The business of beauty is rife with quick yet unsustainable fixes, over- committed promises and impossible claims. The doctor behind DP Place, which specialises in aesthetic medicine, dermatology and surgery, believes these unhealthy industry norms require a change.
Dr Pura Cheng is having a particularly busy day.
The day in question began a little differently from the doctor’s usual Rolodex of patient consultations, meetings and procedures. The day began, rather, with her being pulled and prodded for a photoshoot – the one you’re currently scrolling through — while smiling, posing, changing into a second, third outfit, standing by for yet more touch-ups, even more posing and, suddenly, it’s 2:45pm. Her first patient of the day is scheduled for 3pm; the doctor has 15 minutes to squeeze in lunch (her first meal of the day – soup, if you were wondering, something double-boiled and nourishing) and a quick-fire interview.
Like I said, Dr Cheng is having a particularly busy day.
But this is just a casual Friday for a practising, seemingly superhuman doctor who’s also a proud mother of three, a doting wife and an almost-new business-owner – with a skincare line to boot. DP Place — DP is an initialism of “Dedicated. Professional”, a mantra the doctor abides by; DP also, conveniently, abbreviates the doctor’s profession and first name — was founded a mere calendar year ago in 2021, but the reality of its existence? A long, long time coming. In fact, every step of the doctor’s medical and personal trajectory has led her to this: to the long-planted seed of success in opening the speciality clinic.
Tucked away on the 10th floor of an office building nestled in Lan Kwai Fong, possibly the busiest street in Hong Kong, DP Place is the antithesis of where it stands. Encompassing the entirety of a single floor, the clinic, which opens from the lifts to a palette of light beige and white, is a calming oasis of a medical facility where dreams — forgive the cliché — come true.
Long gone are the days where a little nip-tuck is reserved for the rich and famous. Aesthetic medicine, the doctor is quick to explain, is not plastic surgery. It’s also not treatments you might be able to get at a beauty parlour or spa.
“Aesthetic medicine is a branch of medicine with a focus on altering appearances through minimally invasive procedures,” says Cheng. “Think of it as art and science combined – or as art backed by science.”
So, yes. It’s Botox. (“Botulinum toxin,” the doctor corrects.) It’s filler. It’s threads. It’s injectables. It’s laser, radiofrequency and high-intensity focused ultrasound treatments administered under theatrical stage lights with big, clunky machines.
Specifically, Cheng specialises in combination treatments — “a more personalised approach,” she insists — which means patients aren’t ambling in for a single shot of Botox with 10 fingers crossed that it’ll do the trick. The doctor uses wrinkles as an example: “We will not simply relax the muscle, as while it may fix the wrinkling surfaces, it’ll run the risk of the patient becoming expressionless.” Rather than depending on a single method, combination treatments aim at maximising the potency of an intended result through the expert use of different modalities, with the end-goal of more natural-looking, long-lasting effects.
Now, back to that errant wrinkle. A combination solution might see an itinerary that follows filler, skin-tightening, energy-based treatments and, lastly, a muscle-relaxant injectable. “There are numerous reasons for a specific aesthetic issue,” Cheng says. “So, we need a targeted solution for each issue.”
Presented throughout the walls of Cheng’s personal office are wooden plaque after wooden plaque, all evidence of her qualifications in medicine, surgery and aesthetic medicine. Prior to DP Place, she was a general practitioner with degrees in medicine and surgery, four years of family-medicine training, accreditations in practical dermatology before becoming a doctor specialising in the aesthetics field. On the very same plane of plaster and paint immediately alongside patent evidence of the doctor’s professional certificates, portrait photographs of her three children also take centre stage.
Cheng’s journey towards aesthetic medicine came from a deep desire to work on her own terms so she might be able to find more time to spend with her children. “Motherhood has made me more empathetic,” she says. “Everything changed after I became a mother.”
If you were to casually Google Cheng’s name, what would come up as results, aside from the usual suspects — her website, her LinkedIn, her business — is a litany of interviews about her experience giving birth at home.
“I guess it’s quite unusual for someone in Hong Kong to give birth at home,” she says, laughing. “The first time was an accident, actually. I was going to go to the hospital for the final part of my labour, but it just happened that way.”
She didn’t have a midwife with her, for her first or subsequent second and third at-home births. She delivered her children with whatever she remembered from medical school and, oh — “Books,” she says. “I learned from books, then just got on with it.” The book was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth; her daughters Ina and Mya’s names were inspired choices. (Yet another evidence of this same, industrious temperament: Cheng is, as we speak, referencing two A4 pages bestrewn with notes she’s handwritten over questions I’ve sent her.)
“I always felt a calling to the medical profession,” she says with an easy smile. “The sciences were my favourite subjects in school, and I always felt this calling to care for others; to make a positive impact on other people’s lives with my own.”
Aesthetic medicine, she explains, is a better use of her skillset. Admittedly a visual and an artistic person (“It might be hereditary,” she says with a laugh. “My maternal grandfather was a Chinese watercolour artist.”) who enjoys working with her hands, the aesthetics field allows her space to flex her surgical skills while, essentially, making something beautiful. “Symmetrical,” she adds.
Now, beauty is only skin-deep, they say. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, they say. A lot has been said about beauty through the ages; it’s a topic we’re — and it wouldn’t be exaggeration to say this — entirely infatuated with. Empirically, scientists might say it’s a fact that has everything to do with health, with fertility, with the continuing of our race as it stands. Artists, otherwise, might see beauty entirely differently, as a thing to be inspired by; repulsed by; seduced by. And we needn’t ask Dorian Gray what he might think of beauty.
Cheng — who sees herself as a scientist foremost, but one informed by her appreciation of the arts — regards beauty as evidence of a job well done.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about confidence,” says the doctor. “Aesthetic medicine, combined with my expertise in surgery and dermatology, gives me the tools and technology to facilitate minimally invasive tweaks that give my patients a boost in their appearance and, subsequently, their self-confidence. And it might just change their lives for the better.”
And if Cheng’s standing invitations to the many, many weddings of happy clients — many of whom, first, came to her in the lead-up to the big day — so incredibly pleased with the results are anything to go by? Lives are being changed.
“We’re all born just a little imbalanced, a little asymmetrical and, through the trials and tribulations of life, a little misshapen” the doctor explains over before-and-after comparison images of a patient. “But that can be fine-tuned. There doesn’t need to be this resignation to ageing, to whatever imperfection you think you must live with.”
Beauty, though, isn’t the sole contender for her patients’ wish-list of wants. For some, superstition plays a role in their visits to DP Place. Chinese physiognomy – or, face feng shui – details fortune and destiny in the sloping hallmarks of your face. A sunken temple? There’s probably trouble in your marital relationship. A thin nose? Wealth will not come easy. A thin nose in tandem with a weak chin? Best of luck to you.
“These are not my personal beliefs,” Cheng says. “Beauty is an easier ask for me. But for those that do hold these beliefs, I might have a hand in helping them change their mindsets that might change their fortune. And that is meaningful to me.”
Physiognomy centres a whole lot of importance on the face – as does good ol’ beauty standards. But Cheng is already looking well beyond that.
“A lot of patients come to me for filler on their hands,” she divulges. “Breasts and the scalp, too. After all, a youthful face is only a small part of the puzzle.” Asked if there are any lifestyle and skincare tips she lives by, the importance
of sunscreen application comes up immediately. In fact, skincare management also factors in heavily for Cheng and her patients, with the doctor’s very own line of DP-branded skincare products specifically created as at-home complements to her in-clinic treatments.
Her favourites within the range? The DP Professional Sunscreen that — unlike the streaky conventionals on the market; made in an extremely blendable formula, the DP Professional Serum B, infused with hyaluronic acid for silken, all-day hydration and the DP Professional Serum C Stem, concentrated for anti-ageing purposes — and just so happens to smell deliciously of citrus.
“I’ve always wanted my own skincare line,” says Cheng. “We know exactly what’s in each product, so it makes it easier to recommend for our patients.”
Now, let’s count: practising doctor, mother and ever-diligent entrepreneur, Cheng — who cannot, ever, be accused of resting on her laurels — of course has big, big plans for the future of DP Place.
“I want the clinic to grow and grow,” reveals the doctor, currently the only MD within the practice. “I want DP Place to become an entire community of doctors of different specialities, not just in aesthetics, serving a community of patients.”
And what’s one more dream for a doctor-supermum-entrepreneur that’s already done it all?
Learn more about DP Place and their services here