The science of “transluminescence”

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Say what? Most often used in the worlds of medicine and tech, the term refers to a process where light enters a translucent substance, scatters upon interaction with it, then exits by reflecting back out at different points. According to Dior’s latest studies, light behaves in a similar way with our complexion.

What it posits: As skin ages, its cell renewal process slows, leading to an accumulation of dead cells on the surface. The more such build-up there is, the less the amount of light that is able to penetrate skin. And, in turn, the smaller the amount of light reflected back out. The less reflection, the less radiance.

Coupled with other skin woes that come with age – overproduction of melanin; an increase in ageing pigments and glycated proteins – and the lack of transluminescence becomes an even bigger problem.

To deal with this, Dior’s introduced two products to its Prestige White line. The Light-in-Lotion ($167) is a daily toner with rose micro-peel that gently exfoliates skin, ridding it of dead surface cells to boost the complexion’s ability to reflect light. Meanwhile, the Light-in-Nectar serum ($570) has Light-in-Rose Pearls that supposedly inhibit the transfer of melanin, decrease the production of ageing pigments, and slow down glycation (in short, it works on all the factors that prevent, yes, transluminescence).

The return of night masks

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You put them on, go to bed, and wake up with a brighter-looking complexion. Oh, and some also hydrate and plump skin, soothe irritation, and are packed with pigmentation-fighting ingredients. It’s no wonder that these brightening leave-on masks are gaining popularity.

An industry favourite is La Mer’s Blanc de la Mer The Brilliance Brightening Mask ($440), a two-step treatment using a Soothing Primer and Mask Gel. The former, which goes on before the mask, has a blend of algae, vitamins and nutrients to comfort skin as well as prevent redness. The mask itself contains Vital Brilliance Ferment, made with a cocktail of sea-sourced actives and marine peptides to treat wrinkles, stubborn spots and dullness.

Another multi-tasker of a brightening bedtime mask is Estee Lauder’s Crescent White Full Cycle Brightening Cooling Sorbet Pack ($136 for a pack of eight) that’s loaded with essential antioxidants, an exclusive brightening complex, and Swiss glacial water. This lightweight, oil-free gel cools skin upon contact by 3 deg C to refresh and hydrate, while liquorice and aloe vera extract soothe and calm.

Meanwhile Clarins’ White Plus Pure Translucency Brightening Revive Night-mask Gel ($115) replaces your regular evening moisturiser yet works like a night mask: acerola fruit extract controls melanin production, while the antioxidant huang qi extract boosts clarity.

Encapsulation improved (you’ll want to read this, really)

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Before you baulk at this very unsexy term, know that its technology of sheathing ingredients for controlled release offers some of the fastest, most efficient and intensive results – and brands are getting better at it.

In La Prairie’s White Caviar Illuminating Pearl Infusion ($850), golden caviar extract and vitamin C are stored in white “pearls” that treat uneven skin tone, loss of luminosity and dark spots effectively and quickly. The twist here is that the membrane of each “pearl” also boasts anti-pollution properties that protect skin from damaging particles in the air.

Over at Dior, a new encapsulation method dubbed Diorsnow Microcaps Biotechnology micro-encapsulates ingredients. By isolating each one from other elements, it preserves the purity and efficacy of all. Designed to be released only upon application when and where needed, the capsules are also gentler on skin.

The first two products made with this technology are the line’s Essence Of Light Lotion ($93) and Brightening Refining Moist Cloud Creme ($150). The former, a gel-liquid toner, contains micro-encapsulated vitamin E to soothe skin and treat hyperpigmentation. The latter micro-encapsulates sebum-reducing ingredients that specifically target the oilier areas of skin. When the active ingredients are released, what you can expect is a refined, smoother and brighter-looking complexion.

The aging angle

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Because hyperpigmentation isn’t the only cause of a dull complexion. Signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles, sagging and enlarged pores are also culprits, reducing the skin’s ability to reflect light and appear luminous. With this, we’re seeing a host of anti-ageing products that have brightening benefits.

Take Sulwhasoo’s Snowise EX Brightening Emulsion ($88). Its content of white ginseng helps to firm and hydrate skin, improve its elasticity and control melanin production. Meanwhile, white cloud grass extract soothes and boosts circulation for a healthy glow.

Similarly, Philosophy’s All-over Skin-perfecting Brightening Essence ($90) has a complex of vitamin C, niacinamide, algae, and daisy extract. What this cocktail does: diminish the appearance of pores and fine lines, lighten dark spots, and improve skin’s natural ability to reflect light.

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Another pro that fights dullness and an uneven skin tone, while promising to boost skin regeneration: SK-II’s Genoptics Aura Essence ($199). A lightweight milky serum, it contains Pitera, which is rich in minerals, vitamins and amino acids to help revitalise skin. Additionally, prunus extract targets not just visible dark spots, but also hidden ones that have yet to emerge. Add them up and these ingredients soften, smooth and boost clarity (read: they’ll make your complexion look fresher and more radiant).

The energy boost 

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The healthier your complexion, the fresher and more radiant it’ll look. Ditto when skin cells contain sufficient energy – they’re better able to repair damage and remove stubborn dark spots.

Chanel’s Le Blanc Serum Healthy Light Creator ($186) has ume flower extract that’s said to boost cellular vitality and stimulate a protein in skin that acts as a “cellular guardian”. What this protein does is to help repair damaged skin and promote the growth of healthy cells, making them more resilient to stressors that can lead to excessive melanin production.

Doing the same in Cle de Peau Beaute’s Concentrated Brightening Serum ($260) is artemisia princeps leaf extract, which reportedly energises skin cells to help them excrete melanin. To further boost clarity: mangosteen, bread yeast and citrus unshiu peel extract promote the cell turnover rate to get rid of surface pigmentation.

And for a more wallet-friendly supercharger, there’s Vichy’s Idealia Lumiere Illuminating Moisture Essence ($75). Peony root boosts blood circulation; hyaluronic acid hydrates and reboots rosiness; while the active ingredient adenosine stimulates metabolism and cellular energy for a healthy glow.

The alternative exfoliator

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This is 101 when it comes to getting brighter, more even-toned skin: the higher the rate of one’s skin cell turnover, the less build-up of melanin there is, and the better skin can reflect light and appear radiant. Exfoliating is key, but these products go beyond that.

Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Brightening and Smoothing Moisture Treatment ($78) is meant to boost skin clarity by working on rough texture, dehydration and discoloration. How it really works on improving skin cell turnover: it has glycolic acid that not so much peels, but softens the skin’s surface (perfect for those with sensitive complexions), making it more receptive to the other ingredients.

And in L’Occitane’s Reine Blanche Whitening Rich Cream ($98), reine des pres flower extract with natural salicylic acid increases epidermal renewal while vitamin C helps to fade pigmentation spots.

Going one step further is Shiseido’s White Lucent Onmakeup Spot Correcting Serum SPF15/PA+++ ($55) that’s inspired by laser therapy. Using sakura extract to optimise cell turnover without damaging skin, it removes surface dead skin cells and, in turn, layers of melanin and the appearance of pigmentation. Bonus: It doubles as a concealer, with a choice of three shades.

This story first appeared in Female’s March 2017 issue. 

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