Youth recaptured

The film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) is the story of a man (played by Brad Pitt) who is born looking old and 
“ages backwards”. Watching the film, you see the ageing of the 
skin in reverse as Benjamin Button’s complexion eventually becomes more youthful, smooth, even, supple and luminous.

While the chance of this reverse ageing happening in reality is zero to none, scientists 
at Lancôme have pinpointed which genes are responsible for the complexion’s youthfulness.


The Lancôme Research Laboratories joined forces with eminent scientists in the field to try to detect the messages expressed by skin genes (the study of genomics) and the impact these genes have on protein synthesis (the study of proteomics).

The skin’s beauty and youthfulness are largely determined by genetic inheritance. How the skin reacts and changes over time is coded in the genes from birth. However, our parents are not entirely to blame.

Gene activity in the skin includes the formation of thousands of proteins, the basic substance from which skin is created. These proteins determine the skin’s density, elasticity, strength and appearance. 
As we age, the expression of 
some of these proteins changes and therefore so does the skin tissue. What the researchers at Lancôme wanted to know is which of these thousands of proteins determine youthfulness.

Studying the most superficial layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, using samples collected from young and older women, the researchers were able to compare proteins and identify which ones typified young skin. Analysing 1300 proteins, they discovered that running over the surface of young skin like a watermark is a specific protein profile – a bar code of sorts for youthful skin. Better still, they discovered this marker of youthfulness could be reactivated in aged skin.


The second major find was the discovery that specific genes code the proteins that give the skin its youthfulness. By screening 4400 genes (the genes normally expressed in the skin) the researchers at Lancôme analysed how gene expression in young skin compared with that in aged skin.

They concluded that young skin appears to be much more active than aged skin, with 
peak gene expression detected 
six hours after stimulation in young skin and after 30 hours in mature skin. What this shows is the skin reacts less efficiently 
with age to the various aggressors to which it may be subjected.


Lancôme has applied this knowledge and understanding of age-related changes in the skin to the development of its latest product, Génifique Youth Activator, a serum formulated with active substances that relaunch the activity of certain genes whose expressions have dwindled with age and thereby boost the synthesis of the proteins that characterise young skin.

“We now know that to look younger we have to boost gene activity and synthesise specific proteins in order to restore the bar code of youth to our skin,” says Véronique Delvigne, scientific director of Lancôme International.

Testing the formulation on 
100 women, it was shown that with regular use of Génifique Youth Activator (twice a day for 56 days) the proteins that characterise young skin reappear on the surface of the skin. What this means is the qualities associated with young skin start to reappear; the complexion becomes more smooth, even, toned, supple, hydrated and luminous. With ongoing use these improvements become more visible.


The Lancôme Research Laboratories put Génifique Youth Activator through a series of tests to prove its ability to recapture the appearance of youthful skin. Testing the formulation on 100 women, it was shown that with regular use of Génifique (twice a day for 56 days) the proteins that characterise young skin reappear on the skin’s surface. The complexion becomes more smooth, even, toned, supple, hydrated and luminous. Application is 
two or three drops twice daily. 
RRP $190 (30ml).

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Five minutes with: Anne Marie de Spa

What formal training did you receive in Belgium?

I obtained my diploma of d’estheicienne – technicienne de beaute at Lise Loriot school in Brussels, a two-year training course. It was renowned not only for its high standard for aesthetic training but also as a “finishing” school with subjects such as psychology, history of art, history of civilisation (a great help with character make ups) savoir/vivre and music.

In 1964 you opened the first beauty therapy salon in New Zealand. What inspired you to do this?

I decided before leaving Brussels to open my salon not thinking or realising that I was going to be one of the pioneers of this industry, so I arrived in New Zealand with all my equipment and products.

What services did you offer at the salon?

All aesthetic treatments face and body for both men and women, not too different from what you see today.

Was the salon well-received by the public?

With scepticism to start with because people were not of the mind set of spending money on themselves and it was something that was kept quiet, more behind closed doors. Moving to the airport two years after starting in New Zealand meant that I had a much more receptive cliental – the American deep freeze personnel wives.

What provided the need to import a professional range of skincare into New Zealand?

Because there was nothing available, expect for retail lines so one had to initiate your formulations to satisfy the different skin types. When the market opened I set out to find the product which I consider the best of the professional ranges – Sothys.

What was it about Sothys that appealed to you?

I was introduced to Sothys during my training in Brussels and always had it in the back of my mind as something to look out for. It’s a family-run business with transparent and honest policies plus of course excellent products which kindly take care of the skin.

What are the most remarkable changes that you have seen in the beauty industry over the last forty odd years?

The advent of products integrating almost medical grade ingredients has changed the way people view skincare and of course the current trend of cosmetic surgery is most notably the biggest change, it is difficult to say if this trend will continue to grow, what can be said is that people are prepared to take far more drastic action to achieve perceived perfection, which is indicative of peoples desire to look young longer.

What excites you about the future of the beauty industry?

Probably that no matter what technology can deliver in the future, the inherent trait of the therapist’s hands can never be replicated, it is this if nothing else that sets beauty therapy apart as such a valuable and essential form of healing and wellbeing.

The other exciting thing about this industry is the shift in attitude. Forty years ago when I began, my profession was viewed as something of a luxury, today it is far more routine for clients, they don’t perceive the treatments they are receiving as “fluffy treats” but as routine essentials to maintaining great skin health.

Like getting a great cut and colour at the hair salon, a monthly facial has exponential long-term benefits for the quality, health and appearance of your skin.

What is your daily beauty routine?

A light cleanse in the morning followed by my Sothys Hydroptimale Serum and Clarte & Comfort Light Cream, my Sothys SPF20 sunscreen and Sothys Lift Defence Foundation and a touch of Sothys Hydra Glide lipstick.

In the evening I cleanse, tone and finish with my new Sothys Continuous Renewal Care – I just love it! It doesn’t take much time but makes such a big difference long term. A daily routine is a very good investment.

What are three skincare tips that you swear by?

1 Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse. A good cleansing routine which includes a cleanser, lotion and a bi-weekly deep cleansing which includes a peel/exfoliate and deep cleanse. If the palette is not in perfect order it cannot receive the paint well.

2 Hydration. Using a good daily moisturiser appropriate to the skin type.

3 And most important in New Zealand would be sun care. It is imperative to wear a daily sunscreen if nothing else.

What is your favourite beauty product?

Sothys Hydroptimale Serum. And when I’m flying the Sothys Destressing Eye Mask and Hydroptimale Mask are musts. I also can’t do without my Sothys Total Cohesion Neck Care, Secrets Eye Contour Cream and Secrets Lip Cream.

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