What Promises to Help Strengthen Skin’s Immunity?

Shiseido’s Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, $105

The definition of healthy skin isn’t a complexion that glows as if it has been backlit. Nor is it bouncy supple skin that defies gravity, or a face free of blotches, lines or wrinkles. It is skin that behaves normally, says  Junichi Hosoi, PhD, cutaneous biology research group, Cosmetics Basic Research Center (CBRC), Shiseido Research Center.

 “Healthy skin is not weak or super strong, over reactive or hyper sensitive. It’s normal, doing what it is supposed to do – defend and repair – efficiently. But the degree of normality depends greatly on skin’s immunity. And that affects other skin functions, which in turn affects skin’s appearance.”

Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate

The bottle is curved at the back so that it fits ergonomically in the hand.

Skin immunity has become the holy grail of cosmetics skincare now. Hosoi and his cohorts at Shiseido and Harvard University, US, have been studying skin’s health and how it immunises itself for 20 years. But the subject is tricky. “When skin immunity is weak, you’re exposed to diseases. When it’s too strong, you’re exposed to allergies,” says Dr David Fisher, chief of Department of Dermatology and Director of CBRC, Massachusetts General Hospital, US. “It’s like a double-edged sword.”

The commander-in-chief of skin’s immune system is the Langerhans cell. It detects intruders (bacteria, foreign substances) and warns other cells to fire up their immune functions. But what it also does is go into self-protection mode when other stimuli (environmental and internal distresses) cause skin problems. Langerhans cells “sedate” skin with a calming enzyme that only they have. It doesn’t come in endless supply. The more stressed we are – in today’s context, pretty much all the time – the more the stuff is used up. The older we are, the less of it is produced. To get optimum immunisation, it’s recommended that Langerhans cells be armed with a steady supply of this calming agent.

Shiseido’s Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, a liquid serum, reportedly enhances the double-prong defence mechanism of the Langerhans cells for stronger skin that is more protected, resistant to external and internal damage, recovers more quickly and feels healthier. What’s in it: a cocktail of botanicals – ginkgo biloba leaf extract to provide antioxidants, and eastern herb perilla and thyme for antibacterial properties. Use it twice a day after toner/softener, but before other skincare, as it’s ideal as a pre-serum too. –JE

What Helps Combat Sleep-deprived Ageing?

Dior Prestige Le Nectar de Nuit, $595

“When we have less than eight hours of sleep, our body produces three times the amount of an inflammatory messenger called IL-6 that accelerates ageing,” says Edouard Mauvais-Jarvis, scientific communications director of Parfums Christian Dior. “This protein is especially destructive because it produces chronic low-noise inflammation that doesn’t appear on skin surface, but leads to long-term premature ageing.”

What the milky night serum does is “compensate for little sleep or poor quality of sleep”. It has bud extract from Rose de Granville, a rose of a particular breed that’s cultivated by Dior, and it reportedly boasts twice the amount of regenerative molecules than the adult plant, with strong anti-inflammatory action to boot.

“We found that this ingredient reduces the production of IL-6 by almost half to counteract the effects of sleep deprivation,” Mauvais-Jarvis says. “The idea here is to give you skin that is as good as someone who slept eight or nine hours, even if you haven’t.”

 The 4 Best Serums Now

To ensure that skin can fight IL-6 the whole night, the bud extract is delivered in a “millefeuille” vector. Like the French pastry it’s named after, it is made of many layers, and each holds a small quantity of ingredients. The vector releases them slowly over the course of eight hours to trick skin into performing as if you are well rested.

Clinical tests on 80 women (Caucasian and Asian) after eight weeks show significantly improved complexions despite subjects having had poor sleep. They tested as good as or even better in all areas (like radiance and plumpness) compared to women who have been sleeping well and adequately. – MSY

What Knows What Your Skin Needs Before You Do?

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, $106

To appreciate how it does that, you need to understand how skin cells work. When they are damaged, they send distress signals to nearby cells for help, says Dr Tom Mammone, executive director of Skin Physiology and Pharmacology ELC (Estee Lauder Companies). Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum reportedly has a reservoir of ingredients that reads these signals, recognises what’s needed and delivers the appropriate repair molecules, thereby personalising the treatment and performance. The ability to “diagnose” and prescribe accurately not only helps repair existing skin issues (like pigmentation, fine lines, loss of firmness, dullness and uneven skin tone), but also staves off future ones.

Whatever’s not activated gets metabolised by the body, so healthy skin cells are not inundated with too much of anything, whether it’s chemical or natural. This is important because skin will become overly reactive and sensitive.

 The 4 Best Serums Now 1

To ensure that skin is more receptive to repair, the creamy serum also has red algae and liquorice extract to calm the complexion first. Use it twice a day, either on its own or layered with others. It’s not advisable to use this product if you want to treat one specific problem, such as dark spots or wrinkles, says Clinique’s senior vice-president of Global Product Development Janet Pardo. She recommends that you use a targeted product to address it instead. – MSY

What Helps to Lift Skin and Improve Its Texture?

Lancome Absolue L’Extrait Regenerating and Renewing Ultimate Elixir-Concentrate, $715

When the French cosmetics brand introduced its first product for its most luxurious range, Absolue L’Extrait, it was a face cream with reportedly two million rose stem cells that are said to have a “cell-reproducing” effect on the skin’s dermis, stimulating collagen and elastin production for firmer, more supple skin – “restoring” it to former glory.

This serum (which comes with a massage applicator) works on the same premise, but the technology in extracting the rose stem cells has been modified to a pressurising method that supposedly breaks apart each cell wall. This reportedly increases the skin-repairing benefits of the ingredient. – MSY

The 4 Best Serums Now 2