May 29, 2009
KAREN TEE comes face to face with skincare which tout clinical research behind the beauty benefits
You can now have beauty and brains in one potion.
The beauty of cosmeceuticals - a hybrid of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals - is that they have medical benefits backed by scientific research.
These clinical-grade products are said to be more effective than commercial-brand potions.
Escentials, a multi-label beauty retailer at Tangs Orchard, was one of the first to start stocking cosmeceutical brands when it introduced American brand Strivectin-SD, best known for its anti-stretchmark cream, here in 2005.
Since then, such doctor-led skincare has become a popular prescription.
Over the past year alone, more than five cosmeceutical brands, including American brands SkinCeuticals, ZO Skin Health and Cosmedicine as well as Taiwan-based Dr Wu, have been introduced here.
Some can cost a pretty penny, ranging from $60 for a cleanser to almost $600 for a serum.
There are also more affordable versions at personal care stores Watsons and Guardian.
Prices for Dr Wu, for example, which is available at Watsons, start from $39.90.
In-house lawyer Zheng Hui Fen is one of many women taking a shine to doc-in-a-bottle products.
The 27-year-old has been using Dr Brandt's Laser A Peel facial peel, sold at Sccube The Apothecary, for a year.
'If I had to address a specific skin problem, I would go for a cosmeceutical product as it has been backed by scientific research, so there is better assurance of results.'
Indeed, annual beauty and wellness trade exhibition Beauty Asia, which surveyed 82 Singaporeans in February, found that nearly 70 per cent of those interviewed currently use cosmeceutical products.
A report last year by research firm Euromonitor said that ingredients developed for use in cosmeceuticals include retinoids, a form of vitamin A medically proven to treat wrinkles; alpha-hydroxy acids, which exfoliate dead skin cells to reveal fresh skin; and peptides, tiny fragments of proteins that stimulate collagen growth.
No wonder Alwyn Chong, head of retail concepts for Luxasia, which owns Escentials, says: 'Cosmeceuticals is an emerging category in recent times. They have highly effective products that target specific needs of the consumer.'
NEED FOR REGULATION
However, just because such products are the brainchild of men in white lab coats does not mean customers should be lulled into a sense of security.
'Cosmeceutical is a term that is widely used and does not necessarily imply a product may have more scientific study put into it,' says dermatologist Eileen Tan of Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
'I would suggest that consumers read the ingredient list to see if the ingredients are suited for their skin concerns.'
To date, no major regulatory authority, including Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA) or the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recognises this classification as separate from regular cosmetics.
This means cosmeceuticals are tested using the same safety standards as any other cosmetic product.
An HSA spokesman says that 'cosmeceuticals' is a term adopted by the beauty industry for the purposes of 'product differentiation, in promoting and marketing their products as being more effective than regular cosmetic products'.
Even cosmetic manufacturers would like to see more stringent regulations for cosmeceuticals to be put in place. Bryan Johns, chief executive of United States-based cosmeceutical company Innovative Skincare, told Women's Wear Daily in January: '(The FDA) needs to do more to protect consumers from false claims. They need to protect the consumer against ingredients that could be harmful or toxic.'
That said, the addition of ingredients such as antioxidants, peptides and retinols, which are the result of scientific research, have been medically proven to reap benefits.
Indeed, customers want more.
Which is why it is becoming common for big beauty brands, from Christian Dior to Shiseido, to take pains to tout the scientific research that go into their products.
The L'Oreal group, for instance, has an Active Cosmetics Division which distributes doctor-backed brands such as La Roche-Posay and Vichy. The company also acquired SkinCeuticals in 2005.
Gabriel Chu, brand manager for SkinCeuticals and La Roche-Posay here, says this has been the fastest growing division for L'Oreal, both here and overseas, over the last four years.
'For these brands to be recommended by doctors to their patients, their products have to be backed up with clinical research and publication in medical journals,' he says.
'Hence, the credibility of such products is very high.'
Dr Sheldon Pinnell, 72, founded SkinCeuticals in 1997 with the aim of creating a range of products that improve skin health.
The Distinguished Professor of Dermatology Emeritus at the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina was in town earlier this year to launch the American brand's latest antioxidant, Phloretin CF.
Cosmetics giant L'Oreal bought the brand in 2005.
SkinCeuticals is best known for its antioxidant serums that protect the skin against damage by free radicals.
Last year, both its products C E Ferulic and Phloretin CF won American beauty magazine Allure's Best Serum award in its annual Editors' Choice Award.
Dr Pinnell answers Urban's burning questions about keeping skin young and healthy.
What causes skin damage?
'Oxidative stress' is the culprit. This is when free radicals in the environment modify and damage cell DNA, proteins and lipids in the skin. This can lead to pigmentation, wrinkles and even skin cancer.
How can I protect my skin against sun damage?
The body uses antioxidants to neutralise free radicals. However, skin is made to keep everything out, so virtually nothing penetrates its surface.
Vitamins C and E are the only antioxidants that can penetrate skin. There are many other antioxidants but if they can't get into your skin, they can't help you.
However, 20 years ago, I discovered a way to get vitamin C into the skin, by applying it on the surface.
I discovered that ferulic acid, which occurs naturally in plants and is a source of ultra-violet (UV) protection, increases the stability of vitamin C.
The result is an antioxidant serum, C E Ferulic ($159).
Now there is phloretin, a chemical found in apples. It is effective in diminishing age spots and other pigmentation. Try the serum Phloretin CF (above, $239).
Do note that you cannot get this skin protection effect by eating antioxidant supplements, but only by topical application.
Isn't applying sunscreen enough to protect the skin from sun damage?
There is no sunscreen available that can block out the entire spectrum of UV radiation.
Plus the problem with sunscreen is application. Most people use only about a quarter of the amount needed. You are also supposed to reapply sunscreen every two to four hours but most people do not do that.
If you wish to protect your skin, use a combination of antioxidants and sunscreen as this is the most reliable method.
What is the top skincare concern of Asian women?
Asian skin is prone to pigmentation. Sun damage causes this problem. Even if women treat their pigmentation but do not protect their skin against further sun damage, the spots will come back.
What is your opinion on plastic surgery?
If you asked me 10 years ago, I wouldn't think such procedures were worthwhile. Botox, various filler techniques and laser procedures developed by dermatologists today, however, are effective and produce good results.
SkinCeuticals is available at the retail pharmacies of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Changi General Hospital and Singapore General Hospital.
THE LATEST COSMECEUTICAL BRANDS
This American brand subjects its products to extensive scientific tests, which it says are beyond cosmetic industry standards.
Each item has been tested by two independent labs and their claims have the nod of the prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
All its products are gentle enough to be used daily on sensitive skin.
Key ingredients include dimethicone, a medical-grade ingredient to enhance the skin's barrier defences; and crosslinked sodium hyaluronate, a highly potent form of hyaluronic acid, which works as a wrinkle filler.
Must try: Healthy Cleanse Foaming Cleanser & Toner In One, $61 for normal skin and $78 for oily skin.
This multi-tasker, which removes make-up, cleanses and tones, will also remove waterproof mascara in one swipe without stinging the eyes.
This French anti-ageing skincare brand was formulated by doctors for skin that has undergone cosmetic procedures.
Products contain ingredients that aim to fill out existing lines and wrinkles while delaying the ageing process.
These include polyphenols, which are plant-based antioxidants, and peptides for collagen production.
Must try: Activ M Wrinkle Filler Serum, $120. This serum works to reduce the appearance of wrinkles in two ways. First, micro-fine powders diffuse light falling on your skin so lines appear less defined. The serum also has hyaluronic acid to rapidly rehydrate the skin and plump up wrinkles.
Taiwan's top-selling cosmeceutical brand is the brainchild of Dr Wu Ying-Ching, a clinical professor of dermatology at the National Taiwan University.
Formulated for Asian skin, these potions contain peptides that are said to stimulate cells into producing collagen.
His latest hydration line for dehydrated and sensitive skin contains hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture.
Must try: Intensive Hydrating Serum with Hyaluronic Acid, $49.90.
This has five active ingredients to deliver a moisture boost to the skin. It is said to reduce fine lines and wrinkles plus improve dull skin tone.
From: Selected Watsons stores
ZO SKIN HEALTH
Fight lines and wrinkles with this range of products created by Dr Zein Obagi, dermatologist to Hollywood's elite which is said to include Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ashley Judd.
Ten of the 15 products contain retinol, a form of vitamin A that is recognised medically for wrinkle treatment.
Retinol is encapsulated in microspheres so that it is absorbed by cells in the skin's inner layer instead of surface cells where it may cause irritation and dryness.
Must try: Radical Night Repair, $561. This serum has an optimum concentration of 1 per cent retinol to stimulate skin cells into producing collagen while evening out skin tone and reducing pigmentation.
This French skincare brand ventured into cosmeceuticals last October with its C Renewal Programme.
This is a month-long anti-ageing DIY system that aims to fight the damage to skin caused by environmental factors. Ingredients include a combination of plant-based antioxidants to neutralise free radicals and peptides to nudge the cells into making more collagen.
Must try: C Renewal Programme Introductory Kit, $699, comprises six microdermabrasion masks, a peel, post-peel 'comfort solution' and a night cream.
From: Beauty@Genesis, L'Espace Sante or call 6737-0101 for more stockists