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The Bizarre Appeal of Unusual Skin Treatments

By Renée Batchelor

As beauty consumers evolve, the appetite for unconventional treatments and skincare ingredients has also grown. While certain treatments like the vampire facial — a combination of microdermabrasion and the application of platelet-rich plasma — are actually banned in Singapore, there are many other out-of-the-box treatments that are approved by the Ministry of Health. There are also brands that are capitalising on the self-care trend and extending the idea to include care for the most intimate areas of the body like the vulva.

And as skincare brands face stiff competition there has also been a growing push for more unusual or premium ingredients to attract new clients. Besides proven skincare workers like vitamins A and C, hyaluronic acid and collagen, many consumers seek exotic and premium ingredients, sometimes even turning back to traditional beauty recipes, in the hope that these will translate to more obvious results.

Skin Treatments: The Salmon Sperm DNA Facial and Injectible Moisturisers

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

 

Dr Rachel Ho, of La Clinic, says that one of the more unusual face treatments that has emerged is Rejuran Healers. “The Rejuran Healer is a skin rejuvenation treatment that also repairs the skin from damage caused by things like acne scars and ageing. It involves the injection of DNA fragments called polynucleotides into the skin. These DNA fragments are derived from salmon sperm,” says Dr Ho. While the treatment has gained a lot of attention for using salmon sperm as an ingredient, Dr Ho believes that it is a safer alternative to platelet rich plasma therapy or vampire facials. The injections can be done manually or with an injector and results can be seen as soon as four weeks after the treatment. Effects include the reversal of fine lines, better hydration in the skin and the reduction in depth of depressed scars. It also helps the skin recover better from injury.

Another more unusual treatment that Dr Ho recommends is Profhilo, an injectable moisturiser that bioremodels the skin — meaning that it helps to lift and tighten it. “Compared to other injectable moisturisers like Skinboosters, Profhilo does more than hydrating the skin. The unique biochemical structure and properties of Profhilo stimulate collagen and elastin formation in the skin and the proliferation of adipose stem cells in different depths of the skin. This allows Profhilo to hydrate the skin, reverse signs of ageing and lift and tighten the skin too,” says Dr Ho.

Another benefit of the treatment is that it does not contain any chemical cross-links, utilising thermal cross links instead. “This gives Profhilo better spreadability and reduced inflammation. This means that less injection points are needed compared to Skinboosters,” says Dr Ho. This treatment is injected into the skin via five points and is ideal for older patients who want a gentle lift and to correct fine lines, as well as those who have dry skin or even eczema.

Vulva Care: Facial and Products for Down There

Courtesy of Two LipsFrom left: Two Lips’s Diamond serum, S$150, and Blackout Mask, S$28.
From left: Two Lips’s Diamond serum, S$150, and Blackout Mask, S$28.

When the waxing salon chain Strip: Ministry of Waxing first started in Singapore in 2002, the market was not as developed as it is now, and many customers were unused to the idea of hair removal in their nether regions. Fast forward 18 years and the brand offers not just hair removal, but treatments like the Rosebud Vajuvenation — essentially a facial for the vulva area. Samantha Ong, marketing director of Spa Esprit group (beauty) explains, “A 2018 survey by wellness tech company Shine, showed that 72 per cent of millennial women are making self-care their priority. In fact, the self-care industry is currently valued over S$10 billion dollars. This shows a mindset shift empowering women as they focus on their wellness and personal care routines. Today, skincare extends beyond the face. In fact, it’s gone even further south, below the pelvis, with V-care (the vulva and vagina) being one of the biggest trends of 2019.”

For the Rosebud Vajuvenation, the brand essentially uses the kind of tools and products you might use in a regular facial for the vulva. “We use a unique Thermal O2 technology that combines radio frequency, vacuum suction and heat energy, penetrating deep into the dermis layer to heat up the tissue.” This then causes the collagen fibres to connect for a lifting and tightening effect and stimulates the fibroblast growth factor, to rebuild new collagen in the dermis. According to Ong, the process is comfortable and takes approximately 30 minutes. “We will first apply a thin layer of cream to your vulva area and roll the Thermal O2 applicator over it repeatedly. You’ll experience a warm sensation that’s been likened to a hot stone massage. At the end of the treatment, a cooling and hydrating mask will be applied to soothe the area, restoring the glow, making it plump and supple.”

A sister brand of the company, Two Lips was also started in 2018 to address the need for skincare for the vulva. Although it was met with some outrage from feminist-leaning consumers who found the idea of the line offensive, Two Lips was designed merely to meet an existing gap in the market for such products. “We really saw the need for vulva care through Strip: Ministry of Waxing. Being in the vulva care business for over 20 years, we met many customers who have shared their vulva concerns such as dry skin, dull skin caused by chafing, and inflamed hair follicles amongst many other concerns. On the other hand, there really wasn’t a comprehensive range of vulva care products in the market to address their needs, nor was there a platform where they could voice these concerns,” says Ong. And added bonus is that while the range has been specially formulated to be safe and effective on the vulva area, they are suitable for use on your face too and are also free of sulphates, parabens and petrochemicals.

Unorthodox Ingredients: Nightingale Droppings and a Miraculous Mushroom

Courtesy of Ikeda SpaIkeda Spa’s Geisha Organic facial includes nightingale droppings as one of its ingredients.
Ikeda Spa’s Geisha Organic facial includes nightingale droppings as one of its ingredients.

When it comes to skincare ingredients, the mantra among consumers seems to be: the weirder the better. In the past decade everything from sheep placenta to snail mucin (the slime they trail in their wake) have been formulated into skincare. In Singapore, Ikeda Spa offers a Geisha Organic facial (S$250 for 90 minutes) that includes nightingale droppings (that have been sanitised and ground to a powder) as one of its ingredients. The powder is combined with a 300-stroke Japanese meridian massage to remove dirt, exfoliate the skin and leave the complexion smoothened and brightened.

Courtesy of SulwhasooFrom left: Sulwhasoo’s Timetreasure Honorstige Serum, S$1,050, and Timetreasure Honorstige Cream, S$1,050.
From left: Sulwhasoo’s Timetreasure Honorstige Serum, S$1,050, and Timetreasure Honorstige Cream, S$1,050.

For luxury brands like Sulwhasoo, its premium ranges like the Timetreasure Honorstige line which features a serum and a cream, uses premium ingredients like the Reishi mushroom. The Reishi (or Yeongji in Korean) mushroom translates to “miraculous plant” in Korean and symbolises good health and a long life in their culture. According to Korean herbal medicinal beliefs, the Reishi mushroom prevents cancer and improves the health of weakened organs, while in modern medicine it is believed to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Along with other ingredients like red pine and active ginseng in the products, the Reishi mushroom helps to fortify the dermis regeneration, rebuild collagen and improve the skin’s resilience. For Sulwhasoo, the ingredient must also be of a certain quality — the brand only uses top grade Reishi that is over 15cm in diameter and over 1cm thick. Top grade Reishi also contains a higher concentration of triterpene acid, the active ingredient in the plant. When it comes to ingredients it is also about harnessing its potency and making sure its actives are captured and can be bio-utilised by the skin.