Any sort of bac­te­ria is a dead no for our beauty editor (and res­i­dent ger­mo­phobe) Moh Shuy­ing, but a trip to Seoul to dis­cover a skin­care line that works on the micro­organ­isms on our faces is mak­ing her re­think her big­gest pho­bia.

Female (Singapore) - - ON THE COVER -

A new skin­care line that works on micro­organ­isms makes our beauty editor re­think her pho­bia of bac­te­ria.

In­creas­ingly in re­cent years, both sci­en­tific and beauty re­search have been push­ing the case for bac­te­ria. Skin flora, as it’s known, and which refers to the micro­organ­isms that re­side on skin, could in fact help in the pur­suit of the per­fect com­plex­ion, it seems. It’s a thought bound to give ger­mo­phobes goose­bumps (or worse, a rash). I, for one, have largely been scep­ti­cal.

Any­one who knows me knows that clean­li­ness rules my life. I change my pil­low­case ev­ery three days, clean my mo­bile phone with an­tibac­te­rial wipes ev­ery night, and never touch my face with­out wash­ing my hands with soap. Still, I told my­self that there has to be some­thing to all the re­search sur­round­ing the ben­e­fits of skin flora.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Ge­or­gia Lee, a GP with a spe­cial in­ter­est in aes­thet­ics, there are three types: one de­rives ben­e­fits from – but isn’t harm­ful to – the host (aka us), the sec­ond can cause dis­eases, and the third kind has a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship with the host. Over at IDS clinic, Dr Ian Tan points out that we shouldn’t try to get rid of the bac­te­ria and micro­organ­isms liv­ing on our faces. “There is strong ev­i­dence to show that skin flora helps to con­trol the or­gan­isms that can cause dis­eases to hu­mans, mod­u­lates our im­mune re­sponse and skin bar­rier func­tion, and is in­te­gral to skin health,” he tells me.

To bet­ter un­der­stand how, I turned to the aca­demic Ju­lian March­esi, an ex­pert in the area as pro­fes­sor of clin­i­cal mi­crobe re­search and deputy direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Di­ges­tive and Gut Health at Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don. “Don’t just think about skin as a sur­face,” he says. “There’s ac­tu­ally a colony of micro­organ­isms liv­ing on you that all have func­tions, many of which re­late to health.

“It is very im­por­tant to main­tain the bal­ance of skin flora be­cause our body works in uni­son with it. The micro­organ­isms act like a bar­rier to pro­tect skin from in­vad­ing or­gan­isms. Think of it as a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship. We pro­vide them with some­where to live, and they pro­vide us with protection against or­gan­isms try­ing to get in.”

This ex­plains the rise – and grow­ing in­ter­est – in prod­ucts that work to con­trol or sta­bilise skin flora. (They in­clude top­i­cal phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, points out Dr Tan.) But French lux­ury gi­ant Dior is go­ing one step fur­ther to not just bal­ance, but also ac­tively en­cour­age “good” skin flora be­hav­iour with its re­for­mu­lated Dior Hy­dra Life range.

At the heart of it is haber­lea leaf ex­tract, which has been found to stim­u­late skin flora to pro­duce more lipids, fatty acids and humec­tants, thereby boost­ing skin’s mois­ture re­ten­tion abil­i­ties and strength­en­ing its pro­tec­tive bar­rier for health­ier skin. When this hap­pens, skin cells will in turn pro­duce pro­teins and see an in­crease in nat­u­ral mois­tur­is­ing fac­tors, hy­drat­ing and strength­en­ing skin’s bar­rier even more.

“The usual ap­proach to skin flora in cos­met­ics has been to main­tain the bal­ance of good and bad ones,” says Edouard Mau­vais-Jarvis, Par­fums Chris­tian Dior’s en­vi­ron­men­tal and sci­en­tific com­mu­ni­ca­tion direc­tor. “The skin is an ecosys­tem, but very of­ten peo­ple for­get (that skin flora is like) a fourth layer of skin. This is the first time that skin flora is be­ing used in skin­care this way.”

The up­dated Dior Hy­dra Life line spans nine prod­ucts: an essence, a mois­turiser, three masks and four cleansers ($62-$110). How­ever, the all im­por­tant haber­lea leaf ex­tract is only added to the Deep Hy­dra­tion Sor­bet Wa­ter Essence, Fresh Hy­dra­tion Sor­bet Creme, and Ex­tra Plump Smooth Balm Mask (the only leave-on prod­uct among the range’s trio of face masks). Ac­cord­ing to Mau­vaisJarvis, the brand was se­lec­tive be­cause it did not see much sense in in­clud­ing it in skin­care prod­ucts that would be washed off fairly quickly.

An­chor­ing the full range, though, is mal­low ex­tract, which has long been a core in­gre­di­ent in Hy­dra Life. It sup­pos­edly stim­u­lates wa­ter cir­cu­la­tion in the deeper lay­ers of skin to boost hy­dra­tion, help­ing cells to per­form op­ti­mally. To­gether with haber­lea ex­tract, skin is said to be­come stronger, health­ier and more hy­drated.

In a nut­shell, think of this as a col­lec­tion of pro­bi­otics for your face that boosts “help­ful” bac­te­ria and micro­organ­isms to keep skin healthy. Putting it to the test, I found the two star prod­ucts – the essence and mois­turiser – light­weight, with a cool­ing sen­sa­tion that’s per­fect for use in our humid weather. Plus, the for­mer has fruit acids to tone and brighten, while the lat­ter in­tensely hy­drates, leav­ing a glow with­out ex­ces­sive shine.

The most sur­pris­ing re­sult was how fresh and dewy my com­plex­ion looked af­ter. My pores looked more re­fined, and there was no tight­ness or oili­ness vis­i­ble even af­ter a gru­elling 12-hour work day. No, I still can’t bring my­self to touch my face with­out thor­oughly wash­ing my hands. And don’t get me started on the grav­ity of a dirty phone on skin. But with these bot­tles of “bac­te­ria”, I’ll re­lent a lit­tle.


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