In years gone by, when we were not the serum-toting skintellectuals we now are, your teens, twenties and thirties were for sleeping in your make-up, staying up all night and perhaps the odd dab of cold cream. Then, whenever you felt the need, you’d suddenly switch to products labelled “anti-ageing” and start forking out for so-called “magic” creams.
Now, things are different. “My first-time clients used to usually be in their forties,” recalled Dr Maryam Zamani. “Now, it’s not uncommon to have bookings from people in their thirties or even twenties.” It’s a feeling echoed by facialist Michaella Bolder: “I think in the past, there was a bit of a cliff, where people would have spent decades doing nothing for their skin, and then suddenly wanted everything to try and tackle the signs of ageing. Now, my clients take home products for their teenage daughters!”
Indeed, the tide has turned. Almost one-third of those under 35 already use products with an ‘anti-wrinkle’ tagline, and the general skincare market is booming, as analysts predict the global industry will be worth S$248 billion by 2025.
What does anti-ageing really mean?
“It’s not necessarily a term I’m a fan of,” explained Dr Zamani. “It shows a fairly limited view of skin health, and besides, most people want to be proactive nowadays. That being said, I struggle to find a different term, as I would always advise preventing rather than curing.” Bolder concurred, adding, “I don’t love the expression, but clients still do gravitate towards it somewhat.”
Aesthetic doctor Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme said she has patients from the age of eighteen to about ninety, but that the desire to look their best self was universal. “I’m not really a fan of the expression anti-ageing. It’s not really representative of what we do in the clinic. Growing older is not a problem to be fixed. I prefer to say ‘good skin at every age'”. In the absence of a single product that claims to do all the heavy lifting, skincare now is more geared towards prevention rather than a cure. Of course, corrective products will always be popular, especially for concerns such as pigmentation which can develop at any time.
But on the whole, we’re more likely to stock our cupboards with high-tech skincare and make time for monthly facials rather than wait to see signs we want to correct. Sales of retinol jumped 27% last year, while the overall clinical skincare category showed 7% growth according to NPD. Meanwhile, sales of anti-ageing skincare as a whole started to decline in 2010.
Should you start using strong ingredients young?
If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, surely we should front-load our routines with clinical strength products as soon as possible, right? Well, perhaps not. “I think it’s good to start on an over-the-counter retinol in your early to mid 20s to give your skin time to acclimatise, but unless it’s for acne control reasons, prescription strength should come a lot later,” explained Dr Zamani. Bolder echoed the sentiment, saying she often has clients in their twenties who are already using a cocktail of strong retinoids, acids and peels all at home. “It’s true that a lot of skin problems can be prevented, but some products are just too active,” she explained. “I would say to young women, worry a bit less about the active ingredients, and instead, stop wearing make-up to the gym or to bed, and start wearing sunscreen.”
Dr Zamani agreed, adding: “If I could say one thing to young women, it would be that they really don’t know how bad the sun is for your skin. To me, a preventative routine would be an exfoliating cleanser, a good antioxidant, twice-weekly exfoliation, SPF and then any add-ons like peptides or ceramides, depending on your skin needs.” Bolder suggested saving a little on cleansers: “They’re on your skin for the least time, but it’s good to have one gentle one and one slightly more intensive one. Invest more in your serums, always double cleanse and use something like a lactic acid toner for breakouts. It’s hydrating as well as exfoliating.” Dr Ejikeme added that lifestyle plays a big factor, noting “If you can remember to use your retinol and apply a really good broad spectrum SPF every day at twenty five, good for you! But there’s a lot going on in life in your twenties, and I would rather you skip the retinol than the sunscreen.”
Bolder also recommended the Rodial Vit C Booster Drops. “You can add them to anything—cleanser, moisturiser, even hand cream. Vitamin C is so brilliant as an antioxidant and so brightening, so why not use it all over? Even body cream would work.”
Should you have preventive Botox?
On paper, freezing lines in their tracks might sound like a cheat’s way to eternal smoothness, but Dr Zamani said she was against it. “Think about when your arm is in a cast. When you take away the cast, your arm is withered. A similar thing can happen with Botox, if you keep paralysing the muscles too soon, they will weaken, and you want to keep that good muscle. When a line appears, we can treat it very effectively, but you don’t need to turn to injectables before then.” Dr Ejikeme was largely in agreement, saying “Apart from in the cases where you have a familial tendency towards a certain, heavy line, I wouldn’t advise Botox preventatively.”
Of course, lines are not the be all and end all of a healthy face. “People used to only really care about breakouts and wrinkles, and that was it. But now, people really care about the quality of their skin so much more,” added Dr Ejikeme.
Both doctors said they were all-too-familiar with the results of over-zealous, prematurely clinical skincare. “I often do corrective work on younger women who’ve been mixing multiple peels and acid toners and retinol at home—glycolic overload probably being the most common,” cautioned Dr Ejikeme.
It’s heartening to know that wanting a face totally devoid of imperfections is being replaced by the pursuit of happy, healthy skin that reflects how you really feel about the life you live—joyful, proud and open. The importance of maintaining skin health through dutiful environmental protection can’t be stressed enough, nor can the benefits of simply getting into a routine of sorts as soon as possible. For anything else, the old adage is still true. If it isn’t broken…