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Is there any way we can preserve or recreate a line-free complexion without resorting to the surgeon’s knife? To fight it off as if it were a preventable illness? Amazingly it’s not such a sci-fi movie style proposition nowadays – indeed, scientist Aubrey de Grey believes that a ‘cure’ for ageing is imminent, and that patients will soon be seeing their doctors for routine ‘maintenance’ in the form of gene and stem cell therapy in order to increase their life expectancy.

Grey also says that the first person who will live to be 150 has already been born and that someone who will live to 1,000 is only 20 years behind them. Good news if you are thinking only in terms of longevity, but if the aesthetics of ageing bother you, then the science of skincare needs to keep up too. After all, who wants to live forever if it means decades of wrinkled, prune-like skin?

In a report published in 2009, it was estimated that the global anti-ageing products market would reach $291.9 billion by 2015 – proof indeed that we are prepared to invest a whole lot of money into our attempts to prevent the ravages of time and protect ourselves from the ‘symptoms’ of ageing. Furthermore, market analysts Euromonitor reported in 2012 that the skincare segment holds the largest growth potential of the Middle East’s cosmetics industry, with facial care being the strongest driver of growth in the UAE.

But despite our willingness to feed this booming industry, can we ever really hold off Mother Nature’s claim over our cells? Can we take a ‘medical’ approach to ‘age-proof’ our bodies, but without the need for invasive plastic surgery? Or are we all just destined for the surgeon’s scalpel if, as life expectancy increases, we want our outward appearance to keep up?

In some respects, cosmetic surgery is like taking a step backward in anti-ageing care these days. Advances in technology mean that salons in our shopping malls are offering walk-in hi-tech treatments via laboratory-style equipment that would not look out of place in the most sophisticated and pioneering hospital departments. Lasers that resurface the skin, light therapy to repair broken veins and eradicate crow’s feet, and treatments dispensed by doctors are all commonplace in therapists’ practice rooms.

Even at home a pamper session no longer means just a cleanse, tone and moisturise. With innovations ranging from DIY-injection kits that pump serum into the deepest layers of the dermis, through to electrode-based muscle toners, and myriad pills and potions previously the domain of only the most upmarket spas, women (and men) can carry out anti-ageing regimes that would have previously only been available at the hands of a trained therapist.

You can’t turn back time

But despite all these new-fangled procedures, that nagging, sensible voice in the back of our heads still whispers that prevention is better than cure. Surely there’s truth to the well-worn phrase, ‘you get the face you deserve’?

For many eminent therapists, this advice stands true. “You cannot turn back time, but you can slow down the ageing process by following a healthy lifestyle,” says Rebecca Treston, founder and manager of Rebecca Treston Aesthetics at Euromed Clinic, Dubai. “This should include exercising regularly, drinking two litres of water daily, consuming healthy food and good supplementation, and of course using professionally recommended skincare products that are suited to your skin’s needs.”

She says ‘poor lifestyle choices’ are reflected in the condition of our skin, blaming smoking, bad diet, not using sun protection and extreme sun exposure for having an accelerating effect on the ageing process. Skin energy doctor Terry Loong (www.drterry.com) agrees, but says modern life is perhaps not compatible with holding back the years, and we need help to safeguard our complexions.

“If we were living in an absolutely pollution-free and stress-free environment, had good genes and had started a healthy diet and lifestyle right from the beginning,
then yes, diet and lifestyle can delay the signs of ageing,” she says. “However, the ever-increasing pace of modern living, the environment and the food we eat causes premature ageing inside and out, so we require support to turn back time.”

While that support used to come in the form of a pot of cold cream and an early night, scientific advances have revolutionised our understanding of how topical skin potions work. While ingredients in traditional creams are undeniably beneficial, the molecules are too large to penetrate to the deeper levels of the dermis where they can do the most good, says German dermatologist Helmut Christ.

His company has developed a handheld electronic device called the Sqoom (available at Galeries Lafayette, Dh3,999) that uses patented ionisation and ultrasound technology to separate the skin cells and allow the ionisation energy to drive organic moisturising products deep into the skin’s tissue.

Pulsing at one million vibrations per second, the technology was born in the medical industry for curing severe acne and rosacea conditions and has been adapted for the beauty market for its ability to reduce fine lines, restore collagen and shrink pore size. Dr Erich Schulte, founder of QMS Medicosmetics, agrees that the method of applying youth-promoting ingredients is key to enhancing their effectiveness.

“The future of skincare is improving the delivery system and metabolism of ingredients in both products and treatments,” he says. “My latest breakthrough is enabling natural soluble collagens from plants to penetrate the skin, using Electro Galvanic transportation (electric micro-current technology) to push them through the skin barrier without destroying its protective functions.”

Plant stem cells, Dr Schulte explains, are highly regenerative and often considered the fountain of youthful skin. “It is their self-renewal capacity that is so valuable in anti-ageing skincare and harnessing their power requires a highly complex process.” But while topical treatments might be radically improved, for hardcore anti-ageing many women want the immediacy of injectables, even for the most minor initial frown or laughter lines.

Dr Daniel Sister, world-renowned anti-ageing and hormone specialist, says that short of surgery, nothing can replace Botox in terms of smoothing the skin. While dermal fillers such as Restylene and Juvederm plump up the skin to temporarily disguise wrinkles, Botox tackles the source of them by working on muscle contractions.

“As soon as you have facial expressions, you create lines and wrinkles,” says
Dr Sister. “Dermal fillers have improved a lot, not only in texture, but also in the application techniques. But so far, nothing replaces Botox.”

Yet despite its obvious effectiveness and popularity – more than five million Botox injections were given in 2011, making it the most common anti-ageing procedure – many people are uncomfortable with the idea of filling their faces with what is essentially a poison – made from botulinum toxin A, it is part of the same family of toxins as botulism, a common cause of fatal food poisoning.

Blood work

A radical, all-natural version of the new generation of anti-ageing procedures is the ‘Dracula treatment’ (available in the UAE at Dubai Cosmetic Surgery www.dubaicosmeticsurgery.com). This involves injecting the patient’s own plasma (taken from their blood) back into the face to restore the skin’s youthful appearance.

Also known as S3 or Stimulated Self Serum Skin Therapy, the blood is taken from the arm, separated into red blood cells, clear serum and platelets and mixed with vitamins and amino acids before being injected back into the skin.

The treatment works by stimulating DNA repair to heal scars, and transform dry or wrinkled areas, and users report that although it can result in slight tenderness afterwards (not to mention a bloodied complexion during the treatment, as recently demonstrated by reality celeb Kim Kardashian on her Kourtney and Kim Take Miami show), it does give fresher skin, without the drastic, more ‘obvious’ results of fillers.

Along the same lines is the PRP Enriched Facelift, which involves re-contouring the face using fat harvested from your own body that is then mixed with your own platelet-rich plasma in order to enhance the effects of tissue repair. Available at the American British Surgical and Medical Centre (www.absamc.com) the treatment not only revitalises the tone and texture of your face but has the added bonus of removing fat from where you don’t want it in your body.

However, considering the pace at which anti-ageing science is evolving, injectables are almost passé when compared with their of-the-moment counterparts. One new, cutting-edge non-surgical treatment is the Aptos thread lift (available at Cosmesurge near JBR www.cosmesurge.com).

Like a facelift but without the scalpel, tiny strings – which act as pulleys – are implanted into the drooping areas of the face and tightened to support soft tissue and lift facial features. As collagen collects around the thread, features enjoy improved support and start to become more defined. Another area of rapid advancement is laser treatments, which Rebecca Treston says have “transformed the aesthetics industry”, giving results that previously would have only been seen with a facelift.

“Laser Rejuvenation technology allows us to stimulate new collagen and elastin by eliciting a wound-healing response,” she says. “Radio Frequency and Ematrix [fractionated bipolar radio frequency energy] both offer brilliant results for skin tightening, while laser resurfacing or chemical peeling can solve pigmentation issues and textural anomalies.”

Get the results with less downtime

Although the ‘wound-healing response’ that prompts new collagen can mean several days of downtime while your skin repairs, treatments creating excitement among doctors in the US include eTwo, a dual-device facial procedure that smoothens and firms multiple layers of your skin in one session without damaging its surface.

Details of how it works is a minefield of jargon – it uses infrared light, bipolar radio frequency and fractional bipolar radio frequency energy and heat – but the revolutionary aspect is its ability to achieve anti-ageing results that would usually require several sessions of similar therapies, and without the need for downtime.

But for Rebecca, a ‘360 approach’ is still, she says, the best defence against ageing. “It is vital to ensure adequate sun protection is given throughout childhood,” she says. “In the early 20s and 30s good skin care and regular facials are a must and from 40, depending on individual skin issues, investing in clinical-based treatments will ensure your skin remains in optimum condition.”

Dr Terry Loong agrees – the earlier we implement a routine, the better. “The best time to consider starting on anti-ageing products and treatments would be when one is 25 years old,” she says. “The skin’s elastin, collagen, fat and hydration start to diminish at this age. It’s a good time to start adding a chemical exfoliator such as glycolic to increase cell turnover and a cell communicator such as retinol to increase production of elastin and collagen.

“However, this depends on the client’s lifestyle, environment and previous skin damage as modern living causes premature ageing on many young skins, so they may have to address it much sooner.” And it’s not just women who should be following this advice. “In recent years, men have started to embrace the aesthetics industry and its range of treatments,” says Rebecca, adding that when it comes to the skin’s battle against time ‘gender is irrelevant’.

“Men should be doing everything a woman is doing,” she says, “And that is using high-quality skincare, following a healthy lifestyle and investing in treatments to keep ageing at bay.”

Age-proofing your hair

As oil production slows down with age, safeguarding the hair against dryness and breakage should be a priority. Many experts cite omega-3 fatty acids and protein
as being vital to keeping the scalp healthy and hair youthful, lustrous and shiny. Dr Nicholas Perricone, dermatologist (www.perriconemd.com) says that foods rich in vitamin E will help protect the hair from the effects of time.

Turbocharging the hair’s own protein and keratin reserves to prevent thinning and drying is also paramount to keeping it youthful – Kerastase’s Resistance Bain Age Recharge Shampoo (Dh280 from www.essentialmall.ae or in salons) combines Vita-Refill Complexe + Glycerol Vita-Ciment to strengthen hair from within, while Mophofill and Glycerol hydrates and adds shine.
Supplements containing zinc, essential fatty acids, and vitamins C and E are often touted as being beneficial for healthy hair growth – and if taken with an all-round multi-vitamin, will offer a two-pronged attack to fighting the ageing malaise.

Cutting-edge products and treatments

  • Ubiomed’s Tok Tok has a celeb following the USA, and is the world’s first micro needle device that delivers anti-ageing solutions in the form of injectable serums directly into the skin’s deep layers, painlessly and safely, and, most amazingly, in the comfort of your own home. Stocked by www.ubiomed.co.uk who ship to UAE.
  • The VeinCure Clinic at Jumeira Lakes Towers, Dubai www.veincureclinic.com offers the New Thermage (T3 Treatment), a non-invasive laser technique that tightens existing collagen and stimulates new collagen growth for immediately visible results in a five to ten minute treatment. It gives all the benefits of both Thermage and Fraxel with no downtime.
  • QMS Medicosmetics’ range of skincare products focus on the best ‘delivery’ techniques in skincare, combined with hard-science. Collagen production is a primary factor in the ageing of the skin, and QMS products seek to regenerate and rejuvenate the skin’s supplies. Order online at www.qmsmedicosmetics.com

Additional reporting by Tabitha Barda