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Are they really age miracles?

For many women, the search for lifelong beauty is a like a quest. On their dressing tables, you’ll find quantities of creams, lotions and potions, all optimistically promising to stop time once and for all, and deliver their users ever-lasting youth...

fashion and trends Updated: Dec 11, 2010 18:52 IST
Veenu Singh
Veenu Singh
Hindustan Times

For many women, the search for lifelong beauty is a like a quest. On their dressing tables, you’ll find quantities of creams, lotions and potions, all optimistically promising to stop time once and for all, and deliver their users ever-lasting youth. Or at least ever-lasting youthful looks.

That’s important because, living in cities with harsh climates and harsher levels of pollution, skin tends to lose its clarity and health very fast. As Dr Rashmi Shetty, cosmetic physician and expert from Pond’s Beauty Council, explains, "The skin faces challenges from pollution, global warming, the greenhouse effect and ozone layer depletion. This erodes the basic nutrients of the skin, and eventually washes away its important salts – exactly those that give it a radiant, healthy glow."

Over the years, scientists at cosmetics labs around the world have worked on products to counter the adverse effects of the environment on skin. The latest to emerge from these labs does offer hope – beauty serums.

Skin careWonder drug

Beauty serums have been around for a while, part of the arsenal of products used at spas and specialised skincare clinics for deep skin repair. But only recently have they been introduced on the market as over-the-counter products.

"A serum is a liquid that helps tackle problems of dehydration, redness and fine lines," says beauty expert Shahnaz Husain, chairman and managing director of the Shahnaz Husain Group of Companies. "The skin absorbs serum faster than it does a cream and since it is light in texture, it is far more effective for a larger surface area than a regular cream or moisturiser." Apparently, serums are composed of small molecules (moisturisers have larger molecules) and therefore are more easily absorbed into the skin.

Since it’s meant for inner repair, a serum works best with products that focus on surface healing. So you can use the serum first and apply a cream or moisturiser over it, says Abhisarika Sharma, brand and marketing manager, L’Occitane. "That’s why it is more effective to use a serum at night when the skin is at rest," adds Sharma.

Using it is simple, just wash and cleanse your face and apply a serum with outward strokes. Follow this with a light moisturiser for a more absorbent effect.

"As the serum penetrates into the dermis and its underlying layers, it boosts collagen production for firmer, more luminous skin tone," says Sharma. In fact, she adds, a gel-textured serum can also be used as a makeup base to give foundation application a more healthy and natural feel.

Quick fix

Today, a variety of serums are being introduced in the market as an answer to wrinkle-banishing procedures like Botox.

"Almost all serums are meant to smooth, soften and hydrate the skin, which minimises wrinkles and fine lines," says Sukhdeep Sharma, Spa and Salon Manager, Three Graces. "So even if wrinkles are not your major concern, a serum will tone, even out and brighten your skin."

Adds Shetty: "Most serums contain exfoliating ingredients that not only minimise fine lines and wrinkles, but also reduce the appearance of dark spots and discolouration."

This makes it a kind of one-stop shop for people who really haven’t the time for intense skincare routines, as Mansi Bhatia, a marketing executive and mother of two children, says. "Given my responsibilities, I just haven’t the time for a skincare routine. But given my job profile, I do need to look my best. I’m very satisfied with the serum I use so far."

Cause for concern

So are serums miracles in a bottle? Unfortunately, no serums do have downsides too. The most important one is that they don’t work on all skin types.

"Serums work best on undernourished or dry skin and on normal to dry skin. So if you have oily skin, the serum may not be able to help," says Sharma. Also, they are not meant for very young skin, and can only help delay the ageing process, not stop it completely.

"Ideally, women above the age of 25 should use serums since that’s when the skin starts maturing," says Shetty. "And since they come in a concentrated form, only a drop or two should be used. More than that can result in a rash or skin breakout."

Keep in mind also that compared to your regular cream, serums may be costlier. And most important, says Sharma, you can’t use serum on its own. "It should always be layered with a corresponding cream," she explains. "Since a serum is absorbed by the skin quickly, without layering, it will leave your skin feeling dry very soon."

The serum effect

Firms and lifts skin
Boosts collagen
Reduces the appearance of dark circles and puffiness in the eye area
Boosts the skin’s natural protection against the environment
Stimulates the skin’s circulation

What’s in a serum?

Most serums offered by good brands are either a mix of certain essential oils, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C or of well known anti-ageing ingredients like CLA (Conjugated linoleic Acid), AHA, Retinol (an exfoliant and anti-ageing ingredient) and even real elemental gold (to re-energise dull skin). Plant cell serums contain edelweiss flower, hydrogenated castor oil, aloe vera and soluble collagen of plants.

- From HT Brunch, December 12

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First Published: Dec 10, 2010 15:02 IST