The latest approach by Sisley is to return skin to its natural state, rather than whiten it. Photo / Supplied

Why Brightening Serums Are The Fastest Growing Category In Beauty

French company Sisley is harnessing the power from the palms of our hands in its latest skincare technology

The naturally lighter colour of people’s palms and the soles of their feet is helping scientists unlock new ways to clarify our complexions. This phenomenon is known as palmoplantar whiteness — even those with dark skins will exhibit much lighter skin on the undersides of hands and feet. This is down to an excess of a certain type of skin cell which creates a specific protein, which occurs because these areas don’t need the same natural sun protection as more exposed parts of the body.

Cosmetic scientists, notably at the French skincare brand Sisley, have advanced this knowledge to produce a targeted brightening product for the face. This adapts the melanin-inhibiting ability of the dermal protein to reduce facial discolouration that is mainly triggered by sun exposure.

The approach isn’t about whitening skin as such, but returning exposed skin more to its natural state. Skin of all colours, when showing fewer patches of hyperpigmentation, looks clearer and brighter.

READ: The Best Eye Creams & Serums To Add To Your Beauty Routine

Sisley’s new Phyto-Blanc Le Concentré is at the forefront of taking what is known about palmoplantar whiteness into new cosmetic realms. It is a pricey serum that springs from the work of Japanese scientists and incorporates Sisley’s own 20-years of expertise in complexion. It is said to improve luminosity in 15 days and lessen dark spot pigmentation over time while also soothing. Unlike some active ingredient products it can be used morning and night as part of normal skincare routine.

Brightening serums generally are a fast-growing category in beauty, given clear complexions are globally considered a marker of youth and attractiveness, which is why skincare these days targets clarity as much as firmness. Marketing such skincare and steering consumers away from resorting to what can be damaging lightening products can be fraught. But with ageing, it is easy to pass from having cute freckles to finding more permanent and denser patches of pigment, so the interest in alleviating this is apparent. Environmental protection is a large part of the answer, but consumers continue to look to cosmetics to improve their appearance as well.

Viva caught up with Sisley’s director of research Jose Ginestar to find out more about how palmoplantar whitening guided its product development.

Palmoplantar whiteness is a relatively new area for skincare technology. Photo / Supplied

V: How long has palmoplantar whiteness been understood?
Jose: Regulation of skin pigmentation by (dermal protein) DKK1 was studied around a decade ago. This area of research has particularly been developed in cosmetics only recently. A team of Japanese scientists detailed the physiological mechanism. Sisley have become global experts in this phenomenon by identifying new physiological mechanisms that lead to skin pigmentation.

Why are palms lighter and why is the protein involved in this lacking in other parts of the skin?
Whatever the colour of the skin, the palms of the hands and soles of the feet are always naturally lighter. This is due to both having an excess of a certain type of skin cell. This skin cell is known as a fibroblast. It is responsible for creating a specific type of dermal protein called DKK 1 (Dickkopf- 1) which is at the origin of palmoplantar whiteness.

DKK1 is a natural inhibitor of melanin production specifically produced by fibroblasts in the palmar-plant regions. It does this by suppressing melanocytes. When melanocytes get suppressed, they’re unable to produce melanin. In addition to suppressing melanocytes’ ability to produce melanin. DKK1 also prevents the pigment from travelling to its targeted skin cells.

We produce DKK1 all over our body, however, it is not active — only in palms of hands and soles of feet. This is due to hyperproduction of DKK1 in these areas compared with other parts of the skin. The melanocyte density on the palms and the soles is five times lower than that found in non-palmoplantar sites. All of this because they don’t need natural sun protection.

Sisley Phyto-Blanc Le Concentre Pure Bright Activating Serum. Photo / Supplied

How do you stimulate the phenomenon elsewhere?
Phyto-Blanc Le Concentré is the result of a major scientific discovery, understanding the palmoplantar whitening mechanism. Sisley research is revolutionising this natural bleaching pathway thanks to the power of Egyptian Myrobalan extract. This active ingredient offers an intense biomimetic brightening action by stimulating the production of DKK1 in the face area (by non-palmoplantar fibroblasts). The melanin synthesis is consequently reduced. This new course of action revolutionises brightening strategies by activating the skin's natural lightening power. Thus Phyto-Blanc Le Concentré allows intense skin brightening and visible anti-dark spot reduction.

What is the impact of using a melanin-inhibiting serum on existing hyper pigmentation from sun damage?
By being able to suppress the production of melanin, it helps reduce the size and intensity of dark spots offering a comprehensive action to effectively fight the appearance of dark spots. To reveal the skin's natural clarity and uniformity, it is essential to reduce the dark spots that make skin dull and less uniform. Phyto-Blanc Le Concentré’s unique, patent pending complex of four active ingredients act on all four stages of melanin synthesis and production by inhibiting the formation of the “cocoon” where melanin is stored and reducing the production, transfer and transport of melanin to the skin.

Brightening v whitening: is there a difference other than in terminology on what this means in skincare?
When we talk about whitening, this generally interprets to consumers as removing pigmentation or discoloration. Pigmentation can be a difficult skin condition to treat, as it depends on what caused or triggered the discoloration in the first place and how long they have noticed the dark spots or areas. At Sisley we use the word brightening as we can help to give our consumers an all over clarity boosting appearance while using active key plant extracts to work on pigmentation at a deeper level. Having brighter skin means that you have radiant and healthy skin, which could have some pigmentation or discoloration, but it is usually less pronounced.

• Sisley Phyto-Blanc Le Concentre Pure Bright Activating Serum, $580, is available from David Jones and Smith and Caughey’s

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