Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Back to office, back to beauty—with a vengeance

Bench Skin Expert launches services—from contouring to solving thinning hair

A gentler ultrasound procedure, Robotic Lift targets the skin's deeper layers to stimulate collagen growth. (Courtesy of Bench Skin Expert)

Two years of Zoom lenses fattening the face, pandemic stress resulting in hair loss, a restricted lifestyle leading to flabby muscles and insecurities from gawking at toned bodies of influencers in IG and Tiktok—all these have created a pent-up demand for aesthetic procedures.

Melissa Zosa, medical director of Bench Skin Expert, the lifestyle brand’s chain of aesthetic clinics, reported a significant increase in the demand for non-invasive and minimally-invasive procedures. The return to normalcy and the emerging younger client base are what’s driving the market.

Zosa thought that the beauty business would suffer in the post-pandemic economic downturn. “People would not think of these procedures as a necessity. On the contrary, they find that image is a priority. Younger people are including self-care in their budgets.”

At Bench Skin Expert launch: from left, Charles Mandy, managing director of DermAsia Corporation; Nikki Tang, CEO of DMARK Beauty Corporation and DermAsia Corporation; Bryan Lim, VP for Business Development of Suyen Corporation; Jude Ong, general manager of Suyen Corporation

Bench Skin Expert team: from left, Nikki Tang, Bench Skin Expert dermatologists: Dr. Julie Anne Patricia Songco, MD, DPDS Dr. Claudine Malaca-Fabros, MD, DPDS Dr. Amelyn Lim, MD, PACCD Dr. Melissa Reyes-Zosa, MD, PACCDD, Dr. Margaret Alabastro, MD, PAPSHPI, Ma. Theresa Gutierrez, brand manager of Bench Skin Expert

To meet these needs, Bench Skin Expert not only opened its fifth branch at One Parkade in BGC, Taguig, it also tapped its longtime partner DermAsia to introduce the most popular procedures using equipment that addresses early signs of sagging muscles in the face and body, and hair loss.

Zosa reveals the finding of a colleague at the National Center for Mental Health that before the pandemic, the hospital received an average of 80 calls a week about depression. In the past two years, they have been getting 600 calls a week about anxiety, thinning hair or hair loss, aside from a feeling of hopelessness. She adds the observation that young people get thinning hair from using too much dyes.

Regenera Activa: A suspension of stem cells is injected into the scalp to promote hair growth.

DermAsia recommends Regenera Activa, a minimally-invasive procedure for hair regrowth. Applied on the scalp is a suspension containing growth factors and progenitor cells from the patient’s scalp that stimulate hair growth and nourish existing hair follicles.

The one-time procedure, which costs P95,000, involves an autologous micrograft technique wherein the harvested scalp tissues are processed and filtered in a machine to isolate the stem cells. The suspension is then injected into the scalp.

Zosa explains that there is no downtime, unlike in a hair transplant which is a painful and invasive procedure where the head is shaved so that the doctor can obtain hair from the donor area to transplant to problem areas. Hair transplant takes two weeks of downtime as the patient recovers from scarring.

Male baldness pattern can start as early as the 20s when the hairline starts to recede, while female baldness occurs with menopause

She stresses that Regenera Activa is not a cure for baldness. Rather, it addresses the early stage of hair loss or thinning. Male baldness can start as early as the 20s when the hairline starts to recede. Female baldness occurs at the start of menopause, caused by hormonal imbalance. Patients below 55 years old are ideal for Regenera, which reactivates the hair roots and improves blood circulation in the scalp. “Regenera treats shrinking hair follicles and revitalizes them. It can’t do anything if the scalp has no hair follicles,” she says.

Likewise, it is a better alternative to Minoxidil, a common topical solution. “With Minoxidil, you have to apply it for life. Once you stop, the baby hairs will start falling again,” she says.

‘These young women want slimmer faces’

The medical director notes that younger people are opting for skin tightening. Beauty advertisements in TikTok and Instagram persuading people to look perfect abound.  Influencers such as Heart Evangelista, 37, Solenn Heussaff, 36, and Nadine Lustre, 28, have been posting their non-invasive facial sculpting procedures.

“These young women want slimmer faces,” she observes. The posts create the mindset that one has to get these procedures early, even before they actually need them later in life. “It’s the upkeep before getting the signs of aging,” says Zosa. “People look up to celebrities. They get botox even if they don’t have wrinkles yet. After the lockdowns, patients  requested Thermage or Ulthera. I thought there would be budget constraints because many companies were either cutting back or on the no-work, no-pay scheme.  These young people said they felt ugly in Zoom meetings and that their faces needed to be slimmed down. Looking good was important.”

The Robotic Lift is ideal for the 30- and 40somethings who are beginning to see sagging in the brows, jawline, cheeks and neck

The latest of the contouring technologies, Robotic Lift, is a non-invasive ultrasound procedure which is said to be the affordable version of Ulthera that uses a sound wave machine to infiltrate the deeper layers of the skin. “The waves heat the skin tissues so Ulthera creates wounds underneath the skin to stimulate collagen renewal for firmness. Since Robotic Lift doesn’t penetrate as deeply as Ulthera, it is recommended for those who don’t need aggressive contouring,” she explains.

One advantage of Robotic Lift is that it targets the pocket underneath the jawline, the area resistant to weight loss. It’s ideal for the 30- and 40somethings who are beginning to see sagging beneath the brows, jawline, cheeks and neck. It costs P20,000 per package, and you will need a booster in six months.

My Tone: Instead of doing sit-ups and crunches, paddles on the abdomen work out the muscles.

Passive exercise gadgets have been around since the mid-20th century. They were designed to contract the muscles of patients with mobility issues. My Tone uses that same principle. This machine uses medical levels of magnetic fields that build up muscles. With the excessive contraction of muscle fibers, the fatty acids in the muscle cells break up and produce a mild fat burn and stimulates muscle development.

As in a gym workout, the procedure includes resting periods between muscle contractions. The medical director herself loves using it to lift her butt. “Tumatalon!” she describes how the pads and the muscles jerk up her derriere. Her bottom looks curvier in skinny jeans, she claims.

Zosa notes that My Tone is usually paired with other non-invasive procedures that melt fat. People with more fat need to lose them before undergoing My Tone which drains the fat. It is also deal for people who are “skinny fat,” or those with jiggly muscles and clients who lost weight and need to improve muscle laxity.

“This is not a stand-alone procedure. It’s useless to tone the muscles if there are more fats,” she says. Each section costs P 5,000 per session. One would need six to eight sessions to see the results.

The procedures are complemented with oral supplements and topical treatments for maintenance.

DMark, DermAsia’s cosmeceutical arm, provides NeoStrata, an American brand that uses fruit acids and alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)  to combat early signs of aging. “This is geared for the younger generation that needs gentler formulations. A good AHA product is used to exfoliate the skin and cleanses the pores. We avoid tretinoin-based products that make the skin photo-sensitive, especially in a tropical country like ours. We noticed that people who have been using tretinoin (a concentrated compound that treats acne and fine wrinkles) for a long time develop spider veins on their cheeks,” says Zosa.

She likewise recommends Heliocare, the most advanced sunscreen using botanical extracts. It protects the skin from High Energy Visible Light which leads to sun-damaged skin and sun spots aside from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Oral sun protection is for people who don’t have the time to reapply their sunblock.

Zosa adds that Regenera’s package includes oral and topical maintenance after the procedure. It includes saw palmetto, a supplement from a tree that reduces hair loss.

“We tested two groups—those who took supplements and those who didn’t.  While both groups experienced healthy hair growth after their procedure, naturally, the group that was given supplementation saw more lush hair,” she says.

About author


She is a veteran journalist who’s covered the gamut of lifestyle subjects. Since this pandemic she has been giving free raja yoga meditation online.

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