I Am Her: Teo Wan Lin On Taking Charge Of Your Own Beauty

What’s your ritual?

Our “I Am Her” series features the female movers and shakers of the industry to learn how femininity and power coincide beautifully and seamlessly together.

“My philosophy as a dermatologist is not to drastically change one's appearance, as I believe that it is our uniqueness and individuality that makes each of us beautiful, rather than have every woman pressured to conform to how the media makes them feel they should look like.” These words, beautifully worded by accredited Singaporean dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin, is precisely why we started our “I Am Her” series: to celebrate and honour women as empowered individuals. This time, Dr. Teo is “Her”.

With the goal to “restore skin health, reverse and slow down the skin aging process”, Dr. Teo’s clinic performs non-invasive customised aesthetic treatments for conditions ranging from pigmentation issues, wrinkles, acne, aging, and hair loss, to medical dermatology diagnoses such as eczema and psoriasis. Couple this up with her proprietary line of specialist dermatologist-grade cosmeceuticals, Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals, designed to help women take charge of their own skin health.

So, does Dr. Teo practise what she preaches? You bet. A day in the life of the dermatologist consists of “a good breakfast filled with anti-oxidant rich food (which is really good for skin) such as raw salads drizzled with olive oil, smoked salmon and my favorite organic soy or almond drink”, and — if she’s not meeting up with friends and family for a meal outside at the end of the day — “a good home-cooked meal with fresh herbs and salads harvested from my aeroponic vertical garden”. A good diet, coupled with good skincare, is how you can easily start taking charge of your own beauty.

Read on as Dr. Teo spills on the definition of good skincare, the three most common skincare myths you should know about, and her 7-Steps to Perfection Skin Ritual.

Fill in the blanks: I am a dermatologist, a former national fencer, and a __________.

Botany enthusiast.

What, exactly, is good skincare?

Good skincare is fundamentally what dermatologists would recommend. It is effective and yet does not irritate skin. It's also not just about moisturising anymore. In this millennia of skincare, dermatologists are concerned with pharmaceutical grade ingredients in skincare that delivers benefits right at home. In my opinion, there are 3 broad components of skincare: gentle yet effective cleansing, repair/anti-ageing (with antioxidant ingredients), and moisturising.

For my own skincare, I personally keep to a fixed regimen of double cleansing including a honey-based cleanser as a natural emulsifier; a stable vitamin C formulation; a specially compounded pure hyaluronic acid serum formula; an emulsion formula as moisturiser (which is oil-based in water that is light enough yet effective for our tropical climate); followed by sunscreen.

What are the top three most common skincare myths we should know about?

Myth 1: Skin problems like pigmentation, acne and sensitive skin can be treated with skincare products and facials.
Almost every brand is boasting a special cleanser or cream that can treat these problems over the counter. The truth is, your skin problem could be a true medical condition of the skin. My advice is, stop self-medicating and applying a bunch of anti-redness or “sensitive skin” products. See a dermatologist as soon as you can because all of the above can be promptly treated with proper medications. This will probably save you a lot of pain, money and regret in the medium to long term.

Myth 2: Scrubs and clay masks.
Dermatologists do not agree with a lot of what beauty companies/aesthetics providers (who are not qualified dermatologists) are telling the public. Scrubbing with harsh beady grains of sand would work if your skin was made of wood, like sandpapering it down. In reality, you do not brighten or “exfoliate’’ your skin. You are causing damage and irritation. Clay masks are also totally unnecessary, even for oily and acne-prone skin types because it’s actually the salicylic acid content in these masks that cause your acne to get better. But it's not without dehydrating your skin and causing facial eczema in the long term. What counts in a skin treatment product is the active ingredient in them. So again, so, do thorough brand research, check the ingredient list of your next bottle, or go with what your dermatologist recommends.

Myth 3: Lower SPF coverage is fine since SPF represents the duration of sun protection, not the quality.
Sun protection isn’t just about beauty; it’s about skin cancers too. A sunscreen should effectively block both UVB and UVA rays, which is possible with an agent that has an SPF of 30 or greater. It is also important that your sunscreen is labelled with the term “broad spectrum”, which means it protects your skin against UVA rays. There are differences between 15, 30, and 50. SPF is measured in the laboratories whereby the amounts applied at 2g/cm2 and this never happens in real life. On top of that, most of us don’t apply sunscreen properly. SPF (sun protection factor) is derived by taking the time it takes you to burn with sunscreen on and dividing it by the time taken for you to burn without sunscreen on. SPF specifically protects against the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that cause sunburn. I would recommend a minimum of SPF 30 for an everyday sunscreen and SPF 50 when outdoors for extended periods of time.

You're the definition of looking good while doing what you do. How do you stay inspired and empowered to make that happen every day?

I am inspired and empowered to look good every day because of the medical knowledge and clinical experience I have as a dermatologist to know what to use on my skin! I have to confess that I am a super minimal person in terms of skincare (also because I am so busy). As a dermatologist, you can trust that I only use what works for my skin and know what is the most efficient.

That’s how I started with the 7-Steps to Perfection Skin Ritual, because that’s essentially what I use on myself every day. The seven steps include the key seven products on the Dr. TWL Transform Skin Ritual, including two from our Ultimate Protection Duo, which consists of a broad-spectrum SPF50 sunscreen as well as a mineral booster to calm skin in our humid climate. The brand philosophy is that every step counts, but we make those steps count. 

Share with us five essentials in your Clozette.

Honestly, my Clozette is always overflowing, literally. Haha. On a figurative yet realistic note, the number one essential I have is my creative space and environment. I surround myself with objects, literature, plants and people who inspire me and allow me space for my own creative pursuits.

What I would carry with me in my bag would be the rest of the four items: my 1% pure hyaluronic acid serum which is compounded by a pharmacist sans parabens or nasty preservatives to keep my skin fresh and dewy in this crazy climate. My SunProtector sunscreen — I reapply this every three hours when I am outdoors and definitely half an hour before going outdoors. I am very particular about sunscreen, guess that’s why I made my own. Another item would be the Mineral Booster which I use to increase absorption of my skincare, hydrate my skin in the middle of the day when I don’t wish to slather on a moisturiser, and also simply for a quick fix to look more refreshed and dewy.

The last item would be my lipstick. It is my makeup essential since I prefer bare skin and just a touch of concealer. My favourite lipstick is Chanel Rouge Allure in INSAISSISABLE. I usually don’t do anything pink, but this feels like a raw edgy pink, with a surprising hint of orange. It compliments my skin tone.

Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals is having an Instagram contest to find the global face of their brand. Join the search here and stand to win $3000 worth of cosmeceutical skincare, feature in their global campaign, and a two-year international modelling contract with Basic Models Management.

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