My Regime - Dianna Li

I’m often asked who are the women that inspire me. My answer is always the same, it's my clients. I’m in such a fortunate position to know and share in the everyday stories of some truly remarkable women.

One of these women is Dianna. By way of an introduction, I’m actually not going to say too much - I’ll let Dianna speak in her own words. I’ll just say that this is the sort of story I’ve wanted to do for a long time, she’s an inspiring person to know, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity of sharing it with you here. MG x

Dianna Li

Neurosurgeon, Westmead Childrens’ Hospital

Sydney Australia.

“ I was born in China and came out to Australia when I was 8. I attended school here in Sydney and medical school at 17 years of age at Melbourne University.

“Six years of medical school later I became a junior general hospital resident doctor back in Sydney and concurrently completed a masters of surgery at Sydney university. I became interested in neurosurgery as a specialty in 2010. It is difficult to get onto the 6 year training program. In Australia, New Zealand and Singapore combined they choose 10 people a year. I failed many times, but eventually got on. Girls are far outnumbered by boys. Last year no women got onto the neurosurgical program. I have three more years of training left. In total there are around 55 neurosurgery trainees in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and we all know each other. It's such a small world.

“I chose neurosurgery for multiple reasons. I love the heightened energy of emergency lifesaving scenarios, and the challenging technical and clinical side of brain and spine surgery. But more than anything this line of work allows me to externalise my focus and intentions, which has made me a more empathetic and happy person. Interestingly being in a consistently challenging environment has taught me how to process failures constructively and never personally, a skill I lacked as a younger girl.”

My Regime - Dianna Li

What is the first thing that you do in the morning?

My body clock usually ensures I wake just before my alarm rings, so the first thing I do is to disable the potential alarm.

What is your morning skincare regime?

Lait VIP O2 Cleanser from Biologique Recherche followed by Skin Medica’s TNS Essential Serum, a product I love both for its velvety feel and immediate results. I always finish with Actinica SPF 50+ sunscreen.

What is your evening skincare regime?

Cosmedix Purity Exfoliating Cleanser by itself or mixed with the Purity Detox Scrub every three days, followed by sparse application of Cosmedix Elite Serum 24 every other day. I moisturize with the SkinMedica Dermal Repair Cream and eye cream.

What’s the last thing that you do before going to sleep?

Highly variable, but I confess probably mostly checking social media or reading neurosurgical texts, neither of which are particularly sleep-friendly!

What are the three skincare products you can’t be without?

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. In that order.

What are the three makeup products that you can’t be without?

When going out I always use my Laura Mercier eyeliner and NARS navy eye shadow, with false lashes if the occasion calls!

Favourite body products?

I mix Bio-Oil with QV moisturiser when my skin gets dry in winter.

Do you have any favourite skin or beauty secrets or tricks?

Adaptive stress management skills are my most unglamorous but important beauty secret. A chronic stress response, even if not behaviourally evident, can expedite the ageing process through complex biological pathways.

For me moderate physical exercise is an effective and accessible stress reduction tool.

I had pretty bad adult acne in my mid 20s, and a consistent low GI diet filled with colourful vegetables and good fats was the one thing that helped and eventually restored my complexion.

Favourite tips for travelling?

On the plane I use a rich hydrating transparent face mask such as Sisley Express Flower Gel and drink plenty of water. I don’t drink alcohol before or during a flight.

How do you maintain your skin whilst travelling?

I make skincare a priority and try to ensure travelling does not disrupt my routine. I bring all my products with me from home and try to be mindful of hydration.

What’s your everyday makeup regime?

I either wear no makeup at work or smudge on a bit of eyeshadow just before stepping into the hospital.

What regular treatments do you have to maintain your complexion?

Before meeting Melanie I was fairly new to the ideas behind her clinical beauty approach. But I’ve quickly become a fan of her facials because they yielded immediate and sustained results.

What does your diet look like on a day to day basis?

To maximize sleep, workday mornings are all about efficiency and speed, so it’s usually whole fruits with a big handful of nuts, or anything I can grab and have mess-free in the car if necessary. Workday lunches are vegetarian wraps or roasted sweet potatoes with salad from the staff cafeteria. For dinner I love salmon summer rolls and steamed or stirfried vegetables. I snack on dried fruits, and drink plenty of Chinese green, Oolong, and Puer tea daily. At work meal breaks are not guaranteed, so eating patterns can be erratic. I try my best to be mindful of overeating and undereating.

Do you take any supplements?

I take a probiotic daily, and a multivitamin on days I’m feeling extra righteous.

Beauty Icon?

Audrey Hepburn, a beautiful face is a kind face.

Plans for 2017 and beyond?

Continuing neurosurgical training with mindful intensity. Having some timeout in the South of France with my lovely parents. Bonding with friends as much as physically possible. Staying empathetic, positive, and happy.

What’s one thing that all women should own?

A healthy self esteem.

Tea or coffee?


Favourite flower?

Sweet Osmanthus. It reminds me of autumn in HangZhou, the pretty Chinese city I was born and raised in before moving to Australia in 1993.

Heels or flats?

Flats for the operating room, sensible heels for ward rounds or clinic, insensible heels for a night out.

Bucket list fashion buy?

Zuhair Murad evening gown. His designs are sensational.

Favourite piece of clothing that you own?

A one shouldered black and white floor length silk gown by Lisa Ho. I’ve worn it to multiple events since 2008. It’s timeless and unusually comfortable.

Favourite lipstick?

Dior Lip Maximiser, less a lip colour than a lip enricher. It gives my lips a natural fullness I love.

Reading ...

…a pediatric neurosurgery textbook given as a goodbye gift from a previous boss and mentor. I have a sentimental attachment to it.

Listening to ...

Billy Joel, Bruno Mars, Ben Harper. Unintentional alliteration!

Guilty Pleasure ...

Dried Figs.

I need…

the public perception of surgery being a man’s profession to change.

I want….

the ability to sleep in!