Category Archives: aging

Clarins Spa, Raffles Hotel, facial review

Exploring French Luxury Beauty Products

This past May, I had the chance to visit Paris in full spring bloom.  I have very fond memories from my days studying at Sciences Po but my visit this time round had a different bent.  CyberDERM, in it’s earliest days, took a lot of inspiration from the big medical based brands like La Roche-Posay, Avène, Vichy and more.  They were the brands of the 90’s that had a lot of credibility and were favoured by dermatologists.  We have different formulating philosophies now though since many of these larger French luxury beauty brands have been slower to listen to consumer requests for controversy free ingredients.  I was interested to see on this trip what did French offerings look like today.  What were French consumers wanting and how were brands delivering?  I was asking these questions with the purpose of seeing whether CyberDERM would ever fit.  Would it be possible for the cultural beauty exchange to go the other way with a Canadian import into a French market?  There does seem to be a whisper of an opportunity, one we will continue to explore.  In the meantime, here are the highlights from my trip.

french beauty brands, Hermes

French Aesthetics but chock full of No-No ingredients

The Pharmacy Culture:

All of the French brands I mentioned took root through the French Pharmacy/Parfumerie system.  I capitalize it because if you have ever visited France, you’ll know theirs is a system that has its own unique flavour.  I know North American devotees who flock to the French pharmacies whenever they visit in search for those elusive beauty brands they cannot find anywhere else.  I feel they differ from our North American versions in being more curated.  Space is always a premium in the EU I get the sense that customers feel the brands from these beauty emporiums are also effective.  They also normally have the ineffable french quality of a certain understated classicism.  I always find it a treat to shop the sunscreens since the EU has access to filters that we do not have like the Tinosorb M and S and ethylhexyl triazone (all of which might pair beautifully with zinc oxide for incredible protection).  I also picked up a sunscreen in oil format*, which I think is very interesting.  I’m up for any format of sunscreen that increases people’s compliance in actually applying it everyday. I am not a fan of aerosol sunscreens since the alcohol used as a solvent is really hard on skin (and once stripped paint off of my purse)

CyberDERM, sunscreen, french brands

The French Pharmacy System

but a nourishing oil might be of interest. Again, we might start playing around to see if zinc oxide could be used in a similar format. *These are sunscreens with actual substantial filters in them, not tanning accelerators with a token SPF.

The status of sunscreens in the Gallic nation:

Being “the sunscreen company”, I was also of course interested to see what sunscreen use was like here.  Isn’t this where sunscreen use was born? Ok, perhaps not but I’ve always considered French women especially to be early adopters of the skincare regimen that included regular sunscreen use.  Certainly, there are a multitude of options in the above mentioned pharmacies.  Zinc is not popular here though- I didn’t  see any options other than Skinceuticals (which is an American import now owned by L’Oreal).  I thought for the real scoop I should go to the best beauty experts in the ‘biz’.  I stopped by Birchbox France to have a chat with two lovely BF editors.  I was surprised to learn from them that they felt women of their generation still relegated sunscreen use to their beach bag.  Also while there was a growing concern about ingredients in personal care products, this didn’t necessarily translate into an awareness of the controversies over certain sunscreen actives. We all agreed though that aesthetics are supremely important.  No amount of fact filled education would change

Birchbox May, France

The May Box from Birchbox co-opted by Fiance for bedside table

consumer behaviour if not accompanied with a proverbial spoonful of sugar (i.e. a pleasant user experience). Could our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 be just the ticket?  It was a question that we all promised to consider and I continue to be a huge fan of the Birchbox FR team and concept.  I even got a treat in getting their gorgeous May box.

And finally THE FACIAL:

Here is one slightly dirty little secret, in all my years in the industry and being a daughter of a dermatologist- I’ve never had a facial. I’ve had fotofacials.  I’ve had medi-facials and peels.  I’ve just never understood the concept of a facial.  How effective can the layering of products be in one session?  Is it meant to be relaxing and effective?  Is this something I really need?  I know facial devotees would say I am missing the point.  I may not need one but most want them.  I still think I would rather have a fotofacial from a qualified professional at least once a year.  However, I knew I couldn’t speak with authority without trying one.  I therefore went to the one of the Top Rated Spa’s (in the world), the Clarins Spa My Blend in the Raffles Hotel Le Royal Monceau.  First, I will say that no one can beat a french spa for atmosphere. I’m sorry to say that I was too shy to take pictures- that would have felt rude and intrusive so you will have to rely on my description. The hotel is a beautiful concoction of panelled wood and elegant drapery.  You descend to the basement and the spa beckons like a movie’s vision of heaven.  It’s all white and backlit with long corridors. All of which puts you in a very calm and relaxed state of mind.  I sipped fresh pressed juice and munched on a selection of nuts and fruit while waiting. I poured over Dr. Clarins musings on skincare and women’s needs.  I was greeted by a sweet and down to earth facialist, who paid me the immense quality of thinking I was twenty and not

Clarins Spa, Raffles Hotel, facial review

The beautiful Lobby of the Royal Monceau

in need of an ‘anti-aging’ component to my treatment just yet.  The facial itself was like being wrapped in warm, white cocoon.  There were no extractions (yeah!), just repeated layerings of some of Clarins Professional products.  I loved the idea that part of the facial was tailored to my needs on the spot with specialized additives through the stages of exfoliation, gommage, hydration and calming.  All in all- an exceptional experience (with macarons served at the end)- I took lots of notes and inspiration in case we open another retail/spa space in the future.



The Pop Science of Wrinkles

I’m in no way a scientist but having grown up surrounded by doctors and having a little sister who is researching a cure for brain cancer (true story and I’m so proud!)- a fair amount of technical talk is discussed at the kitchen table.   Having said that, does anyone else ever wonder how we are meant to connect all the talk of mysterious free radicals, and anti-oxidants to the signs of aging that we actually see in the mirror.  I mean really- how do those pesky little free radicals kicking around my cells give me a wrinkle? I was really happy then when I found this article that played connect the dots for me.  

So for those who would like to ‘geek’ out with me- I’m going to attempt to explain how the signs below are related to the physiological processes that age us that we often hear about.  I promise to make it the Cliff Notes version and as easy to understand as possible.
Sign of Aging
Intrinsic Processes of Aging
Wrinkles/ Laxity of Skin
Free Radicals and Anti-oxidation
Dry, rough and dull
Cell Senescence
Genes and Mutations
Thinning of Skin
Free Radicals
Image of a Free Radical through an Electron Microscope
I don’t know how many of you remember high school chemistry but think back to molecules with electrons circling protons. Now imagine this molecule is actually oxygen and some incident occurs that makes one of the electrons go rogue or invites an unwelcome electron to join their group.  This oxygen molecule becomes like a roving gang, searching for its missing member, or trying to get rid of its new buddy.  Either way, it starts attacking and damaging innocent bystanders (i.e. our other cells) that it comes into contact.  Those cells could be our own DNA molecules or essential proteins or lipids in the different layers of skin. Our cells are used to generating a certain amount of free radicals naturally and we have certain mechanisms internally for neutralizing them.  As we age or are exposed to sun and pollution, we can start creating too many free radicals for our bodies to handle.  This over production can either tell the cell to hibernate or tell it to commit cellular suicide (for lack of a better word).  Now imagine that suicidal cell was one that made up your collagen or elastin fibers.  Those fibers are like the springs in a mattress.  Old creaky springs that are slowly disintegrating make for a lumpy mattress.  Now imagine that all of those horribly mixed metaphors are happening to your face and you’ll start eating your fruits and veggies and putting on your sunscreen every day.
Cell senescence
This is another tricky concept so bear with me.   Picture your DNA as a stick of dynamite.  Our DNA tells our cells a host of things to do, including when to begin the process of splitting into another cell (the process of mitosis).  Now picture this stick of dynamite has a long fuse attached to it.  That long fuse is what we would call your telomeres.  They are these little caps on the ends of your DNA and that just like a fuse on dynamite begin to shorten down.  As time elapses, that fuse is depleted to nothing and then BOOM! Your cell, or that stick of dynamite, explodes.  Well it does not actually explode (you can imagine that would be messy) but it certainly commits that cellular suicide we mentioned.  Those cells again can be important elastin and collagen fibers, which we need for pinch-able skin.  The trick is to find ways to keep those telomeres from shortening and increasing the life span of our skin cells.  We know that women typically have longer telomeres than men (i.e. which could explain our longer life spans) and that stress can actually increase the rate of telomere shortening.  All of which indicates there are things that we can do to keep our ticking time bombs ticking a little bit longer.  If you are interested or perhaps have a kid in need of a science project, check out this video that does a far better job explaining:  –     
Genes and Mutations
The whole science of our genes and mutations is still evolving so there are lots of unknowns in this field.  Basically, genes in aging cells that deal with cellular death may start getting a little bit more boisterous at the proverbial party.  Meanwhile, the genes that regulate good things like growth or collagen synthesis or that regulate important enzymes might start to become shrinking violets.  Mutations can potentially occur through damaging UV light or free radicals that tell portions of our DNA to improperly replicate or create odd breaks in the strands.  Chaos and a host of other bad things start to happen and the party gets shutdown by the cops before things get exciting.  I don’t know what the cops are in this metaphor or what can be considered exciting but you get the idea.
Ooph…science is tiring.  All in all, these are not easy concepts to wrap your mind around.  I suppose it is good enough to understand that in general we want to stem the tide of these processes of aging and not necessarily for vanity purposes.   The recipe of prevention is pretty much what has become common sense of a health lifestyle lexicon.  Easy enough to know, not always easy to do. In any case, I may have to retire my scientific visualizations- I’ll leave them to the ‘geeks’ of the world and stick to beauty.
All the best,


The Prevention versus Correction Dilemma: How Young is too Young?

I am lucky that my mother gets to be a mentor/skin care guru/ world famous physician all wrapped in one package (for those who do not know, Dr. Sharyn “First Lady of Lasers” is my mom- I’m very lucky and proud!).  ‘Mommisms’ are therefore also ‘doctorisms’ and I don’t just take them with a grain of salt- I actually follow them to the tee.   So when she says, “it is all maintenance after 40”, I don’t question it.  I do not think any woman who is 40+ would argue either. 
It gets a little fuzzy, however, when you consider what you should do before the age of 40.  We are all in agreement that toddlers in tiaras should refrain from getting Botox but how about a 25 year old?  That’s when it gets interesting.  I’m 28 and I just got my first Botox tx for frowning this year.  I didn’t really think twice about it and I’m fairly honest about it if asked.  I also know that some may disapprove (they may or may not be able to frown while doing it).  There is an emotional element to the debate but for this blog we are going to examine some of the practical considerations. 
First off, I thought I would attempt to calculate an ROI of prevention versus correction.In 2006, a physician did a study comparing two identical twins to see whether Botox had a preventative effect on wrinkles. It did, as you can see in the pictures below. 

 It’s a good case study since the twin on the right had had Botox for 13 years prior, starting in her mid-twenties, and the twin on the left did basically nothing.  So we have two twins at the 40-year-old milestone and we can fairly assess the costs and the benefits of preventative versus corrective measures.  I then presented the pictures of each twin separately to nurses who give cosmetic consults and asked them to set out a possible treatment plan with associated costs. 
Treatment plan for the Correction Twin (Twin on the Left):
1st. Good skin care: every morning use zinc oxide sunscreen, Every Morning Sun Whip $38, evening to alternate retinoic acid, Differin 0.1% (by prescription) with antioxidant night cream, Cyberderm PM  Anti-Age $115
 2nd. Botox: to open eyes and lift eyebrows 37 units @ $12/unit
 3rd. Photofacials 1-3 treatments done 1 month apart $350/tx to even out skin tones- red and browns.
Total associated cost with Correction: $1657 for this series of treatments
Treatment plan for the Prevention Twin (Twin on the Right):
1st. Good skin care: use Every Morning Sun Whip $38, evening to alternate Differin 0.1% (by prescription) with Cyberderm PM Anti-Age $115
2. Continued use of Botox at roughly 37 units @ $12/unit
Total cost of Prevention: $607 for this series of treatment
Of course, you then have to add the cost of 13 years of Botox treatments to the Prevention Twin’s total costs to give an accurate assessment.  When calculated at roughly $444 for every 3-4 months for 13 years, you get an additional cost of a number that is too terrifying to actual put in print.  Really, I deleted the actual number after having written it since some numbers are better in abstraction- like your shoe budget. 
Needless to say, the cost analysis wins out in the favour of correction.  My mom also assured me that with the state of technology in dermatology you can correct most issues to the same baseline as prevention.  In other words, the Correction twin could look as good as her Prevention sister after about a year of jabs, zaps and yikes’.  Again, correction seems to be winning.
However, just to sway the argument in favour of prevention a little, there are some additional factors to consider.  One is the pain factor.  For however much beauty you need to regain, you can increase the pain factor as well as the amount of downtime involved.  It’s the equivalent of going to the gym regularly over a lifetime versus having to go on the Biggest Loser and having Jillian Michaels yell in your face.  There is also the psychological boon of not being defined by your facial lines- imagine the difference in your quality of life if for 13 years you did not have people asking you whether you’re tired or sick or worried (when you actually had 10 hours sleep the night before and you are having a great day).  Some feel as though their wrinkles were hard earned.  Other’s feel as though they want to tell a different life story and do not want their wrinkles to do the talking.  It is a personal choice. 
So to end, I thought I would pass on some mommism’s that are applicable to everyone no matter how you feel about the prevention/correction debate:
1.     Good skin care is great at any age- no one is going to give you a hard time about applying your sunscreen.
2.     If you are going to seek some more intensive cosmetic intervention, find a doctor who has a mother’s love for your face.  In other words, you do not want someone who is going to re-mould you into their idea of beauty.  You want someone who can see past the long nights and moments of worry but sees the real you.
3.     Stick by your choices and let other’s have room to make their own. 
  Greetings in the New Year! 

Certain characteristics fit the mold of the “ideal” signs of beauty and youth.

Let’s face it, we all want to fight Mother Nature when it comes to signs of aging. Fortunately there are ways to restore what we have lost, and I am going to let you in on the secrets to revitalize your natural youthful beauty. Beauty and high volume cheek bones go hand in hand along with full lips and wide eyes, but for many women the allure of a sculpted cheek is irresistable. It keeps a defined jaw line, lifts and shapes your face entirely; perhaps this is why high cheek bones are synonymous with traditional idea of glamour. Maybe you weren’t born with Audrey Hepburn or Sophia Lauren’s coveted facial traits, but I have tips to help you with the illusion of shaping and creating volume where it is lost. Highlighting and contour is one of the most powerful tools available in makeup, but most makeup neophytes will shy away from utilizing its benefits. Highlighting will draw the light to catch the attention to more flattering areas and shaping with contour will cast a shadow to create depth to sculpt the face.
Learn more when you come in to visit CyberDERM.
The newest trend in replacing lost volume and enhancing the youthful contours of the face, is the non-surgical innovative injectable hyaluronic volumiser “VOLUMA” by Juvederm. It’s natural feeling and safe. It will breathe new life to anyone’s look with immediate improvements that lifts and restores. You will fall in love with the results and it will be a love affaire for a full 18 months!
This sets it apart from all other temporary fillers with the maximum volume and duration, confirming Dr. Laughlin’s philosophy of less product with paramount results. Laserderm is one of the select Cosmetic Medical Clinics that carry this exclusive FDA cleared product.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
All the beauty best,