This week, I chatted to the lovely Dr Malaika Smith of Dr Malaika Clinics, who explained why, for her, aesthetics is all about helping people build inner confidence, as well as the importance of building a support network.
Practitioner Spotlight: Dr Malaika Smith
Hi Dr Malaika! Thanks for joining me today. What drew you to the aesthetics world?
The first time I really came across aesthetics was at medical school. One of my friend’s fathers did it alongside working as a part-time GP, and at the time I thought, “maybe one day, that’s something to consider.” I wasn’t sure about becoming a GP but I thought that with the aesthetics and with some research, it might work for me. It wasn’t until I became a doctor that I began to wonder why I was trying to make being a GP work for me.
However, I had a huge passion for plastic surgery and I wanted to do facial reconstructive plastic surgery, as I loved the idea of helping people with asymmetry. Your face is the first thing people see - whether they meet you or they’re just walking past you on the street - so it’s such an important part of who we are. They’re what we see in the mirror every day, and they’re part of our identity. I wanted to help people who had something they weren’t happy with, and I started working as a doctor, doing surgical rotations and A&E rotations. But as a single mum, I felt like I was missing out on so much of my daughter’s life, so I started thinking through some different options and a friend of mine mentioned doing an aesthetics course with Harley Academy. That’s when the pieces of the puzzle all came together.
When lockdown began, it felt like the perfect time to start studying, so I signed up to the Level 7 and went through the e-learning modules, and then as soon as lockdown was lifted, I booked onto the practical training. Then, not long after I’d finished, I received a phone call from Harley Academy offering me a job teaching with them, which is still in the pipeline.
Rather than beautification, my main drive is helping people with asymmetry and confidence building. So, treatments like lip fillers and jawline fillers are among my favourites. For me, it’s more about getting that inner confidence to show externally for them. I see it as helping someone rather than just giving them a treatment.
What was it like starting your aesthetics career during the pandemic? And what have you learnt along the way?
It’s been a little frustrating that I can’t just get stuck in, but it’s also made me have to think outside the box and learn the social media side of things. This has allowed me to help empower people to make the right decision for them through education. But there are some things I haven’t been able to get started on yet. On the other hand, the industry has responded to the pandemic in such an amazing way. For example, there are so many webinars and live shows, so it’s been nice to be part of such a great community. Aesthetics can be slightly isolating in some respects - especially if you’ve come from a medical background, where you’re used to working as part of a team - and when you’re starting out in a pandemic, it can be really lonely. So, feeling part of a community has really helped and has been really rewarding.
I wish I had started working in aesthetics earlier, but I’m one of those people who thinks everything happens for a reason, and, often, opportunities just come into your life at the right time. I spent a long time researching to make sure I was doing the right course and would be the best I could for my patients. Holding back and asking lots of questions was important for me to make sure I was making the right decision, because, at the end of the day, it was a huge life-changing decision that wasn’t just going to affect me but my daughter too.
My advice to anyone in the same boat would be to build a community as quickly as you can and start connecting with people. Go onto Instagram, find some of the big, inspirational people in the industry, and interact. Find Facebook groups that work for you. I joined loads of Facebook groups, initially, and ended up whittling it down to just a few that were relevant to me and my way of working. Slowly but surely you end up building up conversations with people and I’ve ended up making some good virtual friends who I’ve been able to ask questions to. It’s nice to have that support network.
What are your main goals and aspirations for the future?
My ten year plan is to start off my first clinic before building up to a couple of clinics, where I can work but also employ other practitioners as well. Then, I’d like to also teach in-clinic - offering mentoring days to practitioners who want to refresh their knowledge or learn new skills and techniques. I’ve always been really interested in teaching - even at med school, I did my elective in medical education, spending six weeks teaching nurse practitioners. It’s a big part of what I enjoy doing.
That sounds like a great plan to work towards! All the best with it. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Dr Malaika!