Vicki Belo bares her own brand of beautiful

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Vicki Belo
Vicki Belo covers the March 2024 issue of Lifestyle.INQ

With a glittering 34-year career in the aesthetics industry, Vicki Belo is reshaping people’s perception of beauty beyond what’s skin deep



What makes someone beautiful? 

Perhaps it’s their physical appearance. Others could argue that it lies within; that physical beauty is fleeting and that its most authentic definition is based on an individual’s personality. 

You would think that if anyone knew the answer to this question, it would be multi-award-winning dermatologist Dr. Vicki Belo. After all, she has run one of the Philippines’ largest and most respected aesthetic clinics for over 30 years.

Even as a young girl, Belo’s understanding of beauty was shaped by her experience of being adopted. In kindergarten, she often encountered bullies who would taunt her, asking things like, “Why did your parents give you away? Is it because you’re so fat?” to which other bullies would respond by saying “No, it’s not because she’s fat, it’s because she’s ugly. Kaya pinamigay [That’s why they gave her away].”

“I think at five years old, I came to the realization that ganun pala ’yun [that’s how it is], if you’re fat and ugly, they’ll [your parents] give you away. So from that point on, I made it my life’s mission. When I grow up, I want to get into a career that will make people beautiful and sexy so they won’t be given away. It’s a five-year-old’s way of thinking. I didn’t know how to do it, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Having spent several years in and out of doctor’s offices, Belo explained that her desire to become a dermatologist was a result of those visits. “I went to all the top dermatologists at the time, and nobody really cured my acne. It was a never-ending story. Every single week from the age of 11 all the way to med school. So I decided then that that was how I would cure my own acne problems and make people beautiful; by being a dermatologist.” 

Through sheer determination, Belo blazed her way through medical school in the Philippines, before moving abroad to pursue further studies. During the infancy of her practice, Belo attended esteemed institutions such as the Institute of Dermatology in Bangkok, Thailand, Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts, and Scripps Health in San Diego, California. 

READ: Clara Benin, Zarah Juan, and Elle Battung underscore the importance of self-care

Pioneering aesthetics in the Philippines

An industry disruptor, Belo returned to the Philippines with a wealth of knowledge she was determined to impart. “By the time I came back to the Philippines, I was really considered a disruptor. I introduced lasers to the Philippines. I introduced liposuction the dermatology way. It was very controversial because as far as they were concerned, dermatologists shouldn’t do anything like that. It was an uphill battle. But I belong to an organization called the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery and that’s really what we do.”

With the support of her parents, Belo explained how this greatly empowered her to pursue and excel in her chosen field. Emphasizing how they instilled the core values of integrity, honesty, and hard work into her, she highlights how this gave her the opportunity to dream as big as she could. 

“My dad would always say: ‘You were put on Earth for a reason. The trick is to find out why God put you here. If you live out the reason you were put on Earth, then you will be empowered and happy.’ So that’s what I do.” 

In light of their unconditional support, their only demand was for her to fully commit to whatever it was she was doing. She could do anything but she had to ensure it was done well. Mediocrity was unacceptable. 

Armed with a confidence you could only attain through immeasurable faith, Belo shared how her parents even bought her first lasers when she initially started her practice in the Philippines. 

“They were so expensive then—even in 1992—it was already $150,000 each.” A stark contrast from the typical Asian stereotype, Belo clarifies that her parents were never ‘helicopter parents.’ 

“They let me run but I knew I could always look back. Either my dad or my mom would be following, but from afar so that I could explore. It’s very important for a child to feel safe—to be able to explore the world but know that their parents are behind them to catch them if they fall. Empowerment is also believing you can achieve what you want to achieve. The most important thing is to not hurt anybody, don’t step on other people while you’re trying to do it.”


“Empowerment is also believing you can achieve what you want to achieve.”


Vicki Belo
Vicki Belo

Despite the fact that Belo was surrounded by skeptics, she remained steadfast in her mission to trailblaze the local aesthetics industry. “I have always had the desire for the Philippines to be at par with first-world countries. Even back then, I always wanted the best machines even if it’s so mahal [expensive] because I don’t want people abroad—when I give talks and stuff—to laugh at me because my laser is not the best. So I feel like that’s my one-woman goal; to make the Philippines a tourist destination in terms of beauty. So if you want to be on the map, you really have to invest not only time learning but also in the equipment and in your clinic.”

On living in the limelight

“I do read the comments, but I try to not let it affect me so much. I really believe we’re only here for a short time, and I want to just do the best I can so when I meet my God, he can say to me: ‘Well done my good and faithful servant’.”

Having been in the limelight for several years, Belo has learned to take public scrutiny with a grain of salt. “I’m so grateful that God has given me this life. Every day I thank him because my life has been so wonderful. I think my kids—especially like Scarlett—I tell them to always say thank you because it makes God want to do more things for you. I always tell my kids to be humble.” 

A mother of three, Belo shares two children with her ex-husband Atom Henares: entrepreneur Cristalle Belo-Pitt and filmmaker Quark Henares. In 2015, Belo welcomed her youngest child into the world, Scarlett Snow Belo, with her now-husband Hayden Kho.



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A post shared by Hayden Kho, jr MD (@dochayden)


In spite of her sometimes tricky relationship with social media, Belo has used it as a tool for good—speaking out on matters important to her such as her practice. 

“I really feel like my followers are my friends. Especially those who’ve been very faithful and following me for so long. I try to show who I am, but of course, education is really a major thing for me because I feel if you’re educated, you will learn to properly choose what you can use on your face.” 

Beyond medicine, Belo’s social media platforms have been avenues for her to showcase various parts of her life—sides that the media may not always showcase. When not talking about her medical practice, she shares her love for fashion and dressing up. Other times, she talks about motherhood and the many layers that come with raising a modern family. 

“On social media, I don’t get influenced. I listen to my own music. I listen to God. You cannot change the world if you do everything like how everybody does, even if you know you can do better.” 

It’s safe to say Belo has led a colorful life. So much so that her husband mentioned to her that it might be a good idea for her to write her own book. “I said: don’t care. I’m not egotistical. Legacy is not so important to me. And he said, you know why? Because if you don’t write it, somebody else will, and they will change the narrative. And it will be wrong. So you just have to do it. So that’s maybe something I’m thinking about.”

READ: Gallery list: More art this March

On staying grounded and surviving cancer

Beaming at 67 years old, Belo is far from done. 

An avid learner, she continues to push the boundaries both in her career and personal life regardless of what critics may say. Looking back at her childhood once again, she recounts her drives home with her dad as a little girl. 

Back then, her family lived in Tambo, Parañaque, and Quirino Avenue was a common route they would take. On the left side of the road, informal settlers occupied part of the busy highway while on the right, exclusive subdivisions and large homes populated the area.

“My dad would say: ‘Hija, you look there. There but for the grace of God are you.’ Which meant, swerte ka lang talaga pinanganak ka sa isang pamilya [you’re just lucky you were born into a family] that has a little money. Because you could have easily been born into a different family. The life you have is God’s blessing. Because of his kindness and mercy.” 

Even as a young girl, Belo’s good fortune has never been lost on her. In understanding this, she has used her skills and talents to mold a life for herself that she is proud of. And through her career and platform as a public figure, she has also effectively helped positively shape the lives of the people she’s surrounded by for good. Whether it be her employees, colleagues, patients, or friends, Belo’s kindness radiates and fills whatever room she is in. 

However, while Belo’s front-facing persona has always been a beacon of positivity and wellness, she has also had her fair share of private, personal struggles—most notably with cancer over eight years ago. 

“Cancer was such a surprise for me… It was really hard. Overwhelming. You have to do chemo, which is really very debilitating—you feel so sick.” 

During this time, Scarlett was just a year and a half old. “I remember telling God how I didn’t want Scarlett to not have a mom. I knew I was already 58 when I had Scarlet, so I know naman that I will not be there for her whole life, but I want to still enjoy her naman and be there for her. I said: ‘God, please help me one day at a time.’” 

While battling her own illness, Belo revealed that her mother had passed away on her third chemotherapy treatment. Having had an incredibly close relationship with her mother, she was desperate to rush to her side, but explained that she couldn’t because she herself was unwell. Now cancer-free for over eight years, Belo looks back at this time in her life with gratefulness, and an understanding that life is short and that every day should be relished as a blessing. 

On her definition of a well-lived life

“I have lived my life as best as I can,” Belo tells LIFESTYLE.INQ as she reflects on her legacy. “Every single day is a day to be grateful. I believe in the afterlife, and I believe in heaven. When my time comes, I know I will see my lord.” 

Despite the setbacks she has encountered, the award-winning doctor continues to push forward knowing that each day is a gift. Having gotten married while still in school, she revealed that a lot of people doubted her capabilities to finish because of the fact that she would pause her studies in order to care for her kids.

“People would ask me if I was ever going to finish and I’d say, leave me alone. I’ll get there. Eventually, I got there and God gave me a very successful career that I couldn’t have ever dreamt of.” 

When it comes to knowledge meanwhile, Belo has plenty to impart. Especially for those who are still trying to find their own brand of strength and empowerment. “I’m sure people will find this weird, but for me, reading the Bible, listening to talks, and praying has made me strong. Pray that God will lead you towards what you were put on Earth for. Because when you find that—and I’m so blessed that I found mine at five years old—that’s how you become empowered.” 

Driven by her passions and grounded on her faith, Belo’s definition of beauty transcends physical appearance. In light of all the trials she has encountered throughout her life, Vicki Belo has used her craft and her platform as a vessel to educate and positively influence others—all while devoting her life to a greater being. 

Beyond being a master of beauty and wellness, it’s safe to say that Vicki Belo is enlightened.

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