How To Be Beautiful- Tips From a Dermatologist

How to be beautiful? Learn from dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin

Self-care is more than just a buzzword. At the heart of a skincare routine is an emphasis on wellbeing. Practising your skincare ritual daily is self-care in action.

Behind this is the science of the brain-skin connection, an area increasingly studied by dermatologists. From the impact of psychological stress on skin disorders, to how your thoughts and emotions can imprint on your face over time, Dr. Teo Wan Lin sheds light on this fascinating realm in this week’s podcast episode. Interested in becoming more beautiful? Tune in to find out why Dr. Teo thinks we should harness the power of the brain in the art of becoming beautiful with age.

Hi guys and welcome to today’s episode of Dermatologist Talks Science of Beauty. I’m Dr. Teo Wan Lin and we are already at the end of January of 2022. Here in Singapore, we are celebrating the Lunar New Year this coming week. 

Previous episode recap: Home Facial Devices

Well, in the last podcast episode, I spoke a little bit about my thoughts on skincare trends for 2022. Specifically, I discussed how home devices powered by in-office technologies will continue to play a dominant role in the home self-care skincare routine market. We’ve covered the reasons why many skincare devices purchased end up being white elephants on your vanity table. Perhaps, there are some considerations that can help us when we decide what to purchase. If you’ve missed that episode, be sure to catch up on that. I’ve included the link in my podcast transcript. 

Harnessing the Brain-Skin Connection 

Well, I’m sure today’s podcast title caught your attention. How to be beautiful. Who doesn’t want to be beautiful, but just how? Here’s a clue: what I am about to share has nothing to do with aesthetic enhancements or surgery. It has everything to do with how your brain the centre of all perception, perceives your own beauty. In this episode, I’m going to talk about harnessing the brain skin connection, which I feel can be the secret of ageing in reverse. I will be sharing on acne excoriee, a fairly common but little known subtype of acne. This condition shows how the brain can affect even adolescent skin. I’m also going to share about fascinating psychodermatological conditions. For example, delusions of parasitosis. This is where sufferers are otherwise psychologically normal but are plagued with intrusive beliefs of being infested with parasites. 

Anti-age your face with your mind.
On thoughts, emotions, facial expressions:

The face carries emotional residue from expressive experiences that reveal current, previous, or chronic emotional states – the rationale for how accurate person-perception occurs by facial assessment alone. While aesthetic interventions can alter the perception of a neutral aged face, predominant facial expressions throughout the individual’s lifetime undoubtedly play a role to “freeze” the neutral aged visage — Excerpt from
Teo WL. On thoughts, emotions, facial expressions, and aging. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Feb 9. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15443.

How to be beautiful inside out 

I’m sure you have heard it said before that beauty starts from the inside. It’s a common term that describes a virtuous sort of beauty -inner beauty in many cultures. In my position paper on the brain skin connection On thoughts, emotions, facial expressions and ageing, which was published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2021¹. I talk about how harnessing and understanding the brain skin connection can help us in our pursuit of anti-ageing. In cosmetic dermatology where we emphasize interventions, it is another angle to approach the subject of ageing given that we express our thoughts and emotions on our faces via facial expressions. Also, we can intricately link these to our psychological wellbeing, which in turn determines the health of our skin. 

Lifestyle interventions is an example of emphasising beauty inside out

We’ve heard a lot about self care in the last two years. Primarily, because of the psychological effects of a prolonged pandemic. Also, it could have been a sentiment that was building up due to the intensity of urban lifestyles, which I feel may not be psychologically sustainable for many of us. The stress of city living primarily boils down to the effects of high levels of noise pollution, the environmental pollutants present due to the particulate matter emitted from industries. Besides that, the attraction of nightlife in the city which disrupts the circadian rhythm. Also, prolonged working hours in a very hectic city lifestyle is typical. That, plus the psychological stress of simply keeping up with a very fast pace of living. 

Learnin’ a thing or two from the ageless bonsai 🌳.

The 2021 reformulated Sensorial 360° Amino Acid Masque @drtwlderma harnesses antioxidant properties of 17 natural floral extracts with precious propolis to reverse inflammaging, improve skin radiance, while providing aromatherapy effects for a calming sensorial, self-care experience.
*Clinically tested in a dermatology practice to calm inflammation and stabilise the skin microbiome for sensitive skin, eczema, rosacea and acne skin types.

Wearing LIPISILK™ natural protein-rich cocoon silk wrap for deep hair conditioning & Anti-Aging Kimono in CUIONS™ Gold 

The idea of self care and psychological wellness may seem to be intuitive for our overall wellbeing. Via our understanding of how psychological stress and lifestyle factors affect skin conditions, I believe we can take it a step further.

Intelligent Beauty: How to think and be beautiful

There is a realm of research delving into the brain skin connection. Research in the field of neuroaesthetics is essentially the study of how aesthetic experiences via specific neural pathways can lead to an overall improvement in psychological wellbeing which impacts physical health. Conversely, conjuring up aesthetic experiences from within may affect our thoughts and emotions. What is termed as psychological wellness and wellbeing ultimately translates into visible facial expressions. What some may consider the ‘vibe’ of the individual very often has to do with the mental and emotional state of the individual. 

As a dermatologist, my interest is really in terms of harnessing the science behind what society considers is beautiful, and marrying that with the art of being beautiful. My personal position is that we can cultivate the two. That has nothing to do with aesthetic interventions or altering one’s physical features. Rather, it has to be age proof – meaning that these qualities should not decay with biological age. It can instead withstand the test of time. As maturity and practice do to many things, so beauty can in fact become more effortless and evermore enchanting as one grows older. Does this sound too good to be true? My key ideas are published in a research letter in a peer-reviewed scientific journal for those who are interested in this subject¹.

How to be beautiful – by thinking and feeling beauty

What I term the art of expression as an accompaniment to the science of beauty refers to facial expressions that ultimately imprint on our faces as wrinkles as we mature. It continues to fascinate me as a scientific observer of the impact of human psychology and personality on the ageing face. My personal take on this is that it ultimately becomes an interconnected feedback mechanism. Our thoughts, emotions, dynamic facial expressions, ultimately becoming static with age. 

We can choose the face we age with

The idea that we can choose the face we age with isn’t so mythical after all. The concept of self care, in particular, is very relevant in terms of our study of the brain skin connection. Psychological stress is well known to impact the evolution and behaviour of many dermatological conditions. For example, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other types of immune-related skin disorders. Dermatologists have researched the overlapping fields of psychiatry and dermatology, traditionally via a subspecialty known as psychodermatology.

The brain and the skin -“psychological” skin conditions

In fact, the classical textbook condition that we see in psychodermatology is a condition known as acne excoriee. This is known in French as acne excoriee des jeunes filles. Its etymological roots belie the origins of a condition afflicting adolescent females. Literally translating into the acne excoriation of young girls. This condition disproportionately affects young teenage girls, apparently because of pre-existing psychological factors. It is a classic example of how the brain impacts your skin via certain compulsions that are a result of a dysregulated perception of acne. 

I’ve covered this in detail with an entire chapter dedicated to the phenomenon of acne excoriee in my new book launch: The Acne Care Bible. It is available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Apple books.

The Acne Care Bible: Dermatologist’s Tips for Acne Treatment & Prevention is a comprehensive review of the causes of physiologic and adult acne. It is written for sufferers of adult acne, teenagers, as well as parents of teenagers who may want to equip themselves with knowledge on how to prepare their children for the start of puberty. 
“Blind pimples”-the potential harm of beauty myths

Belief is a potent driving force of our actions. In the case of acne excoriee, it is literally the cause of a potentially scarring dermatological condition. We can trace the fascinating root cause of such behaviours of excoriating your pimple to a beauty myth of blind pimples. This illustrates to the potential harm of beauty misconceptions. Many well-meaning beauty writers have asked me how we should treat blind pimples differently. The question itself is very fascinating because we do not really distinguish between blind pimples and other types of pimples. 

How to be beautiful: use a pimple cream to treat blind pimples
The Blemish Spot Cream is a power-packed dermatologist pimple cream. Formulated using bioactive plant extracts to quickly reduce and inhibit spot inflammation.

The very description of a pimple being ‘blind’ can convey the impression to the layperson that these pimples ought to be extracted in some way. Truly, this is the commonest treatment sought by many individuals suffering from various types of acne. The truth is that if you try to extract any sort of acne bump or pimple, it actually leads to more scarring and infection. It does not at all treat the underlying condition. The blind pimple beauty misconception essentially leads individuals to think that they need to extract or expel the contents of the acne bump in some way since it’s not coming out naturally. 

How to be beautiful inside out- not when you are squeezing blind pimples!

These are actually closed comedones that contain keratinous material or debris. These subsequently may become inflamed and infected, leading to your angry red pimple or an acne papule or cyst. The precise danger of such a beauty misconception is that it directly promotes the belief that leads to acne excoriee. This actually supports sufferer’s behaviour of trying to excoriate and to dig their pimples. In the case of this condition, acne excoriee, it’s very often the sole driving factor of their worsening acne condition.

Most sufferers actually only have mild physiologic acne, which is why it occurs in adolescents. Many of them do not have strong genetic risk factor for developing acne. But because of their compulsion to physically dig and excoriate their acne bumps, the attempt to remove the contents of the acne is what drives the ongoing inflammation, infection and scarring.

How to help acne excoriee
@drteowanlin New book launch @amazon @drtwlderma #acnecare #healthy #skincare #pimpletreatment #fyp #foryou #foryourpagechallenge ♬ Say So (Instrumental Version) [Originally Performed by Doja Cat] – Elliot Van Coup

In line with our topic today on how to be beautiful inside out, it’s timely for us to drop a reminder that it’s certainly not the case when you’re trying to squeeze blind pimples. What instead helps is counselling the individual suffering from acne excoriee about the cause and effect of their actions. Specifically, what they are perceiving on their face and the actions that follow which ultimately causes their condition to get worse. Importantly, this is a very simple example of how the impact of the brain on the skin is relevant even in youth. This is because there is such a strong connection between how your mind chooses to perceive what you see. As well as how you eventually react to it as an emotional response. This eventually leads to a biological disease state. 

Steps on how to be beautiful by using hydrocolloid patches
The Hydrocolloid Vanish Patch helps to reduce scarring, increases absorption, and provides a moist wound healing environment for quick healing of inflamed acne. It is also suitable for treatment of maskne as it prevents touching, provides a moist wound-healing environment, and forms a protective barrier to prevent irritation from the mask.
The brain creates delusions of parasitosis… of the skin

Need more proof on how the brain and the skin are connected? I want to share about a very fascinating condition known as delusions of parasitosis. This is another classic example of how the brain skin connection can ultimately be the cause of a physically visible skin condition. It is also why I believe that we can harness this same brain-skin connection to the benefit of our skin health.

Delusions of parasitosis is actually a condition whereby the sufferer is plagued by persistent obsessions of their skin being colonised or being infested with parasites- worms, spiders. It’s a very interesting condition. These patients are otherwise psychologically well and do not have other features of psychiatric conditions. This is actually a key diagnostic feature in this condition delusions of parasitosis. 

The way these individuals present is very unique as well. They have this typical set of symptoms. For example, bringing to the physician boxes or little containers with what they believe are the infestations. But truly, there are little bits of dead skin or dust particles. I used to see quite a number of DOP patients when I did my residency training and dermatology at the National Skin Centre in Singapore. It was very disturbing to see how these otherwise fully normal functioning individuals would end up having various skin lesions because of their attempts at excoriating or removing these perceived infestations. They were essentially self mutilating as a result of this condition. 

Summing up

Why is self care important? We cover the evidence behind how the brain is intricately connected to our skin. Also, how self-care skincare is a upcoming 2022 beauty trend. The next time you decide to invest in self-care, know that it is not just for a moment of psychological wellbeing. In fact, it could be protective in terms of your long-term physical health and definitely on your skin health.


Teo WL. On thoughts, emotions, facial expressions, and aging. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Feb 9. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15443.

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