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Imagine the most exclusive skin-care boutique in the world, one where you must be buzzed in by guards who watch over every vial and pot as they are taken out and placed before you by a glamorous white-coated technician. The prize jewels—Fullerene C60, hyaluronic acid, telomerase, Pro-Xylane, deconstruct- ed water, polyphenol, oligopeptides, EPF (environmental pollution factor)—catch the light and twinkle from every angle. Each is more exotic than the next, with promises to transform and transport you.
Skin-care scientists today are demanding even more from creams to meet the increasingly higher expectations of a rapidly aging population. Moisturize? Erase wrinkles? That’s kid stuff. The race is on to find the most potent ingredients that work with your body to activate and regenerate your skin. Creams now promise not only to plump, soften, rejuvenate, hide spots, even out texture, and reconstruct collagen but also to potentially improve your sex life. We wouldn’t be surprised if one day they claim to help you lose those last ten pounds. Below is a roundup of the latest innovations—along with a healthy dose of skepticism.
With the green-tea trend happily behind us, scientists at cosmetic companies have been squirreling away in labs searching for the new holy ingredient. Dior just launched its L’Or de Vie cream ($320; 888-888-4757) and serum ($350) with d’Yquem extract. This breakthrough ingredient is from the vine of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes at Château d’Yquem, an ancient winery owned by Dior’s parent company, LVMH. The serum has a nice earthy smell to it and when used with the cream it gives skin a long-lasting dewy glow. "As you age, your skin becomes thinner and loses water," says Neil Sadick, M.D., Dior’s global medical advisor. "The d’Yquem extract taken from the sap of the vines helps skin regenerate itself."
Meanwhile, Lancôme has spent the last seven years developing Pro-Xylane, a chemical that boosts your own naturally occurring hyaluronic acid, which keeps the skin firm and toned. Last fall the company introduced its Lancôme Absolue Premium Bx line. The textures are densely creamy, especially the Absolue Premium Bx Absolute Night Recovery Cream ($132; 800-526-2663).
Plastic surgeon Jean-Louis Sebagh, M.D., who splits his time between Paris and London, mixes up a phytohormone-based cocktail with an EPF film in his new- est multitasking cream. The Crème High Maintenance ($230; 888-243-8825) helps preserve collagen levels and evens skin tone, and the texture is smooth enough to be used as a makeup base.
The London-based firm Zelens was developed by plastic surgeon and researcher Marko Lens, M.D., a fellow at the city’s Royal College of Surgeons. His day and night creams (from $200; 44-207/937-3857) contain Fullerene C60, a strong antioxidant, which neutralizes free radicals.
These new formulas are taking advan- tage of ingredients that stimulate the body’s own ability to retain moisture. In layman’s terms, the big idea appears to be figuring out a way to support drooping skin and keep it plump. Some plastic surgeons, not surprisingly, have a different take on the products’ effectiveness. "If companies are going to use scientific claims, then they should be required like any science to conduct studies comparing creams with and without the ingredients," says New York plastic surgeon Gerald Imber, M.D. "Each year there’s a new miracle, but everyone is still aging the same."
Serums are the unsung heroes of skin care. "The difference between a serum and a cream is really the base," says Marcia Kilgore, founder of the popular spa company Bliss. "If you have a delivery system like liposomes or fruit acids in the serum, it will sink quickly into the skin and go deeper than a cream."
RéVive’s Gregory Bays Brown, M.D., developed Peau Magnifique ($1,500; 888-888-4757), a serum with the active enzyme telomerase. It literally wakes up your skin cells and stimulates your body to make new ones just as it did when you were young. After the first night, the skin feels baby-soft and plump from the inside. As tempting as it would be to use it every day, Peau Magnifique is said to be most effective when used for 30 days twice a year. It doesn’t bill itself as the fountain of youth, but it’s the closest we’ve come.
On the other hand, Miracle Serum ($150; 888-243-8825) by cosmetic der- matologist Steven Victor, M.D., can be used daily. Apply it over makeup to prevent creasing and diminish fine lines. The serum is recommended to be used in conjunction with Victor’s Bio-Nutritive Luxury Cream ($400), which has a reputation for giving you a luminous glow and tighter skin tone.
The Elixir d’Himalaya ($70; 33-4/50-93-03-10) by Les Fermes de Marie Beauty, a spa retreat in the French Alps, has not yet caught on in the U.S. market. The 21-day serum treatment, made from Himalayan apricot kernel oil, has an invigorating effect because of the apricot, musk rose oil, Alpine edelweiss extract, and toning Nepalese rhododendron.
The ultimate potions, masks provide deeper cleansing as well as a boost to the skin. These are the instantly gratifying godsends of the skin-care world. London facialist Eve Lom’s Rescue Mask ($50; 44-208/665-0112) is a remarkable quick fix that uses camphor to revive and illuminate your skin immediately. RéVive just launched the Masque de Glaise ($145; 877-551-7257), a deep-cleansing mask that contains limestone-rich mud from Kentucky. (Limestone is responsible for the famous Kentucky bluegrass.) The solution dries in 15 minutes and sucks out the impurities, resulting in skin that’s clear and refreshed.
The Parisian company Decléor created its new Expérience de L’Age line for older skin. The plant-based Triple Action Gel Cream Mask ($45; 888-282-6060) offers a holistic approach to increase firmness and radiance with wheat protein and essential oils.
Those who can’t find time for weekly face peels at the dermatologist should consider the latest product from Frederic Brandt, M.D.’s Laser in a Bottle line: Laser a-Peel, his three-step peeling system ($100; 877-737-4672), lets you play dermatologist at home. If you use it weekly for a month, the sunspots fade and your skin will noticeably even out.
Like professional chemical peels, Brandt’s system uses glycolic and lactic acids. These acids make it more effective than regular masks. Even Imber recom-mends glycolic acid. "Although nothing over the counter will reverse aging, it is a proven product," he says. "But if one of these treatments worked miracles, wouldn’t everyone be using it?"