Dr. Bibi Ghalaie is a renowned cosmetic physician and the founder and Medical Director of the Dr Bibi Clinic at 10 Harley Street. When she’s not busy administering anti-wrinkle injections and dermal filler treatments, she works as an NHS doctor in the Accident & Emergency Department.
Recently, Dr. Bibi has been working on a Cleft Lip Initiative, a programme in which she helps to treat the aesthetic outcome of individuals who have a cleft lip or cleft palate as a complimentary service. As we take a deep dive into lips, and everything that makes them unique, we have interviewed Dr. Bibi about her incredible work and what made her decide to start such a programme.
Dr Bibi, please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am of Iranian origin. I grew up in the United States and was educated there and in the UK, where I obtained my degrees in Medicine & Surgery at Imperial College London.
I am now a cosmetic physician with 14 years of clinical and academic experience in Aesthetic Medicine. In 2021 I founded my own boutique Aesthetic Clinic at 10 Harley Street in London, the Doctor Bibi Clinic, where my focus is on subtle results achieved with Teoxane dermal fillers, anti-wrinkle injections, medical grade skincare and automated skin needling devices. I also work as a doctor in Accident & Emergency for the NHS and I am a clinical lecturer in Aesthetic Medicine, as a Regional Expert for Teoxane and as a Clinical Lead for Acquisition Aesthetics. For 8 years I was the Lead Lecturer in Aesthetic Medicine for the RCGP and at the Royal Society of Medicine.
I speak fluent Persian, English and French and I love to travel. My favourite holiday destinations thus far have been Brazil, Japan (where I spent my honeymoon) and Thailand. One of my passions is cooking Persian cuisine, which is a real labour of love, and my other passion is eating Japanese cuisine. I have recently had a baby girl who is just a few months old, and who has completely taken over my entire heart.
You’re certainly incredibly busy! So, how did you get into the aesthetics industry?
After finishing medical school, I was keen to become a surgeon. I wanted to specialise in reconstructive breast surgery. When sitting interviews in 2006 for a surgical rotation, I wanted to show that I had dexterity. I decided to enrol on a training course for Botulinum toxin and dermal fillers. Back then aesthetics was not recognised as a formal specialty and did not hold the regard and recognition that it does today. The training was haphazard and difficult to obtain. Some months after I completed these courses and began practising, I had progressed so rapidly in my clinical skills that the organisation I had trained with requested that I lecture for them. I lectured there for over a year and then decided to set up my own training courses with a GP colleague and a colleague plastic surgeon. These courses ran at the RCGP and RSM for nearly 8 years and were incredibly in demand. We had a 6 month waiting list and overall I trained over 3000 medics in the UK during this time. From my passion in aesthetic academia, my clinical practice also grew. I established an aesthetic department within an existing dental clinic on Harley Street, and subsequently became Medical Director of a neighbouring aesthetic clinic on Wimpole Street. In 2021, with a very loyal and growing patient database, I decided to establish my own aesthetic clinic, the Doctor Bibi Clinic. It was the best career decision I have ever made. Soon after this, I joined the Faculty for Teoxane UK as a Regional Expert. In the last 18 months I have been named one of the Top Injectors in the UK by multiple publications including Tatler, Grazia, Hello! and Sheerluxe.
Impressive Dr Bibi! You started your cleft lip initiative recently. Can you talk us through it? Why did you feel that this was an important initiative to start?
Individuals born with cleft lip and palate have a gap or split in the upper lip and/or roof of the mouth (the palate), present from birth. Affected individuals can be born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both. If the lip is affected, it may affect one side or if there are two clefts then it can affect both sides of the upper lip. The deformity occurs as a result of the face not joining together normally during embryological development in the womb. A cleft lip and palate is the most common facial birth defect in the UK, affecting 1 in every 700 babies.
It can cause a whole series of secondary complications including difficulty eating and chewing, hearing problems, dental problems and speech and language problems. Treatment usually involves surgery at 3-6 months of age to repair a cleft lip and surgery at 6-12 months to repair a cleft palate. Unfortunately the surgery is often purely functionally corrective. What I mean by this is that the operation serves to close the lip splits and the gap in the palate but does not focus on the aesthetic of the lip. Hence, when these children grow into adults, they are almost invariably left with an abnormal lip aesthetic. The contour, symmetry and volume of the lip are significantly affected. Once the cleft is repaired and the functionality has been restored, these individuals are not offered further cosmetic procedures on the NHS, so they continue into their adolescent and adult lives with lips that look and feel aesthetically abnormal. This can cause a whole host of secondary concerns, including body dysmorphia, anxiety, dysfunctional social interactions, and low mood/depression.
Lip enhancements are the most popular treatment I perform at my clinic, after wrinkle reducing injections. I have trained with some of the top injectors in the country and internationally. In A&E I often treat lip injuries, and in my past surgical experience I have operated on lip cases. My lip enhancement technique is a culmination of this diverse training. At my clinic, I often treat complex lip cases and I also regularly treat complications referred to me from other clinics. As such, it was a natural progression to start treating congenital lip deformities.
The Doctor Bibi Cleft Lip Initiative is a philanthropic effort that I am very proud of. I established it largely as a means of giving back to my profession and to the public. Whilst I have made every effort to keep Doctor Bibi Clinic accessible to all, there are individuals who may wish to have cosmetic procedures done and do not have the means to do so.
Aesthetic medicine is not only very competitive but it is a whirlwind industry. It is easy to become self-absorbed and lost in the chaos of the daily grind and of making a profitable business. I wanted to take a step back and find a way of using my skillset against a wider awareness of social conscience. The Doctor Bibi Cleft Lip Initiative enables patients with cleft lip to be treated free of charge at my clinic.
Patients with cleft lip book in with me themselves or are often referred in to me by colleagues or by their relatives or friends. After an initial assessment to ensure the candidate is appropriate for treatment, I apply topical anaesthetic to the patient’s lips and then spend a great deal of time talking through the procedure with them. We will discuss what they wish to achieve and what goals are important for them with respect to the treatment. I then carry out a lip enhancement using Teoxane dermal filler, specifically RHA Kiss or RHA 3 or sometimes both. Often the patient will need more than one treatment session, sometimes three in total. In this way, I gradually build up volume, whilst addressing the asymmetry and defining the contour of the lip.
The entire process is complimentary, from the consultation, to the treatment, the aftercare and any follow-ups.
I am really happy that my work has been publicised in Hello! Magazine and on their online platform. This has helped to raise awareness of the initiative and I am now treating cleft lip patients from all over the UK and Ireland, and even from further abroad.
It’s amazing to hear your story behind the Initiative. Can you talk us through a recent case study in which you used Teoxane products to help to correct the appearance of a cleft lip?
I recently treated a high profile individual with cleft lip. She had had numerous surgical procedures on the NHS and, despite seeing several plastic surgeons, she had never been given the option to have her lips aesthetically corrected. This was not even discussed with her at any stage. Hence, she had no idea that any improvement could be made, let alone knowing how to go about obtaining the right treatment. One of my existing patients heard about The Doctor Bibi Cleft Lip Initiative and forwarded my details to her. She then booked in with me and brought her sister along to the appointment for moral support.
On initial assessment, this patient’s lips were functionally normal. In other words, she could speak, eat, chew and purse her lips normally. However the aesthetic was abnormal.
There was an inequality between the volume of the upper lip on the right side and left side, and the contour of the lip was such that one side rested much higher than the other. This meant that whenever she applied lipstick or lip liner, she would have difficulty and would have to overcorrect in order to create a seeming symmetry, which she desperately craved.
The scars from her surgeries extended into the pink of the lip, meaning the lip was hard, indurated and tense in that area. Moreover, when she would smile, the asymmetry and abnormal contour was exacerbated. She told me that she was very conscious of her smile, as a result.
This patient was very nervous and I did indeed spend a long time reassuring her, explaining the procedure and taking her consent. I advised on how I predicted her lips would look following the treatment and what possible complications could arise.
Once the numbing cream had taken effect and the patient was happy to proceed, I carried out my signature lip enhancement using a combination of Teoxane RHA Kiss and RHA 3. The results were immediate. When I handed her the mirror, she was very emotional and soon enough there were tears in both her eyes and in mine. She was really satisfied. She said she had been spent years wishing her lips looked ‘normal’ and now she had her dream lips. She felt she no longer had to be self-conscious about the look of her lips and mouth. As a makeup lover, she said she could not wait to go home and experiment with different lipsticks and that applying lip liner would no longer be so difficult.
This patient has since returned and has had a second treatment with me to gradually build volume and to facilitate longevity of her results.
Although I had warned the patient that there could be some bruising and excessive swelling initially, she did not have any significant complications. She remains very happy with her treatment results and was so satisfied with the process overall that she has recommended me to several other individuals with cleft lip and they have since booked in.
The Doctor Bibi Cleft Palate Initiative is a wonderful example of how dermal fillers can improve a person’s self-esteem and confidence. At Teoxane, we believe in a world where everyone has a right to look and feel their very best self, by defining their own vision of beauty. We strongly trust that a small act of beauty done in the right place can have a huge impact on your life.
If you would like to find out more about Dr Bibi, you can visit her Instagram, here.