As a child, Dr Teo Wan Lin loved detective novels. She would snuggle under the covers, crack open a book and dive into a world of murder and mystery. Her favourite author was Agatha Christie. Her most loved novel? Death On The Nile.
It was this love for mysteries that encouraged her to specialise in dermatology when she was in medical school. “A dermatologist is a detective who predominantly uses visual cues. When I was a junior doctor in Singapore General Hospital, I had a dermatology professor who was able to diagnose complex medical conditions just by inspecting skin manifestations. That impressed me,” reminisces Dr Teo.
A less-oft discussed part of the profession is emotional healing. Some skin conditions not only damage the skin but even cause permanent emotional scarring. She cites leprosy and psoriasis as examples.
“The symptoms can be very distressing to a patient. There are also societal stigmas attached to certain conditions. As their dermatologist, it’s important that I also offer them the support that’s beyond the physical,” says Dr Teo.
The murder mystery aficionado has embarked on yet another passion, one that marries her love for solving whodunnits with her passion for dermatology: cosmeceuticals or cosmetic products with both cosmetic and therapeutic effects.
To combat maskne or mask acne, an unfortunate side effect of wearing face masks to slow the transmission of Covid-19, Dr Teo has developed masks crafted from synthetic biofunctional textiles such as zinc and copper. One of the first she released during this pandemic has copper nanoparticles embedded into the synthetic polyester fabric. According to Dr Teo, it not only prevents maskne because of the copper but also has anti-ageing properties and UPF50.
The pandemic has also meant the 36-year-old could not indulge in her third passion: fencing, which she picked up at a local club when she was 15. Two years later, the Singapore national team invited her to be a sparring partner. Eventually, she became a national fencer, representing the country in overseas competitions.
“People liken fencing to physical chess because it’s both a functional workout and a mental exercise. It has been incredibly nourishing for my personal growth.”
Dr Teo admits to being incredibly competitive and used to get distraught whenever she lost, especially to fencers with less experience. As she got older, however, she realised that it was more beneficial to frame these losses as experiences instead.
“Feeling discouraged and frustrated are natural emotions. But what I’ve learned from fencing is that you are only defeated when you start feeling defeated. It’s important to stay mentally resilient.” Much like her favourite sleuth Hercule Poirot.
“I prefer blues and blacks, but I think we had enough of that last year. So I picked this lime yellow outfit because it represents the muted optimism all of us are feeling as we enter 2021. I also love the texture and this ribbed fabric reminds me of my childhood. I used to knit a lot and would create patterns just like this one.”