Marketing executive Elaine Heng is 24 years old, but has already adopted a skincare routine that includes anti-ageing products such as intensive eye creams and sunscreens – one usually better associated with women a decade (or more) older.
“I used to think that anti-ageing measures only started from your 30s. However, despite being in my early 20s, I’ve started on ‘prejuvenation’ measures because I’ve noticed early signs of ageing on my skin like loss of firmness,” she says.
It might sound like a case of paranoia or plain vanity. Blame selfie culture, if you like. But the fact now is, more than ever, the quest to look younger often begins at an earlier age. With it – responding or encouraging the mindset – is a boom in anti-ageing skincare products targeted specifically at millennials and the Girls generation (the American TV show, though the K-pop super group, whose members range between ages 25 and 27, could apply too).
The beauty industry has even come up with a term to describe this new pursuit for eternal youth: prejuvenation – essentially “preventive skin rejuvenation”. This means that the concept of anti-ageing is no longer simply about ageing gracefully.
The It Aesthetic Trend
Like some trending hashtag, prejuvenation’s the hottest buzzword in aesthetics today. Dr Heng Wee Soon, a medical doctor at IDS Clinic, defines it as the practice of “starting non-invasive aesthetic treatments like botulinum toxin (aka Botox) injections, laser treatments, non-invasive skin-tightening procedures and/or filler injections to prevent further ageing rather than correcting the signs of ageing”.
Within Asia and Singapore, women in their 20s and 30s have taken to it as if it were the next must-have It bag. Dr Karen Soh, medical director of Prive Clinic, shares that she’s seen a 20 per cent increase in patients below the age of 30 as compared to when the clinic opened six years ago. Meanwhile, Dr Calvin Chan of Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic points out that it is this particular demographic that has grown up with the culture of laser facials and preventive Botox. “It’s thus little surprise that they would adopt these treatments as part of their beauty routine early, to maintain the preternaturally youthful looks that Hollywood and Asian celebrities often appear to be blessed with,” he explains.
It’s Never Too Early
That’s not to say that the traditional approaches towards anti-ageing have changed. What’s thought of as mature skin and how to deal with it have largely stayed the same, says Dr Heng. What’s different, he explains, is that intervention now comes at an earlier stage of the ageing spectrum. Just how early? “Before the obvious signs of ageing show up.”
What’s there to treat if someone were as cherubically youthful as, say, Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid, both 21, one might ask? But the doctors we spoke with – perhaps not surprisingly – are of the camp that it’s never too early.
Dr Chan points out that regardless of age, one’s skin takes a beating from the environment, sun and pollution every day. “Skin cells need to repair themselves daily, and it’s when this ability slows down – with age or when they’re overwhelmed with responding to external aggressors – that the signs of ageing start appearing obviously.”
Add the fact that several preventive treatments are already popular among younger women for other reasons besides ageing, and the idea of starting them even before turning 25 – to stay looking 25 _ is not that far-fetched. Says Dr Chan: “ Treatments like chemical peels, laser facials or IPL are also used to correct oiliness, acne and freckles – issues that plague younger skin.”
And while it might sound like a given, there’s no harm in going for more advanced procedures too, he says. Radio frequency treatments like Thermage, for example, plump and lift skin, which means they can help prevent lines as much as they recreate Victoria Beckham’s sharp, defined jawline. Laser skin toning kick-starts collagen production, so much so that its effects would show even on the complexion of a 20-something-year-old, he adds.
And apparently even using Botox at a younger age has its benefits. According to Dr Chan, preventive Botox relaxes the muscles around the eyes while reducing under-eye bulges, giving one the appearance of wider, livelier peepers and, in turn, a fresher, younger-looking visage (no one’s going to complain if they looked as button cute and expressive as Emma Stone). As with all cosmetic treatments, though, the trick is not to overdo it.
Dr Heng further elaborates on the use of Botox as a prejuvenation procedure: “Dynamic facial wrinkles brought about by facial expressions are due to specific facial muscle contractions. Over time, these wrinkles become static wrinkles that are ‘etched’ onto skin.
“When botulinum toxin injections are done early as a preventative measure, facial muscles that cause wrinkles can be taught to move less, stopping wrinkles before they start.”
In short, start on Botox early enough and one could possibly stay forever young. Or as Prive Clinic’s Dr Soh puts it, a 30-year-old woman doing treatments over a span of 20 years will see much better results than a 40-year-old woman who does treatments for 10 years. “This is true even if the treatments eventually add up to the same cost or intensity,” she adds.
The Skincare Routine
Prejuvenation is not exclusive to the realm of aesthetic treatments. Increasingly, young women are also stocking up on anti-ageing skincare before any signs show.
Michelle Ong, trainer for La Prairie Singapore, says: “Women in their 20s today are savvy about beauty trends. They’ll put in the effort on their skincare routine to maintain their youthfulness… and are looking for multi-tasking products that can protect and give instant gratification.”
Even Cle de Peau Beaute, which has majority of its products focused on anti-ageing, has seen a change in customer profile. Its brand manager Nora Lim says: “Over the last two years, we’ve noticed a 30 to 40 per cent increase in women between the ages of 20 and 40 in our Top Spenders list and membership tiers.”
According to a global study Sulwhasoo commissioned in 2015, 30 per cent of Asian women surveyed cited ageing as one of their main skin concerns. “Almost all customers will enquire about anti-ageing products and seek recommendations on an effective anti-ageing skincare routine,” says Sulwhasoo Singapore’s brand general manager Doreen Chia.
Naturally, the brands have responded. Clarins, for example, keeps the texture of its anti-ageing products lightweight to better suit younger skin, points out its marketing manager Brenda Loke. Meanwhile, Cle de Peau Beaute has not only tweaked the texture of its luxurious La Creme and Intensive Eye Contour Cream to suit a wider range of skin types, but also reformulated its basic care line – its most popular among younger women – to have anti-ageing benefits.
Similar to aesthetic treatments, the stance is that early use of such skincare can aid prejuvenation. Says Chia: “They can help maintain and enhance the present condition of one’s skin for a longer period, thus delaying the signs of ageing.”
For those unconvinced, there’s always the wellness approach. The under-30 women we spoke with all agreed that living right is a vital part of prejuvenation too.
Says executive Lian Mei Ting, 29: “I used to think that age is the main reason for skin ageing, which makes it inevitable, but I’ve since learnt that sun damage is one of the main culprits. Now, I always wear sunblock and stay out of the sun as much as possible.”
Getting rid of bad lifestyle habits known to cause one to look older – late nights, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption (or just reference Lindsay Lohan) – will definitely help too. As Dr Heng of IDS Clinic puts it: “A healthy, positive lifestyle is a prejuvenation lifestyle.”
Skincare to kick-start prejuvenation at home:
1. IDS Rejuvenating Complex, $245
This contains the brand’s Zinc-Elastin Firming Complex along with a proprietary Enhance delivery system to promote effective absorption of its active ingredients. When used over time, it supposedly boosts collagen and elastin production, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
2. Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Advanced, $200
Its improved formula boasts unique active biomimetic ingredients that refine skin texture to achieve a soft-focus effect, blurring imperfections, while active boosted longoza extract reportedly promotes collagen and elastin production for a smooth, supple complexion.
3. Yves Saint Laurent Beaute Forever Youth Liberator Y-Shape Concentrate, $189
A targeted concentrate to help firm, lift and redefine a woman’s best features – jawline, neck and decolletage – now with an improved formula for faster results.
4. Clarins Double Serum, $121
With 20 powerful plant extracts, this serum works to firm skin, reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, while refining skin texture at the same time.
5. Prive Skinworks Renew Line Eraser, $267.50
Dubbed “Botox sans the needles”, this cream infuses skin with peptides (to relax the muscles) and vitamins (to firm skin, so it feels plump and lifted).
6. La Prairie Skin Caviar Sleep Mask, $555
Rich in caviar extracts, this overnight mask promises to nourish, firm, repair and refine skin while you snooze.
7. Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream EX Light, $298
With a lightweight texture that makes it suitable for younger skin, this gel-cream is packed with potent active anti-ageing ingredients that promise to hydrate and rejuvenate, while strengthening skin’s barrier.
Aesthetic treatments to hold back the signs of ageing:
Results last: Three to five months
What it’s good for: When injected in the correct dosage and at the right locations, such as the under-eye area, it can prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles by inhibiting muscle movement.
Results last: Six to 12 months, depending on the type of filler
What they’re good for: These injectables can be used to plump skin from within, or add definition to facial features like the nose and chin. In addition, tests have shown that regular treatments with hyaluronic fillers can stimulate collagen production within the skin to improve its texture.
Results last: 12 to 18 months
What they’re good for: These non-surgical procedures often use radio frequency or ultrasound energies (sometimes both) to help tighten, firm and plump skin by stimulating and strengthening its collagen network. They can also refine skin texture for a smooth and glowing complexion. Treatments that fall under this category include Thermage, Accent RF, Ultherapy and Exilis Elite.
Model Photo Elvina Farkas/Anue Management
This story first appeared in Female’s May 2017 issue.