Steven Dayan, MD, double board-certified plastic surgeon in Chicago, IL, had a very specific plan while in medical school — and it all stemmed from one man. “Within my community, there was a neurosurgeon who I respected a lot,” says Dr. Dayan. “He had a big practice and he seemed like a very impressive, prominent person.” According to Dr. Dayan, this man had it all: a beautiful house with a pool, a Ferrari®, and a gorgeous daughter. “I had it all figured out. I was to take over his practice, get his house, his car, and I was going to marry his daughter.” Spoiler: this plan did not pan out.
“I called this neurosurgeon up and I said, ‘I'm going to go into neurosurgery. Can you help me decide where to go?’” To Dr. Dayan’s utter shock, this man launched into a full explanation of why Dr. Dayan shouldn’t go into neurosurgery, causing him to completely re-evaluate his original goals. So, he became more open-minded towards the idea of venturing into a different specialty while in medical school. Eventually, he landed on plastic surgery, which ended up being a natural fit for him.
Today, Dr. Dayan is inspiring new generations of medical students. He’s a professor and a successful plastic surgeon with his own practice. He’s a published author with a New York Times® bestselling book (which was rejected 13 times before being picked up by a publisher — he says it was harder to write than getting through medical school!). When he’s not treating patients, you can find him traveling across the globe, from the Amazon rainforest to Kyoto, Japan. He also runs his own charity foundation called the Enhance Foundation℠ which provides opportunities (like interning at his practice) to kids from Chicago public schools.
With so many projects and programs on his plate, including being one of the plastic surgeons that helped develop IT CosmeticsTM; (not to mention his responsibility for treating patients and caring for his three children!), it’s hard to believe that Dr. Dayan has the same 24 hours in a day that the rest of us have. We sat down with the spirited doctor to learn more about his background, his many ventures, and his favorite products. (Oh, and if you were wondering if he ever married the neurosurgeon’s daughter, the answer is no — however, she’s now his patient.)
Spotlyte: Tell me about your background. What made you want to become a doctor?
Dr. Steven Dayan: Medicine chose me. I knew from a young age that I was going to be a doctor. I was the kid who liked dissecting frogs and things like that. But also, my mom was sick. She got multiple sclerosis at a young age. And my father was sick also. Medicine was a natural draw for me. I always wanted to help people.
Spotlyte: What caused you to specifically choose plastic surgery?
SD: I always knew I liked plastics. It was something I really enjoyed. I was a sculptor with clay, so I always had an enormous amount of creativity. It was a natural fit. It's the last area of medicine where you can really use your creativity. And patients choose you, but not because they’re on some insurance plan that you accept. You have to prove yourself to them first.
Spotlyte: What’s a regular day for you at work?
SD: For me, there's no typical day. My practice is quite unusual. Half of the time I'm on the road: traveling, teaching, or lecturing around the world. I love to write, and that's a big part of what I do. [The people at] my practice also do a lot of research. So, I'm a clinical investigator, and I do many clinical trials for new approvals for drugs and devices. I enjoy doing that.
Spotlyte: How often do you operate?
SD: I operate one to two days a week. I do a lot of facial plastic surgery, so it’s things like rhinoplasty, facelift, blepharoplasty, fat transfer, and laser resurfacing. Those are common surgical procedures. On my days in the office, where I see patients all day long, I'll be doing injectables. It’s back-to-back [patients] for injectable fillers and injectable wrinkle reducers.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.]
Spotlyte: Tell me more about your role as a teacher in the plastic surgery community.
SD: Education is a big part of what I do, and I'm very passionate about it. I'm a professor at the University of Illinois. I also have a fellowship program with a fellow who is in his postgraduate after residency. He wants to go into facial plastic surgery, so I train him, as well. I also spent seven years at DePaul University teaching an undergraduate course in the science of beauty and its impact on culture and business in America.
Spotlyte: What is the most important thing you hope to convey to those you teach?
SD: I teach not to focus on beauty, but to focus on making people more attractive. [Plastic surgeons] don't make people beautiful. If you focus on beauty, you fail. In plastic surgery, our aim is not to make people more beautiful, it's to make them more attractive. So, I distinguish between those two [to my students].
Spotlyte: What is the difference between beauty and attractiveness?
SD: Being beautiful is something that I believe is primary, raw, and subconscious. It's not something you think about. When you see something beautiful, you feel it. It's nature's way of indicating good genes, health, and wellness. Attractiveness is dynamic and requires two parts: someone to project it and someone to receive it. Attractiveness is self-esteem, genuineness, and beauty. So, if I can increase beauty and self-esteem, if I can maintain genuineness — which means authenticity when you look at someone — then I can expand their attractiveness. I teach not to focus on beauty but to focus on making people more attractive.
Spotlyte: You post a lot of videos teaching about in-office treatments. Do you think it’s important for doctors to use the internet to educate the public on cosmetic procedures?
SD: There's a big unknown in medicine, and we fear the unknown. In my opinion, doctors don't do a good enough job of dispelling the unknown so that patients aren't afraid. One of the best ways for me to dispel the unknown — so patients aren't nervous or concerned — is to show them and explain to them in simple terms [via video] what we're doing and why.
Spotlyte: Do you personally get any in-office treatments?
SD: I get platelet-rich plasma injected into my scalp. It's been my experience that if I [have it injected] into my scalp, hair grows.
Spotlyte: What products do you recommend to your family?
SD: I am strict about them wearing sunscreen, of course, at an SPF of 15 or higher. Other than that, I bring home samples [of products from my office] for my three daughters. They all use moisturizers. Right now my favorite brands are SkinMedica®, PCA Skin®, and SkinBetter Science®. Environ® is also popular in our office.
I'm an avid adventurer. I like exploring new areas, new ideas, and new territories. Anything that needs to be explored, I will look deeper into.
Spotlyte: What do you like to do outside of your career in plastic surgery?
SD: I'm an avid adventurer. I'm an explorer. I like exploring new areas, new ideas, and new territories. Anything that needs to be explored, I will look deeper into. So, you will find me on a different continent, climbing a mountain or trekking a volcano pretty much every month. Next week, I am going to Fiji for the International Date Line. It travels all through water except for one part of land where it crosses Fiji. I'm going to camp out on the Date Line, cross over at midnight, live the same day twice and write about it. I often write about philosophy and history and how these relate to aesthetics.
Spotlyte: Do your passions affect your work at all?
SD: My passions completely affect my work and there's no doubt they make me a better plastic surgeon. I have a niche of people who follow my writings. They're very philosophical in nature. Yes, I can talk about the specifics of how many units [of injectable wrinkle reducer] to put into a wrinkle or where exactly to put the filler, but that's not what interests me as much. The why behind what we do is much more interesting.
Dr. Steven Dayan is a paid Allergan® consultant.
SkinMedica® is an Allergan-owned product line.