has on us.
My original plan was to write a textbook for the course I was teaching, but my findings started to morph into something that was of far more interest to the consumer, and, as a result, I decided to write the book.
In the book you “expose” some interesting truths about our hidden desires as human beings. Can you elaborate on some of these behaviours, and how they have the power to motivate our thought and actions?
There is so much communication that goes on subconsciously between humans, especially if we are looking to mate with someone. Take for example, the way smell at a subconscious level (pheromones or chemical messengers) completely attracts us to each other – this can be incredibly impactful when we are with someone that has a perfect genetic fit, creating a physiological response that is both satisfying and more aggressive.
Let’s take a look at how a woman’s pupils dilate when they are interested in a man, and how men can subconsciously pick up on these subtle signs. There are also certain components of a women’s body (which many women remain unaware of) that are of particular interest to a man. For example, a woman’s lips might swell ever so slightly when she is ovulating, or is interested in a male.
These are all minor signs, which we may not recognise, and it is therefore really fascinating when you start to expose these and realise that we are much more primitive than we would like to believe.
Did you link the book to your surgery and what benefits it would have?
Yes, the book talks mainly about static changes in the face that relate to attractiveness and communication. I have published on this extensively where I can take a face, slightly alter it and improve the first impression the patient makes. What’s more, I can quantify that first impression – this is what is really unique about my research and what I have been able to contribute scientifically to my field.
I can prove now that aesthetic procedures, such as injecting neurotoxin between a person’s eyebrows to open up their eyes, can make them look more attractive, creating a better self-impression in addition to improving their quality of life – they actually gain self-esteem by doing these treatments. I have proven that make-up alone can have significant impact on the first impression someone creates – perceived age can drop four to five years and the person’s self-perceived attractiveness is highly significant after applying make-up. I have also shown similar occurrences with certain skincare procedures.
The key here, however, is that the change is subconsciously recognised. In contrast, if you make a significant change to someone’s face and it becomes obvious, the unknowing observer can see that the changes were made and they are actually less attractive. So, too much make-up is unattractive; obvious plastic surgery is unattractive; breasts that are too large are unattractive – that phoniness is picked up by their observer and actually has a detrimental effect.
Do these changes also influence other aspects of life, such as getting a better job and greater social acceptance?
We know that women, and men for that matter, who are very attractive get certain benefits from society just because of their looks – and yes, they make more money. However, the key here, and this is what the book leads up to, is about making someone attractive. There is a difference between beautiful and being attractive – beauty is the raw, primary components, but being attractive includes so much more – it includes not only your physical beauty but also your hairstyle, clothing, posture, expressions and, most importantly, your self-esteem.
We know that women who feel good about themselves actually make 70% more money than women who are just beautiful. In fact, confidence is the single most impactful component of being attractive, and this is what we are naturally drawn to when someone with confidence walks into a room. So, the goal here is to improve someone’s confidence no matter how we do it – whether through their job, through exercise, how they parent or even if they have cosmetic treatments.
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