Dr. Victoria “Vicki” Belo is, without a doubt, an institution when it comes to skincare. For over 30 years, her expertise and dedication revolutionized the aesthetic industry for Filipinos. As the #1 Medical Aesthetic Clinic in the country, the Belo Medical Group continues to help people feel beautiful in their own skin.
Just recently, Hello Doctor collaborated with the Belo Medical Group for an in-depth interview about skin health. In this article, Dr. Vicki Belo reveals how people can take better care of their skin.
What should people know about skincare?
Dr. Belo: Everyone should know that your skin changes over time– your best skin of course is your skin at the age of puberty. So, as early as that your skin will already begin to change. For most people, their skin becomes oily, their pores appear larger, and start to get acne. If you’re lucky this will only last until your 20s, but unfortunately for others this will last for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Belo: With that said, your skincare should change along with your skin– you should reassess regularly with your dermatologist. Certain products and treatments might work today, but you might need to adjust down the road as your skin changes. It’s important to be mindful of your skin’s needs.
What skincare habits should we start to adopt while we’re in our 20s or 30s?
Dr. Belo: Everyone always asks me what are the basic things they need in their skincare routine every single day. For me, cleansing is very important in getting your skin ready for therapeutics. A lot of people tend to not pay attention to this step– they just use any foam or soap. You need to have your skin really clean and use cleansers that are suitable for your skin type! And, of course, the best time to apply products is in the evening because your skin repairs while you’re sleeping. The two things that you have to use at the minimum are: exfoliators (in the form of Alpha Hydroxy acid or enzymatic peels), and retinol (retinoic acid at .5% or retinol at 1%).
Dr. Vicki Belo's Skincare Tips
Cleansing using a product suitable for your skin type.
Applying skincare products in the evening, as the skin repairs during sleep.
Using exfoliators (Alpha Hydroxy acid or enzymatic peels) and retinol (retinoic acid at .5% or retinol at 1%)
In your years of practice, what do you think truly makes a person’s skin beautiful and healthy? What role does our diet and lifestyle play?
Dr. Belo: Beautiful skin, for me, is basically: skin that’s not oily, not dry, and has no pigmentation. Pores are small and skin is plump. It’s resilient and not so sensitive to the elements.
Dr. Belo: Diet plays such an important role in this– much bigger than people realize. In my 32 years of practice, I’ve seen how people can break out just by eating food that doesn’t agree with their skin, such as dairy, nuts, or chips. Everyone’s skin is different, of course, so some foods that aren’t good for your skin might not have the same effect on others, and vice versa.
Dr. Belo: In my opinion the best food for your skin are cold fish, like salmon or cod, and vegetables like lettuce in particular because it acts like a bottle brush that cleans out the system. It’s also very important to stay hydrated, even more so as you get older.
Dr. Belo: In terms of lifestyle, the time you sleep and amount of sleep you get plays an important role in your skin’s overall health. As I said earlier our skin repairs while we sleep so we want to give it as much time to do just that– try to sleep before 10pm!
How do you think our skin impacts our mental health? How can we become more confident?
Dr. Belo: Personally speaking, I feel very bothered when I have a pimple or a bad skin day and sometimes I get a bit obsessive about it. I try to pick my pimples (even though I know I shouldn’t!), I get very self-conscious, I don’t want to go out– especially because of my work. Sometimes I think that people will think “my gosh what kind of derma is she with that skin!” so I really believe that a person’s skin has a significant impact on a person’s mental health.
Dr. Belo: Even my patients go from being very shy and reserved to being quite confident and extroverted once they see results and their skin feels beautiful. I think that beauty directly correlates with whatever makes you feel most confident. If you’re not feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin, it will be hard for you to be outward. You’ll tend to focus inward– how conscious you feel, how miserable you feel, etc.
I think that beauty directly correlates with whatever makes you feel most confident.
Dr. Vicki Belo
Dr. Belo: There’s also a lot of stigma when it comes to skin issues– for example, people tend to think that people with acne problems are not as hygienic, which is totally not true, of course. You can wash your face as much as you want but it will all boil down to what type of skin you have and what the best way to address the problem is.
What are the best lessons you’ve learned while building your Belo Skincare health and wellness empire?
Dr. Belo: Well, I have learned that you should take a person as a whole being. You cannot segregate– emotions do affect the skin and vice versa, confidence affects happiness and joy, that sort of thing.
Dr. Belo: When people come to me with their skin issues, complaining about this and that, I try to go a bit deeper and figure out what it is that’s really bothering them. If it can be fixed by fixing a skin issue, then that’s great! But, many times, it’s much deeper than that. People really want to be heard and feel understood. So when our patients come to the clinic I always tell my doctors to make sure they don’t just give written and routine answers, or some cooked recipe on how to improve their skin, but rather look at them as a human being who is somehow bothered or could be happier under our care.
Dr. Belo: Sometimes it’s not even just about improving their skin but making them feel beautiful and important. To me, my clinic is a ministry, so I always go to work with the thought, “God, please help me help other people today.” In turn, whenever our patients thank me I always say, “It’s not me, it’s God. He directed you to me.” People are not as superficial as others might think. My clinic is not about making vain people look beautiful, but about making everyone feel beautiful in their own skin.
What do you wish to tell aspiring dermatologists and skincare experts?
Dr. Belo: Many people come to me and they think they’re complimenting me because they say I’m such a “rockstar” in dermatology, I hobnob with all these celebrities and VIPs, they think I’m rich and have a nice life, I travel and shop, all that stuff. But, these are all just trappings– these would not have come to me if that was my goal from the beginning.
Dr. Belo: All these things came along because of the passion I have for my work, so my advice is just that. Stay passionate about what you do. If money is your ultimate end goal, there are many easier ways to get there. Succeeding in this field comes from the passion inside you to make a difference and affect people’s lives in a positive way. If you give your best every single time, then the money will naturally follow. Find whatever you’re passionate about, and figure out a way to make money out of it!
There’s a lot of skincare advice online from doctors and KOLs alike, how do we find reliable tips, like the ones Belo skincare provides?
Dr. Belo: Wow, okay, I’m one of them! You know, I really think social media can be a powerful tool to reach and educate people on what good skin care is. You can learn so much in just 30 seconds! But I do agree that it’s getting more and more difficult to distinguish which people to follow and which to not.
Dr. Belo: It’s always good to do a background check on these people– see their credentials and reputation to find out whether they’re worth believing. Are they really explaining something to you or just out to sell a product? Are they providing alternatives? If the answer is yes then there might be something to learn from them. Even so, you shouldn’t skip out on your consultations and self-medicate, especially when the issue is more serious.
What should we embrace about aging and why? How do we age gracefully?
Dr. Belo: Of course we all age naturally, but if you’ve been in this specialty long enough, you’ll see how aging affects all of us differently. For example, in a group of classmates there’s a handful who appear much more youthful than the rest. That’s where you’ll see who has taken care of themselves and who hasn’t.
Dr. Belo: I think it really becomes important when you hit your 30s to take extra care of yourself, because you’ll reap the rewards when you get older. I always say that what you look like in your 20s is a gift from God– you were born with good genes and whatnot. But, what you look like in your 40s is your gift to yourself– it’s not just about going to the dermatologists or getting any work done, but it’s also about wellness as a whole.
What you look like in your 20s is a gift from God, what you look like in your 40s is your gift to yourself…
Dr. Vicki Belo
Dr. Belo: Taking care of your health, working out, sleeping well, eating right, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and the like. All these factors play a role in how you age. Hayden and I have this dashboard app that tracks our heart rate, oxygen saturation, the amount of sleep we get, how much exercise we do, our fat content and BMI. We constantly monitor that! I’m very proud to say that although Hayden is 23 years younger than me, we are the same age biologically! In terms of my biological health I am 38 years old and so is he. He’s 42 and I’m 65, but we’re 38 years old biologically! Which goes to show that if you just take care of yourself and stay consistent and be mindful of what your body needs, you can delay aging.
In your field of expertise, what else would like to try or learn to do?
Dr. Belo: I really feel claustrophobic in my field of expertise right now, because 32 years ago I was literally the only one in this field. I introduced lasers in 1990, botox, fillers, thermage, ulthera– and I was all alone. Everyone at the time would look at me and say, “are you really a doctor?” and bully me.
Dr. Belo: Today it’s quite the opposite where everyone is following what I do, and I really hate to be like everybody else! So, my dream is to really be more in the space of holistic wellness. A lot of our treatments now like ASCE+ Exosomes are really purified stem cells with growth factors and peptides to make a person look youthful and feel better. I’d love to get into functional fitness– a dashboard for people to monitor their overall health. There’s so many new things where you can do biohacking and make your body more efficient, and that’s where I’d like to explore.
Dr. Vicki Belo's Skincare Recommendation
ASCE+ Exosomes, a brand from Korea that can delay or reverses the signs of aging.
Are there clinic-based procedures that you consider a-must for healthy skin? If so, what are they?
Dr. Belo: I am so in love with ASCE+ Exosomes. It’s a brand from Korea and it’s the most well researched treatment. It’s been proven to work with a number of studies, and I see the results myself in the patients. It delays or reverses the signs of aging from within by waking up your skin cells to do the work themselves.
How can people identify their skin type? How do we know which products are for which types of skin?
Dr. Belo: In order to know your skin type, wash your face, rinse properly, and then wait two hours. If there’s some oiliness and see some blackheads– more or less your skin type is oily. If it feels dry, you have dry skin.
Dr. Belo: But, most people have combination skin. For example, most people are usually oily in the “t-zone” and have dry skin in the cheek area. So, you can’t use the same product all over your face, because they have different issues that need to be addressed! That’s where most people make mistakes. I think it’s really worth a visit to your dermatologist (even just once or twice a year) to really find out what your skin type is. The best way for anyone to determine what skin type you have is through a consultation!
Dr. Belo: Everyone’s skin is different, so your needs might be unique to you and the best way to determine that is with your dermatologist. Like I said earlier, you can’t use the same product forever. So, after some time you can try skin cycling.
Finally, please let us know what having truly healthy skin means.
Dr. Belo: Having truly healthy skin is having skin that’s firm, isn’t sensitive, oily, or dry. There are no pigments and the pores are small. That would be ideal skin– and it’s very hard especially in this environment to achieve that. So the best and most essential skin care item to achieve this is sunscreen! The number one “ager” and source of skin damage is the sun, so you should be applying sunscreen every day, but only 30 minutes after your skincare routine so it doesn’t interfere with its absorption and (especially if you’re using Vitamin C) 30 minutes before going out into the sun.