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On Beauty | The Salmon Sperm DNA Facial

By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

I was lying on my back as the local anaesthesia jabs were delivered. Shortly after, more injections came along. I strained and kicked my legs. My nails dug into the stress balls that were clenched in my hands. 

"The tears are coming, tissue please," Dr Lam Bee Lan said to the clinic assistants around her. Perhaps Lam sensed I needed a breather. The clinic assistants rushed in with ice packs and napkins to blot the tears and blood from my face.

"Are you okay," she asked. I hesitated and gave her a faint nod. She picked up the syringe again.

It was my first trip to Lam's aesthetic clinic, Ageless Medical, for Rejuran Healer injections — a relatively new regenerative treatment from South Korea. 

The Rejuran Healer surfaced in South Korea some four years ago. It's essentially DNA (or polydeoxyribonucleotide, PDRN) extracted from salmon sperm — something which the medical community found to be compatible with the human skin. 

Two years ago, Lam heard raving reviews of this treatment from a patient, visited the Rejuran company's headquarters, and started trying them out on herself, injecting them into her own face in front of a mirror. "I found my skin's fine lines and wrinkles improved tremendously," she recounts. 

A year ago, the Rejuran Healer was approved by Singapore's Health Sciences Authority. Since then, aesthetic clinics around the island started offering this treatment as well.

Surprisingly, when injected into the skin, it stimulates the skin to produce more hyaluronic acid and collagen. "That's how it works," Lam explains. "When hyaluronic acid is produced, the acid then draws water into the skin, then your skin becomes hydrated again. When it stimulates collagen to grow again, your skin gains elasticity." As the skin regenerates, the fine lines, wrinkles are filled in, and the skin barrier thickens as well (alleviating hyper-sensitive skin). Lam has, too, noticed that it alleviates acne and acne scars in the long run as well.

"It's a regenerative medicine," says Lam.

The term "regenerative medicine" has been in trend recently, be it in the surgical or aesthetical departments. One of the most notable regenerative aesthetic treatments includes Kim Kardashian's famous platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, otherwise commonly known as the "vampire facial". Basically, an individual has his or her blood taken, centrifuged, and the platelets are reinjected back to the face (or body part) to accelerate the skin's healing process — Kobe Bryant famously used PRP injections to alleviate his injuries. Likewise, the Rejuran Healer functions on the same logic — albeit on the face.

Lam attributes the rise of regenerative aesthetic treatments to consumer fatigue — consumers are tired of the unnatural, "frozen" botox look, and they are moving away from getting cosmetic procedures done to look like Korean celebrities. Instead, "the trend is moving towards looking natural, looking a better version of themselves and not of somebody else," says Lam. Sources from the local entertainment industry revealed that local celebrities vist Lam for this treatment due to its natural, unsusceptible results. 

Back in the clinic, Lam was done with the injections in fifteen minutes. It was quickly chased by a laser treatment which helps promote skin healing, antibiotic cream and arnica gel (for the needle marks). I left with a face full of weals which dispersed in four hours. The bumps around the eye bags, however, took a full day to disperse. 

Within a week, the transformation was palpable — the skin was no longer dry and dull. It was brighter, dewy, and an entire shade fairer. The enlarged pores (scars from teenage acne) were, however, still visible. Apparently, it will take a few more treatments to iron those acne scars out. "How much we can remove them depends on how deep your pocket is," Lam candidly says. 

At S$900 per Rejuran Healer session, Lam's price is considered reasonable compared to the other clinics offering the same treatment. The market rate ranges from a shocking S$400 to over S$1,200 per session. However, as I probed around, industry insiders and former clinic assistants warned against the lower-priced options, for they may be skimping on the products or using counterfeit options altogether. 

So, to correct Lam here, a more accurate comment should be this, "How much you can improve your skin depends on how much pain you can take."