Find out why Dr. TWL Dermaceuticals is different from many of the other doctor brands in Singapore and why co-founder Dr Teo Wan Lin wanted to formulate one despite the over-crowded skincare market
Dr Teo Wan Lin is passionate about skincare, dermatology and botany so it's a happy confluence that all three have come together in the birth of Dr. TWL Dermaceuticals, a cosmeceutical skincare brand owned by her brother Teo Zhi Liang, a pharmaceutical engineer. A dermatologist by training, the products she conceptualised and formulated were initially designed to complement her in-office procedures, but as it is dermatologist-tested, it can also be used for people who suffer from skin conditions like eczema. A family project — Zhi Liang works on the quality control and ensures its efficienct scale-up for mass market — find out why the siblings saw a niche in the market, how their products are different from the doctor-branded skincare commonly sold in clinics here, and why they're looking for a face for their brand via Instagram.
Why did you start your brand? What was the niche that you saw in the market? I formulated these products initially as a cosmeceutical skincare range for the patients I see in my clinic, as a complement to the advanced cosmetic dermatology treatments I offer. As a dermatologist-tested line, it also works well for patients who suffer from facial eczema, who previously could not use anti-ageing products available on the market as they were not dermatologically formulated. The skincare and aesthetics market today is flooded with cosmetic companies and even 'doctor-designed' skincare products by aesthetic doctors (who are not dermatologists) to add on to the public's confusion of who's the real skin expert. In my practice, I've seen patients who have developed skin allergies to products dispensed to them. Cosmetic dermatology is the realm of specialist dermatologists, I felt it was time that we brought the truth of dermatologist-formulated and tested cosmeceutical skincare to the public, for those who may not have visited their dermatologist's office.
Together with my brother, Zhi Liang, a trained pharmaceutical engineer, we made this a reality through our e-commerce website www.drtwlderma.com. Zhi Liang oversees the mass production and formulation with our chemist, ensuring that every step contributes towards delivering nothing short of effective cosmeceuticals. My personal philosophy in my dermatological practice is all about honesty and efficacy, every cosmetic treatment discussed with my patient is tailored depending on my assessment and their expectations, as well as cost. Whenever I talk about cosmeceutical skincare to my patients, I give this analogy: one could spend a fortune to perfectly restore and upholster a leather sofa, subject it to poor daily care and lack of conditioning, it will deteriorate quickly, worse than what it was before. Similarly, the aesthetic treatments I offer to them quickly corrects and restores, but a line of dermatologist- tested and formulated cosmeceuticals is crucial for maintenance, besides working synergistically with the treatments.
How is it different from other doctor brands in the market and was the brand created for your clientele specifically or a wider audience? The other commercially-available Singapore doctor skincare brands in our local market (which are registered with the HSA for public sale) are designed by aesthetic doctors, who are not skin specialists as dermatologists are the only accredited skin specialists with the Ministry of Health (Tip: Check your doctor's qualifications on the Singapore Medical Council website).
I know many excellent dermatologists who also prescribe their own line but would not be available on a commercial basis. The point is, as dermatologists, we have the best knowledge and the experience about skin and skincare. Hence, I believe we are the best positioned to educate the public especially on areas of cosmetic dermatology, which is increasingly practised by non-dermatologists. Hence, with the launch of Dr. TWL Dermaceuticals, I am excited that dermatologist-tested and formulated cosmeceutical skincare will finally reach the masses.
What is special about your formulation and choice of ingredients? Two key words: Efficacy and safety. Our line is characterised by the efficacy of cosmeceuticals, backed by dermatological research, which really is a marriage of two words 'pharmaceuticals' and 'cosmetics'. We have infused in every one of our products our star performer, unique to our label, the Larecea™ Extract, which we developed with our chemist in the laboratory. It is essentially a botanical extract from Brassica oleracea (cruciferous family of plants) suspended in a unique formula of amino acids, that help to repair, rejuvenate and have an anti-ageing effect on skin, which also has in early studies performed in the laboratory shown to increases collagen production, provide UV-protection as well as being a potent antioxidant. Key molecules harvested from natural botanicals form the bulk of our active ingredient composition and only the purest extracts, subject to stringent bioactivity sampling, are used. Another power molecule used in this line is the oligopeptide molecule which is a dermatologist's new secret weapon to anti-ageing, which I substituted for retinol, used in the last decade in cosmetics but tended to cause skin irritation. This itself was also uniquely derived using sophisticated biotechnology, without animal or human origins. It's also paraben-free and sans silicones. As a nature lover, I also made sure that every step of the production was cruelty-free and vegan — free from any animal-derived substances.
What is the inspiration behind the simple and sleek packaging and the range of product offerings? What were you inspired by? My products are all packaged in glossy white boxes with black print. The inspiration behind it is minimalism, which I am a fan of, because the philosophy behind a clean, clear aesthetic (which I also adopted in my clinic design) conveys truth and honesty, values which are so important in medicine. Personally speaking, I've felt rather nauseated by the inundation of so many skincare brands in all its fancy packaging and glorious claims. As a dermatologist, I scrutinise labels, and I always find myself disappointed by what's in the bottle, despite the fancy outside, and the price tag.
Hence, I also intentionally used my glossy black and white boxes as a statement amidst all the fancy brouhaha in packaging we see out there, so there is no excuse for consumers to be distracted by anything other than, what's really in the bottle. I guess, the real lesson to learn for all of us women, is discernment. What's left of something which is stripped down bare is the truth, which is also my philosophy when it comes to skincare. My message to women out there is, don't be afraid to go bare. The best foundation is great skin. It's never about the packaging, whether it be in the form of a person or a product. Too many women are stuck in the mould that society forces them to be in, be it what they wear, how they look or how they act. I'm interested in beauty from the inside, that translates into the outside, a message that I feel will bring hope to many. Back to minimalism again, our seven-step Skin Ritual is also a minimalist approach to cosmeceutical skincare, which works synergistically or on its own as an anti-ageing and skin restoring regimen.
Is your brand a unisex brand? As a dermatologist, is most of that kind of distinctions (between men and women's skincare) a marketing gimmick or an actual difference? I would say it is a unisex brand. As dermatologists looking at skin conditions, we never ever distinguish the skincare we recommend to men or women. To us, skin is skin and good skincare doesn't irritate any type of skin, post-laser or even sensitive skin types which we would correctly term as eczema and would deliver benefits to both men and women.
However, men's skin does differ in that it has more oil glands (sebaceous glands) and has a tendency to be coarser and less refined in texture because of the influence of the female hormone, estrogen. For this reason, men may be more prone to oily skin conditions, such as acne, oil gland overgrowth and large pores. If they have any of these, they would require medical treatment to correct the problem first. It is a myth for example, that acne can be treated with skincare alone. Cosmeceuticals are meant for home use, for both men and women, to anti-age, protect and maintain healthy skin. What are the challenges in creating a skincare brand from scratch and in Singapore? Many of my friends have heard this before and I would say it again, that if I were not a dermatologist, I would never have started a skincare line because it's already flooded with competitors and everyone wants a share of it. Moreover, I'm a purist and I believe that if I wanted to do anything, I would either do it excellently or not do it at all. Above all, I believe in really being honest to my patients and delivering evidence-based, safe and effective ingredients in their skincare. And for something that doesn't work, all the marketing hype in the world would sustain it but for a brief moment before the bare, naked truth is revealed (pun intended). Can you name us some of your signature products and its star ingredients? We have seven key products on our Dr. TWL Transform Skin Ritual and another two in our Ultimate Protection Duo, which consists of a broad-spectrum SPF50 sunscreen as well as a mineral booster which calms skin (whether dry or greasy) in our humid climate. The brand philosophy is that every step counts, but we make those steps count. So you can be rest assured that we aren't recommending you something extra just for the sake of it. The star ingredients, larecea extract, oligopeptides and purified deep sea mineral water which forms the base of our cleansers and the mineral booster.
You have great skin. Can you share some tips and tricks with our readers on how to achieve beautiful skin themselves? Thanks! I keep my foundation minimal because fresh-faced beauty never goes out of style, as opposed to the wax lady look. Haha. Jokes aside, cosmeceutical skincare is an evidence-based and efficient way of having beautiful, healthy skin. I never leave the house without my sunscreen and mineral booster, because it's my best defence against the assaults of daily ageing. Above all, eat a healthy diet packed with antioxidants, exercise regularly, and seek God who gives peace — pursue it, and beautiful skin shall be added onto you!
Why are you having an Instagram contest to find a face for your brand? We are focussing on the regional market this year, with plans to take our brand globally the next. I have an amazing creative team focussed on visuals and we can't wait to shoot the winner of #drtwlface! Our Butterfly Beauty #drtwlface campaign has a slightly different take on a traditional modelling contest. Gone are the days when a modelling contest comes with age restrictions, nor are we merely scouting for pretty faces with long limbs, we are on the lookout for a real brand ambassador on social media, someone with charisma but who is also beautiful inside out — a millenial model and global face.