"Vanity is the healthiest thing in life" Image Credit: Getty Images

Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Vanity is the healthiest thing in life” and it seems that, here in the UAE, we agree. Sales of facial skincare products such as moisturisers and anti-ageing creams are growing every year and by 2015 we will spend a total of Dh307 million a year*, which means that women are willing to invest a lot of cash to ensure their skin looks great.

It’s an obsession that includes almost all of us – 91 per cent of UAE residents admit to spending money on health and beauty each month**, with 27 per cent splashing out between Dh367 and Dh1,100 to keep themselves beautiful. And it’s not just women paying to preserve their prettiness – sales of skincare products for men went up by 11 per cent last year.

So why are we so surface obsessed? Officially, the reasons are a large youth population, a high presence of international skincare brands, big shopping malls and large disposable incomes. But it’s also due to an increased awareness that we can all look better as we age, huge improvements in the sorts of products available and the fact that the increasingly sophisticated ingredients in product actually give results.

Anti-ageing skincare is now at the cutting edge of beauty technology, with companies spending millions on research in order to find solutions to rub out wrinkles and banish evidence of the passing years on our faces.

Effective and affordable

While the elixir of youth has long been craved and promised, the testing of products has improved dramatically. Where once companies would claim that X cream reduces wrinkles instantly and Y cream can make you look ten years younger, today, brands are under pressure to substantiate any claims and so rigorous clinical trials are now the norm.

These often provide evidence that creams don’t have to cost the earth in order to be effective. Back in 2007, University of Manchester researcher Christopher Griffiths conducted a clinical trial, which showed that a skin cream from Boots (No 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Beauty Serum, which retails for around Dh120) had not just a cosmetic impact but a biological one too, restoring the structure of skin.

With scientific evidence to back up the cream’s claim, not surprisingly, it went on to sell millions of bottles. As Professor Griffiths says, “The general public seems to really appreciate the science and products have to do what they say they will, rather than using some sort of sleight of hand. The landscape is starting to change and it is moving more towards what we see in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Another huge area of research is the study of glycobiology, which helps determine how to reverse the signs of ageing. L’Oreal has led the way, leading to the launch of the Yves Saint Laurent Liberated Youth range. The wonder ingredient is ‘glycans’ – molecules in our body that our cells use to communicate with each other.

Glycans tell our skin to produce collagen to keep it looking young, but they work less well as we age, so the glycans in the Yves Saint Laurent products stimulate the existing glycans in skin to boost elasticity. But this is just the tip of the beauty-science iceberg. We guide you through the products you can use to look younger now, and the research that could open new doors in the future.

High-tech radiance

There’s nothing more youthful than a glowing, dewy complexion. The latest product innovations have concentrated on luminosity as the key to gorgeous skin and, while salons can offer heavy-duty machine treatments or injections that aim to take years off your face, there are a whole range of lotions and potions that you can use at home, which make use of the latest in beauty science. Here’s our pick of the best.

1. The illuminating mask
This mineral-rich mud uses the rich beauty benefits of Tuscany’s thermal waters as well as natural vitamins and a skin-brightening citrus peel. With regular use, your complexion will become smoother, clearer and more luminous. You’ll have a more even complexion without hyperpigmentation and redness. Fango Mud Brilliante, ₤25 (Dh145), by Borghese. From cultbeauty.co.uk, which ships to Dubai.

2. The brightening serum
Serums have really come to the fore in 2012 and all good skincare ranges now have a serum because of their ability to work on a deeper level than basic moisturisers. They are particularly good for more mature skin, as they add an extra layer of protection between a moisturiser and foundation. Making use of thermal waters from Hungary, this luxury serum by Omorovicza is best used at night as it has active natural ingredients like white lupin, which works to energise and brighten skin while you sleep. Radiance Renewal Serum, ₤68 (Dh396), From cultbeauty.co.uk, which ships to Dubai.

3 The eye refresher
Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but they are also the one place on your face where tiredness can really show. Brighter eyes will really light up your complexion. This is a really innovative idea – simply put these cubes in the freezer and once frozen, pop one out of its mould and wrap in the gauze provided. Apply around the whole eye area either when you first wake up, or to give skin a refresher before a night out. They contain gourd extract, which calms puffiness, and the freezing temperature of the cube speeds up drainage of fluid and toxins around the eye. Express Radiance Eye Cubes, £44 (Dh256) , by Anne Semonin. From Beautybay.com, which ships to Dubai.

4 The sun-sp0t banisher
Skincare that combats hyper-pigmentation and discolouration is now so advanced that minor sun damage woes can be banished. This beauty gem in a jar contains natural acids and botanicals, which over time will stop the look of grey skin, a patchy complexion and small pigmentation marks, and will restore luminosity. Liquid Gold Radiance, £28 (Dh163), by Alpha-H. From cultbeauty.co.uk, which ships to Dubai.

Future trends

With technology becoming increasingly important in beauty, we can look forward to many more innovations, super ingredients and products that really do what they say they do. The key trends for the industry in 2013 include:

Diagnostic devices – plugged-in beauty
Instead of having treatments in the beauty salon, you can now help yourself with at-home electrical devices. Beauty machines that you plug in and work on yourself are set to get more and more sophisticated, but still easy enough for you to use. They range from light machines, hair-removal appliances and anti-cellulite gadgets, to deep pore cleansing and laser solutions. Nica Lewis, Mintel Global Skincare analyst says, “From the next generation of at-home beauty devices that harness energy and light, to new ingredients that boost cellular energy, beauty brands are giving consumers more power.”

Anti-glycation skincare
Glycation occurs when naturally occurring sugar molecules in skin bond to a protein without the controlling action of an enzyme. In simple terms, this means that skin is weakened at a cellular level, making it less firm and more wrinkled. The trend is, therefore, to find anti-glycation products that stop skin losing collagen and elasticity. Some new ingredients that do this include Japanese apricot and African manilkara – so these will soon be in our potions.

Virtual world vs real world
In this digital age, skincare brands are finding new ways to connect with their customers. QR codes – a bar code you scan with your mobile phone to receive extra information – already exist on boxes of the beauty products we buy, but soon we’ll be seeing codes that give us sound and video information, too. US brand Urban Decay recently incorporated a USB port into an eye shadow palette. Customers could then download a make-up lesson and listen to music while applying make-up.