Beauty: Enter the dragon

Lucia Pawlak tries out a snake serum product, as used by Kylie Minogue
Lucia Pawlak tries out a snake serum product, as used by Kylie Minogue
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IT’s the holy grail of beauty. The search for that one product which could be the fountain of youth in a jar or even in a needle; the single potion which will call time on . . . well, time.

And it is at this time every year, when the desire to ensure that a new year really will mean a new you is at its height, that the search is at its most intense.

Which is why beauty counters and clinics around Edinburgh are heaving with the latest in creams and treatments, all designed to feed the faithful the belief that this time, with just this new ingredient or that new formulation, a youthful radiant complexion will be theirs forever. The twist this year is that while fillers, plumpers and Botox injections are still pulling in the crowds, what people really want in 2012 is beauty with a bit more bite.

From vampire facelifts to Dragon’s Blood sculpting gel and snake serums, beauty in the Capital is suddenly sounding rather dangerous.

“It all sounds terrifying doesn’t it,” laughs Jackie Patridge, managing director of Dermalclinic in Church Hill Place.

“But it’s the current trend. The names make the products sound very exotic, but they are flying off the shelves because people are happy with the results.”

There’s also the celebrity factor of course. Lady Gaga is said to use Rodial’s Dragon’s Blood while Kylie Minogue and Sienna Miller are reportedly fans of the brand’s Glamoxy snake serum range. It won’t surprise anyone that Gaga’s moisturiser of choice – dubbed the “liquid facelift” – contains no dragon’s blood at all. Rather, it is made from the red sap of the sangre de drago tree, long used in Chinese medicine to treat conditions including ulcers and wounds and which it’s now believed can accelerate the repair of skin damage.

Similarly, the snake serum has a distinct lack of reptile in the list of ingredients. “No snakes were harmed in producing it,” Jackie – a former wounds nurse specialist – laughs again. “The snake serum has a neuro-peptide in it which is called Syn-Ake, which is how the name’s derived, but it also gives a tightening effect in the same way that a snake’s venom is said to make skin contract if someone is actually bitten. It has a similar effect to Botox without the injection and we also offer ‘venom facials’ using the product.”

Dragon’s Blood, pictured left, works differently. It not only promises to plump, sculpt and lift the complexion but protect against future ageing. “It forms a kind of second skin over the face to protect the skin from external elements,” explains Jackie. “It can give the face a more chiselled look. You won’t get cheekbones overnight if you’ve never had them, but it definitely can sculpt the face without the need for needles.

“But one of the biggest things in aesthetics this year will be the vampire facial, which takes out a person’s own cells, whizzes them, and puts them back in again with the collagen all boosted and raring to go. It’s all part of the same trend.”

Of course as Edinburgh is always at the cutting edge of medicine and science, there’s already one salon offering the “vampire facelift”.

The Harlow Rhodes clinic in Waterloo Place carries out the procedure for £400. Performed by Dr Jonathan Rhodes – an NHS consultant in intensive care and anaesthesia – it involves taking 10ml of a person’s blood, spinning it in a centrifuge, removing the red blood cells and then reinjecting the platelet-rich serum which is left. “This technique has been used in various surgical specialities – plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery – to improve wound healing and get better results and it’s now being used in the aesthetic industry,” he says. The treatment takes about an hour to complete, but is no quick fix, as the full effects take two to three months to be seen – although they last for about a year.

And if all that wasn’t terrifying enough, then keep a look out for new products which boast extracts of a parasitic fungus, Cordyceps. It is most likely to turn up in new sun protection forumlas as scientists have discovered it can protect against cell damage from exposure to UVB rays.

However if it’s something really scary you’re after then head to Zen Lifestyle where before a facial they will photograph your skin to show the damage already done – and then how you could look in the future. It could be enough to make slathering on dragon’s blood seem perfectly reasonable.

• Rodial’s Dragon’s Blood, priced £75, is available from Harvey Nichols, SpaceNK and Dermalclinic – which also stocks Glamoxy snake serum at £127. Harlow Rhodes clinic can be contacted on 0759 8916590 and Zen Lifestyle on 0131-226 6777 or 0131-477 3535