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A Skincare Formula, Made to Defy Gravity

By Renée Batchelor

Clarins V Shaping Facial Lift.
Tung Pham/Tok Wei Lun
Clarins V Shaping Facial Lift.

It’s not often that a journalist can claim to have a direct impact on the creation of a product. When the late Jacques Courtin-Clarins, the founder of French luxury skincare and cosmetics brand Clarins, met with Japanese reporters in the 1990s in Paris, they told him of their need for a product that would give them a slimmer, more contoured visage and what was dubbed a V-shaped face. It might have seemed like an odd request, and certainly not something the European customer was really asking for, but Courtin-Clarins, who had built his global empire from a spa business, knew that listening to women had inspired some of his greatest innovations. Him and his team went to work and in 1998, produced the first generation of what was to become the Clarins Shaping Facial Lift. The product became an icon for the brand in Asia, and this month, Clarins is launching the fifth generation of the serum, the V Shaping Facial Lift. The question of why a fifth generation product is needed is best answered by the brand’s philosophy of continuous innovation. Clarins is constantly seeking new innovations as well as the right natural ingredients and extracts to include in its formulas. The new V Shaping Facial Lift lists organic agropyron extract (added to the existing key ingredients like zerumbet ginger, guarana, horse chestnut and plant caffeine), which helps refine the facial contours and lift the skin even more. While agropyron is used in traditional medicine for its soothing and diuretic effects, it is also known for its exceptional gripping properties — it is often used to fight soil erosion — and clinical studies revealed that in cosmetics, it reinforces the skin’s support network and limits the accumulation of lipids in the fat cells. Along with organic oat sugars, agropyron forms a film on the skin’s surface, creating a taut, lifted effect, akin to a corset for your face. Marie-Hélène Lair, the scientific communications director at Clarins said the best effects of the product were retained while new benefits were added. “We kept the main efficacies of the previous serum but we added this notion of fighting against gravity,” says Lair. 

Mind you, finding the right ingredient is never an easy process. Lair said that Clarins studied the effects of ten different plants, to follow its notion of introducing a gripping effect, before settling on agropyron, a type of wheatgrass. “When we want to work with a new plant, we have to check its safety, its efficacy, then its stability in our products, and then we have a fourth priority, the possibility to sell this plant in China. In China, there is a very limited list of authorised plants, so it’s a final restriction to find the right plant,” Lair explains. China (and the rest of Asia) is clearly a huge market for Clarins, and the V Shaping Facial Lift in particular is a big seller in this region, so it was imperative that the new formula could work here. 

ClarinsThe fifth generation of Clarins V Shaping Facial Lift contains a new ingredient, organic agropyron extract.
The fifth generation of Clarins V Shaping Facial Lift contains a new ingredient, organic agropyron extract.

The texture of the product was also tweaked to meet the demands of customers. “The goal is to meet the needs of women. And we knew with the former serum, they wanted a lighter texture with very good moisturisation because that is the key to beautiful skin. And they also wanted an easier way of application. So, we started to reformulate the product from an active ingredient point of view, but also from a texture point of view. We selected for this new formula, two kinds of hyaluronic acid with two weights — low and high — to have immediate moisturisation and long term moisturisation,” says Lair. 

The product is designed to be used twice daily and while the ingredients alone will have an effect on the skin, using it with the new auto-lifting method will improve its efficacy. Dr Olivier Courtin- Clarins, the managing director of Clarins and one of two sons of the late founder, sought to streamline the application method, as he was aware that the somewhat more complicated steps introduced with the previous versions meant that women were not keen on using it. “I want our customers to [use] this method, and they told me that before, it was too long and complicated and was difficult to understand. I tried to simplify it as it’s more important that more people [use] the method,” says Dr Courtin-Clarins. 

The new appplication method, which is a series of six steps developed with lymphatic circulation specialists to help with the problem of water retention in the face, takes less than two minutes, is easy to complete and still does the job. For those who want an added boost, the brand offers an updated version of the Shaping Lift Facial, the “Total V Face Shaper” at its spas. This is an exquisite treatment that combines the manual massage methods the brand is known for with professional versions of its products, including the new V Shaping Facial Lift. The treatment provides visible sculpting and lifting results at the chin, cheekbones and along the jawline. 

As with any great innovation, copycat serums that claim to lift and slim the face have surfaced in the Shaping Facial Lift’s wake. Lair takes this competition positively. “I think it’s very good stimulation to innovate and continue, but we’re proud of it because it’s a sign of real innovation when it comes to the needs of women and Clarins was the first [to create this]. The way we can improve year after year is to listen to women. When we start the launch of a new product, we start listening to women, always. So, for the fourth generation Shaping Facial Lift, we knew at an early stage that we had to improve moisturisation and to lighten the texture,” says Lair. “We believe in permanent innovation and we want to improve our products and their efficiency all the time,” adds Courtin-Clarins. 

Clarins V Shaping Facial Lift, S$122.