K-beauty books that dive deep into the science of skincare and Korean medifacials—we love! Now a complete box set revised updated for your beautiful beauty bible collection in gorgeous hardback and paperback
With Skin Flooding quite literally flooding our TikTok this week, we introduce the K-Beauty books written by Dr. Teo Wan Lin. The dermatologist and chief scientific officer of cosmeceutical skincare line Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals. She collaborates closely with the Korean cosmeceutical industry to formulate customised topicals. The skincare includes botanical active ingredients that have quasi-drug like effects—with therapeutic effects on skin. Her original research on the skin microbiome and microclimate has been published in top dermatology journals such as the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and the International Journal of Dermatology. Her paper “The Maskne Microbiome” was awarded the top-most downloaded scientific paper by scientific publisher Wiley Blackwell.
We delve deeper into the subject of K-beauty, as well as what inspired her research. She tells us her journey which led to her writing of a book all about K-beauty, as well as practical tips we can take away.
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Welcome to the Beauty Library, where we showcase the best skincare books by board-certified dermatologist and Asian beauty expert Dr. Teo Wan Lin to read to up your beauty game all year round.
Interview With Dr. Teo Wan Lin, Chief Scientific Officer of Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals
Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals, with its unique positioning as a dermatologist-founded brand for universal skin types, bridges the gap between clinical, medical-grade skincare and K-beauty. In this interview, Dr Teo shares her personal journey as a researcher and founder, which culminated in her writing a book filled with insider tips on the world of K-beauty. As chief scientific officer of the clinical skincare line, she works closely with the korean cosmeceutical industry in the biotech headquarters of the brand in Seoul.
What are your thoughts about K-beauty in general and suitability for different skin types?
K-beauty isn’t just run-of-the-mill skincare, Korean dermatologists have actually published much research about cosmeceuticals. Of course there are better brands within K-beauty, but the key really was the gap between a commercial K-beauty brand and one that is clinical skincare. I was familiar with western formulations—medical grade skincare was already being prescribed. However, many of these were retinol or acid based, which tended to irritate skin.
It’s worse in Singapore where I practice, as skin of color tends to develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. In addition, we get high exposure to UV in our tropical weather—that makes AHAs like glycolic acid quite sensitising. Photosensitivity can cause skin inflammation, especially worse after clinical procedures like laser therapy.
K-beauty formulations are first of all, suited for Asian skin types. Which tends to be more prone to inflammation and less tolerant of retinols and acids. This is why the formulations tend to be gentler on skin. This bodes well for dermatology practice—dermatologists are looking for skincare suited for all skin types. That’s considered a universal formula.
Why Asian Beauty Secrets is the K-beauty bible you must read— Dr Teo goes in depth into the various concepts behind K-beauty in skincare and medi-facials. From an insider’s perspective as a dermatologist and also the chief scientific officer of a cosmeceutical skincare line.
Why do you think K-beauty trends like Skin Flooding are popular?
First of all, I think TikTok makes for a rather democratic social media experience—in the sense that everyone now has a platform, as long as you make good content. Instagram did focus on follower counts, which I think is a dead end. Users also like the “real world” experience that TikTok offers, and it’s this touch of humanity that adds veracity to skincare experiences as well.
Skin flooding is quite a good way to describe K-beauty principles—it’s about repairing, restoring barrier function and skin resilience. All these are intricately tied to the skin microbiome and microclimate—at the heart of which is skin health.
What is your experience as a dermatologist working behind the scenes in K-beauty? What are the main differences between K-beauty and other types of skin care?
I do work closely with the Korean cosmeceutical industry as my skincare business has its manufacturing headquarters in Korea; my background as a dermatologist allows me to weigh both the east/west perspectives in balance—my opinion is that Korean cosmeceuticals (clinical/medical grade skincare) are very well formulated in that they target the skin microenvironment.
Mainstream dermatology research is just beginning to emphasise the importance of the skin microclimate and the microbiome—my area of scientific research is in the skin microbiome1, which really took centre stage with maskne in the last couple years.
In my book I explained how K-beauty formulations are unique in that:
- Focus on layering regimens, hence the TikTok trend skin flooding
- Focus on the skin barrier (layering of skincare—moisturisers from serum, lotion/emulsion to face mists)
- Synergistic blend of botanical actives (mostly derived from eastern ethnobotany)
- Broad-spectrum anti-microbial effects of certain extracts to target conditions like acne
- Focus on microbiome health
Add to your collection of beauty bibles and K-beauty books with Asian Beauty Secrets. The latest edition stands out from the rest by offering a dermatologist’s perspective, updated for 2023. She also teaches you how to hack medi-facials with skin devices on a budget and at the fraction of the cost of a clinic facial.
Do you think K-beauty is a more advanced form of skincare?
I wouldn’t say more advanced, but I think they were much more precise at skincare formulations. I wish I didn’t have to say this—but I wonder if there is a certain arrogance in the western-influenced practice of medicine. We call that pharmacology, ad I used to worship it. Until I realised that pharmacology was first found in plants—but maybe physicians in white coats wanted to sound cleverer than… botanists, so they branded themselves such.
On another note, I think the synthetic molecules the korean dermatology community identified were also rapidly incorporated in the skincare. It was effective, and K-beauty took off as K-pop fever did too. And suddenly images of glass-skinned Koreans were all over the globe.
And here in the western-dominated world of dermatology…
While dermatologists were going on about hyaluronic acid—the Koreans were at polyglutamic acid already; its 5 times more hydrating than hyaluronic acid, and as its a large molecule it tends to sit on the surface of skin (and creates some sort of a glassy illusion) which means its also a great humectant that hydrates skin from the inside while preventing water loss to the environment.
Are you a fan of K-beauty products? Learn all about how ethnobotany influenced the development of K-beauty from the asian beauty expert herself. Asian Beauty Secrets is the K-beauty book you must read to get ahead in the beauty game.
What prompted your journey into K-Beauty?
My journey into functional dermatology began in 2016, when I was already in private practice—I suffered from repeated retinoid dermatitis. I had been on retinoids since 2008, and was using high concentrations of 0.05% tretinoin daily for 8 years when suddenly without warning, my skin acted up. I knew what it was—but refused to believe it; it wasn’t supposed to affect me, my skin must have been “hardened” to it after almost a decade of use, and so I persisted, reducing the concentration, increasing moisturiser—skin cycling it was called later in 2022. But when I saw the flaking and redness wasn’t going away, I did finally decide to stop for good.
The international dermatology community wasn’t really into K-beauty at that time—but this was the start of my journey. I was determined to unravel the mystery of what happened to my skin. You see, I was convinced that something else was at work. It wasn’t just about the skin barrier, skin cycling or moisturiser therapy—I’m a patient too.
How did that experience influence your dermatology practice?
If I were to sum it up in a single sentence, it would be….functional dermatology at the heart—of what I do. In 2016, I began treating my patients with customised botanical ingredients from my research in eastern ethnobotany; primarily to reduce reliance on long term medical therapy—retinoid dermatitis, steroid induced-tachyphylaxis and antibiotic resistance—these were the many problems I encountered. So this was when Dr.TWL® Dermaceuticals was birthed; I envisioned and it became my mission—to disrupt conventional dermatologic therapy.
What was your inspiration behind the tell-all K-beauty book Asian Beauty Secrets?
To date, I’ve been working closely with the korean cosmeceutical industry for the last 6 years to develop skincare for my patients based on my research. In 2021, 3 of my scientific papers on the skin microclimate were published based off my research as chief scientific officer–our focus on botanicals and textiles for the skin microclimate —quasi-drugs with therapeutic purposes have a role to play in dermatology.
My book Asian Beauty Secrets contains much of my research in the field of cosmeceuticals that target the skin and hair micro-environment, at the heart of my research—distilling the finest in asian beauty ingredients in the field of integrative dermatology. I think it’s important for dermatologists and the public alike to realise that—K-beauty isn’the a fad, it’s here to stay. The reason really? I would say, it’s the science.
The story behind the Beauty Library is a passion for education. Our team, led by Dr. Teo Wan Lin, published researcher of over 11 scientific papers in the field of dermatology, is on a mission to revolutionise skincare education. Making specialised knowledge available for all. Asian Beauty Secrets isn’t just another one of the K-beauty books you see—it contains the finest gems of dermatological knowledge acquired by Dr Teo herself in her journey to building one of Asia’s most prominent clinical skincare Brand’s.
Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals celebrates their 6-year milestone this year, what are your aspirations for the brand?
It’s my baby really—though she looks like she’s ready for primary school; as we say in Singapore! Jokes aside, I think my focus will be on education, TikTok is a great platform I use. Bite-sized content is preferred, our attention spans are short. There’s a place for in-depth study though—that’s where my books come into play.
The Beauty Library is a skincare education initiative by the brand —we’ve built a loyal readership in the US and internationally. My hope is that Singaporeans will also catch on the habit of reading up on skincare—growing our skincare book readership base is our goal for the next few years.
From its inception in 2016 to what it is today— we’ve gained a loyal following we are thankful for. But this is just the beginning of the story I tell— of why I started Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals as adjunct cosmeceutical treatment (steroid/antibiotic/retinoid-free) for my patients with skin conditions like eczema, rosacea and acne. It’s a story of how eastern ethnobotany principles, long held in K-beauty formulations rightly address the concept of microclimates for skin resilience.
Today, Dr.TWL® cosmeceutical brand specialist offers medical grade skincare and haircare outside the dermatologist’s office. From our R & D in Seoul where our biotechnology lab is headquartered, my team and I continue to create cosmeceuticals that target the skin and hair micro-environment, at the heart of my research—distilling the finest in Asian beauty ingredients in the field of integrative dermatology.
Skin flooding, skin cycling are some of the TikTok skincare trends that have emerged. In Asian Beauty Secrets, the K-beauty book you must read, Dr Teo shares about the concept of skin layering to “flood” the skin with moisture, from a scientific perspective. Add to your collection of K-beauty books today!
Top Skincare Tips from the Author of Asian Beauty Secrets—The K-Beauty Book To Read
What are your top skincare tips for our readers?
#1 You may be tempted to DIY—do it for a week or two at max, see a dermatologist if your condition doesn’t get better
If your skin problem has not resolved with over the counter treatments (of any type) and has persisted longer than 2 weeks—it’s best to see a dermatologist first as many skin conditions like acne, rosacea, sensitive skin / eczema / perioral dermatitis can worsen and will require medical therapy. But once it is under control, I wean patients off medical/prescription therapy with cosmeceutical maintenance—there is evidence for adjuvant cosmeceutical treatment in many dermatological conditions. Berberine cream for instance has a multi-pathway effect on acne— antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, reducing acne scars.
Key Takeaways from K-beauty
#2 Emphasis on layering skincare for maximal results
Layering skincare allows for increased concentration of ingredients to be delivered to skin. For example, hyaluronic acid can be concentrated in a serum formula, followed by peptides, niacinamides and other antioxidants in the emulsion/lotion and finally, high doses of polyglutamic acid, glycerin delivered in the form of facial mist.
#3 Intensive moisture delivery
Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid, amino acids, glycerin—western brands before only focused on one or two of these, but including amino acids for instance is more than just repairing the barrier— it encourages positive cell talk
#4 Facial Mist
That would be my must-have K-beauty product. The one that I use has at least 19 different botanical actives in a polyglutamic dominant solution—it gives a dewy glow and its quite miraculous really, how Polyglutamic acid (PGA) works (on my skin I can say for sure).
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- Teo WL. The “Maskne” microbiome – pathophysiology and therapeutics. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Jul;60(7):799-809. [PubMed]
- Teo WL. Diagnostic and management considerations for “maskne” in the era of COVID-19. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2021 Feb;84(2):520-521. [PubMed]
- Teo WL. Design elements in face masks can provide an effective fit to prevent droplet spread: A reply to “Importance of nose wires in face masks”. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2021 Sep;85(3):e153-e155. [PubMed]