The Story of Beauty

The Science of Beauty
I would like to tell you a story about nature, beauty, time and agelessness.
As you find yourself mesmerised by this infinitely regenerating visual – a fractal generated by an infinite mathematical equation known as the Mandelbrot set – it is my hope you will develop compassion for your inner being.
Beauty in nature is coded by her Creator as a fractal- in the infinite repeating patterns of trees, rivers and flowers, providing symmetry, geometry yet they are never the same.
My story of beauty is one that evolved from that of self-criticism to that of self-compassion and acceptance. In this- I hope that you too, may find beauty.
– Dr. Teo Wan Lin

“Everyone is born beautiful. We tell that to a child born with a birthmark and to one without. Who are we to judge, beauty?”

Learn directly from our founder, Dr. Teo Wan Lin, board certified dermatologist in this series of digital skincare masterclasses to fine tune your skincare regimen. FREE sign-ups for the first episode of Dr.TWL digital skincare masterclass with additional full size sunblock for first 50. Register here.

Ironic as it seems, as Dr. Teo is today widely considered a judge on all things science, beauty and skincare. Yet, it is her firm belief that the concept of beauty itself is not for any one of us to define. This is especially in the consumerist manner portrayed in modern society. As a credible voice in the world of science and beauty, she hopes to advance her personal ideals of inclusivity, embracing individuality over a societally-dictated aesthetic ideal. She strongly believes in emotional healing and conscious living as the basis of beauty, focussing on the science of skin health. 

Today, she hopes to use her unique position to empower and influence perceptions of health and beauty.

“Kindness radiates out of one’s face, wrinkles or not. Everyone also deserves to feel beautiful, without being told they are not.”

An Unconventional Journey into Beauty

From being a former model to now dermatologist and skincare innovator, Wan Lin shares about the cut-throat business of beauty from her perspective, molded by her personal journey.

Starting Behind the Scenes 

Wan Lin was first signed by the former Elite Models Singapore at the age of 19 while awaiting entry to medical school. Represented by top agency AVE during her modelling career of over 5 years, she was featured in numerous beauty editorials/advertorials including Her World, CITA BELLA, Shape, Cleo, URBAN, Style Weddings, as well as in print/commercial advertisements for Maybelline, Kose, Fresh Kon, Tiger Beer, CapitaLand Malls, Citibank, Singtel, amongst others. She was also featured in a regional campaign for Sony Ericsson Hong Kong/China in 2006.

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Contrary to public perception of the ‘unrealistic’ beauty and fashion industry, as a former model and now a dermatologist, I hope I can say this in my personal capacity. The universal perspective of beauty has always been ‘natural’ beauty-or more correctly said, authentic beauty. If you are trying to be someone you are not, the cracks will show and no matter how much makeup or clothes you wear, it isn’t attractive. 

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My Definition of Beauty

In my recollection, my definition of beauty when I was younger was rather different from what it is today. It may seem surprising but when I first entered the world of modelling at the age of 19, I had the idea that it was all about glamorous makeup and fashion, and of course, the model being at the centre of attention. While that may be true on camera, what I learnt in my modelling journey was different. The things that really mattered the most was the behind the scenes work ethic and collaborative spirit of the team.

The model being at the centre of attention? A completely false and dangerous idea which I quickly realised. In fact, I witnessed the tragic fate of fellow models who bought that. Rather, the model on set was to be the most cooperative and easy to work with. They also have to be versatile, adaptable as well as the most highly scrutinised member of the team.

Beauty as Art or a Produced Image?

Beauty Shot
Photo by Ren D’vila

It’s funny then, how it could have shaped my idea of beauty as it is today. In the world of magazines, beauty was literally a produced image involving an entire team working tirelessly behind the scenes—the creative director, the makeup artist, the hair stylist, the photographer, the entire team of assistants, and then finally the model who presents the final image of beauty. Hundreds of poses to just get a single final image is the norm. Even then, I was considerably much stiffer when I had begun shooting beauty then later on when I had gained more experience. Also a young adult then,  I did have on-off minor acne breakouts and it definitely made me a lot more self-conscious at castings and jobs.

So from that perspective, I learnt, above all, about humility. It’s funny because I did realise a lot of people in medical school (that were not personally acquainted with me) who thought I had to be full of myself because I was a ‘model’.  On the contrary, most of the models I knew and myself included were far from this imagined narcissistic self-love that models had (there has to be some I guess but not super prevalent in ‘real’ working models) simply because all of us faced rejection most of the time and you really get to see how much work goes into making ‘you’ look good enough for the camera.

I guess the good thing was that I learnt early not to take the negative criticisms too hard, and simply encouraged myself to work harder. I would be honest here and share that I simply learnt not to focus too much on my own appearance while still looking after myself- caring for my skin and hair and appearing groomed for castings and jobs. In that respect, I would say that modelling is probably the harshest and best way to put your feet right down on earth.

The Pressures of Beauty

There were certainly casualties along the way in people I knew, friends who got into depression and eating disorders. I remember my first fashion show at Zouk was with a fellow model Nicole Kim. She was just 14 at that time when I was 19. She was in retrospect, rather precocious, a vivacious personality with a quirky mind, and likely a little too young to be unchaperoned.

In retrospect, I did find some of the thoughts she voiced to me rather depressive. It was however nothing too alarming for me at that time. She later went on to become a successful international model and took on the name of Daul, her native Korean name. We lost touch. It was a tragedy that the next time I would hear about her was when I saw her name in the newspapers. That was to learn that she had committed suicide at the age of 20. This was at a time when she was considered to be at the height of her modelling career. It gives me goosebumps to think of this now, a world far away and yet, still clearly imprinted in my memory. 

Authentic Beauty

Authentic Beauty
Photo by Una Zhu

One of the first things my agency taught my 19-year old self was to never, ever, act like a diva either at castings or at jobs because “the industry is so small that I would never find work in Singapore again”. Then, they also told me to keep my skin and hair healthy, my virgin black hair was preferred, not to cut or dye my hair without their permission. Whether it was my booker, casting agent or a client I was interacting with, what no one ever said was to turn up with a face full of makeup, but instead, what I distinctly recall was to always go as bare-skinned and natural as possible, because clients do want to see your skin and the way you look! Sounds intuitive? Not to me at that time because I thought, aren’t models supposed to wear makeup and look glamorous? 

So, the key was to look groomed (with just enough concealer to hide some blemishes or imperfections, some lip balm and mascara) and not with layers of makeup, fake lashes or coloured contact lenses that was just frankly inappropriate. I remember being sent for yearly grooming and etiquette courses from the age of 11 (was likely too rowdy for a little girl) so I grew to appreciate that there was a “standard” of social decorum beyond your physical appearance that communicated respect to others around us. So yes, it’s about displaying confidence, not arrogance.

Being interested enough in those around you without coming across as needy or invasive, and not being so disinterested that you come across as being self-centred. This attitude, I took with me to castings and jobs, where I also learnt along the way, from watching the more experienced models I worked with. Was it a pretense? I don’t think so, rather, it’s a sign that good manners is part of the job, and it’s the same good manners that makes everyone around you feel comfortable. 

This may sound contradictory to what you know about beauty and fashion from the media. However, we are not talking about (tacky) pageants here. I have witnessed the evolution of fashion and beauty over the last decades and one thing, to me, remains constant. Clients and agencies are looking for individuality and character. They want a unique look, and sure you do have to fit certain measurements simply because of the practicality of clothes being made in “sample size”. Looks-wise, it’s not your cookie cutter barbie or ken doll that gets signed on by a proper modelling agency. They are also looking for someone easy to work with. No matter how “beautiful” you are, you will 100% get passed over if you have a diva attitude.

As in art, I found that this perspective of beauty speaks about mankind’s innate love for kindness, authenticity and diversity, much more over the pursuit of an ‘ideal’. Even in commercial work, clients are looking for someone the public can relate to. 

In beauty, radiant and youthful looking skin is key. Ironically, in this aspect a late twenty-something leading a healthy ‘skin-lifestyle’  would easily be chosen over a younger teen model up all night partying and smoking. —— Excerpt from Conscious Beauty, a coffee table book chronicling beauty through the eyes of industry insiders.

Conscious Beauty by Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals stars model-actress Sara Malakul Lane, international burlesque performer Sukki Singapora and dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre Dr. Teo Wan Lin. Feminine beauty as a modern tale told by the girls themselves, through the lens of fashion model-turned photographer Sabrina Sikora.

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Dr. Teo Wan Lin currently practises as a dermatologist in Singapore and is the founder of Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals, a cosmeceutical skincare line formulated for sensitive, problem skin. She is widely regarded as a key opinion leader on cosmeceuticals and skincare/makeup formulation. She is a respected beauty awards judge for multiple men and women’s magazines in Singapore. This is including HerWorld, Singapore Women’s Weekly, Men’s Folio, L’officiel and Daily Vanity.

Dr. Teo has collaborated with Dior Skincare on their Capture Totale Serum Campaign in 2019. She was featured in Dior’s first ever Digital Skincare Talk hosted by Gisele Bundchen and Philip Picardi in 2020. She was also featured in the #InCharge campaign for Diane Von Furstenberg in collaboration with MUSE magazine. In 2019, Dr. Teo fronted the Gilette Venus Sensitive Razor Campaign released in Singapore, explaining the shaving and skincare needs of sensitive skin. She has also collaborated with various skincare brands to create scientific educational material.