by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

Skin Scientist Dr Gladys Teo Shares Her Holy-Grail Skincare Products

Everyone has a skincare routine they follow, but not many can actually say they know what goes inside a skincare product. Enter Dr Gladys Teo, head of R&D at local beauty brands ést.lab, HEURE, and Verdure.

With a PhD in Materials Engineering from Imperial College London, Dr Teo specialises in the design and creation of novel nanomaterials for renewable energy applications. She then obtained a Diploma of Personal Care Formulation and Cosmetics at the Institute of Personal Care Science in Australia. As Head of Research and Development at HEURE, and ést.lab, she identifies advanced skincare technologies for cosmetic applications and oversees new cosmetics formulations and product developments.

We chat with Dr Teo as she shares more about her career switch, what a typical workday looks like for her, and her holy-grail beauty products (no surprise if they are products she helped formulate!).

How did you get started in your field? What led you to study cosmetics?

My route of ending up in the beauty industry is a complex one and would probably be very different from most. My background is in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (I specialised in Therapeutics Engineering and Nanotechnology), and then a Doctorate Research, specialising in the design and development of nano-sized materials for clean energy application. I also took the opportunity to do fashion on the side while in London! I had prior research experience at NTU (School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering) and A*STAR (Institute of Materials Research and Engineering) and was always interested in the development of nanomaterials for various applications.

After these, I took on an opportunity to experience a new role that involved interacting with scientists,  SMEs, and global MNCs in the beauty industry, and that piqued my interest. It gave me insights, connections, etc. and eventually opened up an opportunity to join Estetica as Head of R&D to develop HEURE’s proprietary SPHR™ technology, as well as various ést.lab products. 

Looking back, I’d say that my past experiences helped a lot collectively in transiting into this role. At the same time, I also decided to study for a Diploma in Cosmetic Science & Formulation, just to get a good overview of the professional workings of the science, formulations and regulations involved in creating a beauty product. Being in the beauty industry has been an interesting course so far; years ago I’d have never imagined that this is what I’d be doing today. You really don’t know where life may one day lead you!

What is a typical day for you like?

I oversee product conceptualisation, safety and efficacy of ingredients and product formulations, regulations, product testings, clinical studies, and the production for HEURE, ést.lab and Verdure products. It sounds like a lot but basically, this involves connecting and communicating with multiple parties everyday. Sometimes I’d meet with research entities and technology companies to explore possibilities of kickstarting new skincare research initiatives. Other times you can find me in the lab with my team experimenting on new ingredients and formulations.

What is your personal approach toward beauty and wellness?

Take time to care for your skin, health, mindset and emotional state. Try your best to keep them in check by cultivating good habits and kicking the bad ones. These things are interconnected, and being happy and healthy in all these areas brings youth and beauty as you progress through life. You will have yourself to thank many years down the road.

How did you develop the skincare routine that works for your skin?

Like most people, it would be through trial and error because you never know how your skin responds to a product unless you’ve tried it. Being aware of your skin’s changes helps so that you can start to build on what your skin feels happy with, and to limit anything that is negatively affecting your skin.

I used to have occasional outbreaks of acne and when using skincare products alone did not help, I decided to incorporate supplements like fish oils and prebiotics to rebalance gut health, which worked very well. An effective skincare routine does not only involve topical application but also means eating right!

What’s your one holy-grail product?

At the moment it has to be HEURE’s Ageless Serum (SGD190). The texture’s great for everyday use, morning or night. I love that it is packed with potent anti-ageing peptides, antioxidants and moisturising ingredients. Most importantly, I know that it is able to deliver through the skin to where it matters most. It is a luxurious product that really gives you a bang for your buck!

Image via @heurebeauty

What beauty product are you most particular about and why?

Vitamin C products—especially in water-based formulations and in high potency—just because they easily oxidise when exposed to air, which happens when you open or close the product. Once oxidised, their effectiveness is gone. Pure Vitamin C serums stand out to be clear in an unoxidised state and turn yellow or orange when oxidised. It is always a race to finish using such products before it becomes no longer effective to use.

We’re currently working on a new product that addresses this and hope to launch it soon, so watch this space!

What are some of the biggest issues that Singaporean women seem to face with their skin and why?

Unsurprisingly, we have been hearing a lot of ‘sensitive skin’ issues over the last couple of years. There are a couple of reasons that may have contributed to this: being exposed to UV rays without sufficient sunscreen protection; exposed to urban pollutants (particulate matter especially PM2.5 and metals that are so small that they can penetrate into the skin to cause inflammation); over-exfoliating with high potency AHAs and BHAs daily; as well as emotional and mental stress that overproduces the stress hormone cortisol that can lead to inflammation in the skin.

What do you wish Singaporean women did more when it comes to taking care of their skin?

“Just as using skincare products is an important part of attaining healthy-looking skin, it’s equally important to know what we’re putting into our body.”

The body is a very complex system; it’s essential to understand that it can be a myriad of factors that affect our skin. Adopting a healthier lifestyle and cutting down on sugary, fried and processed foods, as well as alcohol and smoking will really make a difference in your skin. This way your skincare products won’t go to waste and you may start to experience an improvement in the way your skin looks!

Image via

What are your personal favourite products from HEURE and est.lab?

From HEURE, I love the Ageless Serum for its potency, texture and effectiveness in improving skin smoothness and fine lines and Ageless Skin Booster (SGD130) for its added anti-pollution and antioxidant protective function, which is especially useful since most of us live in an urban environment. 

From ést.lab, the PurClear Anti-Acne Serum (SGD152), which works great in quickly clearing off acne while minimising scars, and it does not dry up the skin! I’m also a fan of the LumiWhite Exfoliating Scrub (SGD78), I love the glow on my face after each rinse off. And of course, the OptimaLift A+ Eye Repair Capsules (SGD156), which are very nourishing for when my eyes feel dry, tired and dull. I use this at night and I’ll wake up to brighter eyes every time.

Can we privy to what’s next for HEURE and ést.lab? Any foreseeable new products?

We have so many new products and formulations lined up this year for our VitaLift A+, LumiWhite, and ActivCalm range. As a sneak peek, there will be a gentle and advanced chemical exfoliator for everyone, including those with sensitive skin who are looking to speed up skin renewal for glowy skin; an intensive super-antioxidant night repair serum great for dry and ageing skin; and a series of new products for sensitive skin that will help to quickly hydrate dry skin (moving away from the traditional concept of just using hyaluronic acid).

As for HEURE, you can expect a new line of SPHR-powered brightening skincare at the end of this year. So keep an eye out!

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