updated 2 May 2014, 11:03
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Wed, Apr 30, 2014
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Gadgets for the skin
by Sandra Low

There's no denying that the at-home beauty devices market is booming. In China alone, it is translated into an almost US$1.3billion (S$1.6 billion) market in 2012, with a double digit growth last year; other countries boasted a similar global growth trend.

While major international brands have made their way into most markets, brand success depends on the region, with names like Nu Skin and Olay charting phenomenal growth in markets like China and South Korea, says the website Cosmetics Design-Europe.

Many of these devices tout to give such wonderful results that you no longer need to consult professional aestheticians, physicians or buy mirable creams.

According to a Kline market research report on From Crow's Feet to Calluses: At-home Beauty Devices Cover it All: "As the market becomes more mature, marketeers are now tasked with truly scouting out pockets of opportunity to expand their reach, whether it is through the second, third and even fourth generation devices featuring new product technology, more ergonomical designs, or trying to break through distribution channel barriers."

Clarisonic, for example, a cleansing device, is now into its third generation.

Other devices are created through mutual benefit ventures with their own brand or a complementary label to boost sales and you wonder if it's all a clever marketing ploy to make their products go further. For example, Panasonic recommends Shiseido cosmetic products for use with its devices.

Devices can cost anything from RM100 to thousands, and they promise to cleanse, exfoliate, un-blemish (really?), lift, shape or make your face look younger, and a whole lot of other claims besides. While the convenience of bringing home the beauty experience is attractive, you wonder if these devices really work.

According to physician Dr Jason Yip, "home care and devices usually have to be made mild and safe enough for home use without any side effects or complications. Generally, they work in a limited manner so its effectiveness and efficacy is compromised."

When manufacturers of these beauty devices claim that a device helps your skincare to be absorbed better, Dr Yip says it all depends on the technology and skincare.

"There is some truth to it as some medical equipment can assist in better penetration of the skincare products. To be effective, both device and skincare have to complement each other. For instance, if you apply a moisturiser (which serves no other purpose than hydration), then no matter how good the home care deviceis, it's impossible for the moisturiser to penetrate better.

"One should not irritate the skin by massaging or exfoliating too much. Medical-based skincare is efficient and sufficient to be used on its own without having to massage or exfoliate first," he adds.

Firsthand experience

Caryn Yeo Wee Yen, 24, went for her first facial at a beauty centre once and it was an experience she hopes others won't have to undergo.

"The beauty therapist said I had a lot of dead skin cells and blackheads so she scrubbed and squeezed my skin. An hour later I went home with a swollen face!" says Yeo, a project manager for an events company.

From that day onwards, Yeo avoided facials and looked for ways to care for her skin on her own.

Recently, she bought a cleansing device after reading about its benefits in a pharmacy.

"The Olay cleansing device - which is supposed to clean, exfoliate and even remove my make-up - could shave off time from my beauty routine so I was keen to try," she says.

Her cleansing routine involves a make-up remover first, followed by the Olay Regenerist Advanced Cleansing System, which comes with a cleanser.

"In the past, it usually takes me up to three rounds of make-up remover and cleanser to remove my make-up completely. Now, it's much faster and easier," says Yeo.

"The brush is soft and doesn't cause any skin friction. After using the device, my skin seems to feel a lot cleaner and smoother. I also feel that my moisturiser absorbs better, but I'm not sure whether it really helps in 'anti-ageing' as it claims," says Yeo, adding that she wishes someone would invent a device that shapes eyebrows or can pre-set her make-up!

There have been other reports of how cleansing devices help clean pores better and remove blackheads online as well.

In response, Dr Yip says it's likely that the abrasive effect of the device remvoes dead skin cells, leading to cleaner pores and less blackhead build up.

"Results may vary according to the individual's skin and a cleansing device would probably work best for mild form of blackheads. For moderate to severe form of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), a professional facial is warranted, ideally combined with use of a medical skincare range," he advises.

As business planning manager for a multi-national IT company Gwen Lee Siew Li's work involves travelling and late night calls.

"Having enough sleep is a constant challenge and I know this affects the condition of my skin," says Lee, who's in her early 30s and planning her wedding this year.

She wants her skin to be on its best behaviour for her big day so she has equipped herself with the Talika Light Duo and Talika Cream Booster recently.

"The Talika Light Duo is supposed to help reduce wrinkles and produce collagen for the skin which is my main concern, while the Cream Booster helps to enhance the efficacy of the skincare that we use. What's great about the Cream Booster is you can use it with any skincare," Lee explains.

"I know many women who consume collagen drinks prior to a big event, but when they stop, their skin condition reverts to its normal state, so I wasn't keen. Before buying these devices, I did some research and women who used them appeared to show a reduction in their dark spots. My mum tried the devices on one half of her face just to see the effects and we are both convinced it helps," Lee says.

"The Light Duo is easy to use and I use it once a day for about six minutes while I'm watching TV, so it doesn't really take up that much of my time."

She claims that her skin is brighter and the fine lines not so visible. Both mother and daughter were so impressed with these devices that they each bought a set.

Think before you buy

For those contemplating buying a beauty device, Lee advises, "Don't believe everything that a product claims in its advertisement. Ask around and read reviews, and get one that is affordable based on your needs."

Some devices are said to need ionotherapy for the products to be more effective. This, comments Dr Yip, may be because the skincare/serum used has to be ionically charged to work and most over-the-counter skincare are not made for this purpose.

He warns that clever marketing means the product manufacturer often oversells the product, sometimes without proven results or evidence.

"If it is too good to be true, it usually is," says Dr Yip succinctly. "That being said, there are some amazing products and devices in the market that do work. But you won't know until you try. We all have different skin types, so what works for one person may not work for another. So, make informed decisions."

"If you're looking at getting something to help make your face a little clearer and brighter, it's probably worth giving it a try. However, consulting a professional doctor for advice can improve your outcome as they can educate you on the do's and don'ts for your skin type and problem areas," Dr Yip concludes.

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