THOUGHT the Korean 10-step skincare routine was the ultimate commitment to looking youthful? Think again. Slathering on layers of creams and serums is no longer sufficient for fending off lines and sagging. Instead, nifty handheld gadgets that brush off radiance-killing dead skin cells, lift the skin with LED light and micro-vibrations, or even dry your hair in record time without damaging tresses, are now crucial steps in any basic beauty regimen.
"Over the past few years, we've seen an increasing trend in the usage and availability of at-home devices across the beauty industry," says Nicole Simpson, associate vice president of global education for cosmeceutical brand SkinCeuticals.
"We're expecting at-home devices to really increase in demand over the next five years and the reason for this is the quality of these devices is significantly better than it was five years ago."
The US skincare brand owned by L'Oreal is known for its clinical range used by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, and Ms Simpson believes in "combining state-of-the-art in-office procedures with advanced home skincare regime." For example, all kinds of laser procedures - from ablative treatments that physicians use to vaporise unwanted tissue at high temperature to low energy laser devices - increase the skin's absorption of anti-ageing ingredients in beauty products.
In fact, SkinCeuticals has conducted clinical trials that show that the uptake of vitamin C by skin is increased by 17 times when the brand's C E Ferulic serum is paired with laser procedures. As such, it has been dispensing a special kit that contains the serum and an antioxidant concentrate together with the Tria Age-Defying Laser, an at-home fractional laser device. The kit is currently unavailable here.
"A lot of women like it because they do see tangible results," says Ms Simpson. "And because the active ingredients in SkinCeuticals' products are so pure, potent and powerful, any type of laser-assisted delivery to allow deeper penetration into skin will lead to better results."
International beauty giants aren't the only ones recognising the importance of beauty tools. Homegrown beauty entrepreneur Su-Mae Chia was initially sceptical about home-use beauty gadgets when developing a line of skincare with top Korean skincare scientists and manufacturers. Called BSKIN, the range of antioxidant skincare uses state-of-the-art formulations and premium natural bee products like royal jelly. It has recently been launched in the region and taps on the expertise of Ms Chia's family business, High Desert International, which specialises in natural bee wellness products.
"When our Korean scientists, who have developed products for leading beauty houses, proposed the creation of a beauty device for BSKIN, I wondered if there was a market for such products," says Ms Chia.
"But then studies showed that the ELVi device actually increases the penetration of our skincare products, boosting their effectiveness by up to 10 times. And when we conducted facials with the device on 465 people during a regional BSKIN launch, we received overwhelming feedback such as an immediate, visible lift in skin and increased radiance."
Even maker of upscale vacuum cleaners and sleek fans Dyson has gotten in on the beauty tool act. The British company has spent almost S$100 million on developing the Dyson Supersonic, a designer-looking, high-tech hairdryer that uses a fast but focused airflow to dry tresses with minimal damage.
"Hair dryers can be heavy, inefficient and make a racket," says founder James Dyson in a press statement. "I challenged Dyson engineers to really understand the science of hair and develop our version of a hair dryer, which we think solves these problems."
After four years of intensive development, Dyson aims to revolutionise the entire structure of conventional hair dryers which have fundamentally remained unchanged since the 1960s.
"Hair is something that is very important to me - yes, contrary to popular belief, engineers do invest a lot in their appearance," says Annmarie Nicolson, new product innovation design engineer for Dyson.
"One of the problems I had with my old hair dryer was heat damage. It was a choice between going out with wet hair, or turning your hair dry, frizzy and dull in the long run."
Hence, Ms Nicolson worked with other Dyson engineers to devise a smart heat regulating system: a sensor measures the temperature 20 times per second and feeds this data to a microprocessor. The microprocessor acts as a brain and intelligently controls a patented, double-stacked heating element. This ensures a safe and consistent air temperature, even when the machine is placed up close to your hair.
With beauty venturing into the realm of cutting-edge technology and science, the most obvious segment for such gadgets is the tech-loving gent. Arguably the biggest player in the beauty devices arena, Clarisonic has just made its entry into the men's grooming market. The new Alpha Fit device by the makers of sonic facial cleansing brushes is engineered to rid men's tougher, thicker skin of any grime.
"Let's face it, men's skin is different and they deserve a special Clarisonic tailored specifically to their unique skin needs," says Dr Robb Akridge, co-founder of the brand and co-inventor of the new Alpha Fit.
"It is made specifically for men with a whole new shape and settings designed specifically to take care of men's shaven and/or bearded skin. Alpha Fit is great for a gym bag or a carry-on and helps men have clean, soft skin in just sixty seconds, twice a day."
In Singapore, the skincare market has grown by double digits in the last two years, says Oh Shan Ming, product manager at L'Oreal, which owns Clarisonic. And beauty brands are muscling in on the men's grooming market, including the lucrative devices category.
"With a general shift in the men's market towards better hygiene and healthier skin due to a growing awareness of skincare products, a similar rise in the number of device purchased by men or for men by their partners has also been observed," adds Ms Oh.
"And thus, this gave rise to the idea of a dedicated device for men."
As with other Clarisonic devices, the macho Alpha Fit is said to provide six times better cleansing action than the use of hands, and allows for 61 per cent better absorption of skincare products that can penetrate through all three layers of skin. Hence, whatever your gender or get-gorgeous goals, it looks like going high-tech is the only way to up your beauty game.