Chronic smog levels here have caught the attention of skin-care brands keen to tap a growing market of pollutionstruck consumers.
As poor air quality continues to blight the city (Hong Kong’s smog levels keep increasing as foul air blows across the border from factories in southern China, making the city’s concentration of pollutants exceed World Health Organization standards by 200%), people are becoming increasingly anxious about their skin’s health.
According to dermatologist Francis Yu, while there is no scientifi c evidence yet showing pollution directly damages skin, a thinning ozone layer caused by pollution is nevertheless defi nitely harmful.
“It increases your chances of skin cancer … and there’s a more harmful effect in terms of the aging of the skin,” he said.
Local retailers and other beauty executives say they have recently seen an uptick in multinational beauty brands introducing products claiming to combat the daily grime.
“There has been a huge increase in our customers’ interest in these products—mainly because the air quality in Hong Kong has deteriorated badly,” said Simone Pedersen, general merchandise manager of Lane Crawford department store.
“Urban city life is a big issue for women, especially when we are constantly exposed to all this pollution,” agreed Vanessa Teh, sales and marketing manager of beauty product distributor Talika. “It’s not only Hong Kong, but major cities in the world.” And manufacturers have taken notice.
In September 2006, Sampar, an anti-pollution skin-care brand with around 20 units from Parlabo Laboratories in Paris, made its Hong Kong debut at Lane Crawford. The products contain an “Urban Active” formula blending extracts of shea butter, mint, plus plant sugar and lactate extract that together are billed to strip toxins and pollutants that asphyxiate skin.
Pedersen noted another trend is beauty manufacturers introducing “anti-pollution” products within their existing lines.
“It is difficult to compare [them to purely ‘anti-pollution’ items], as there are many individual products available which either look at treating the damage caused by oxidative stress or protecting the skin from further damage,” she said.
Lane Crawford, for example, carries Zelens, a London-based skin-care line whose products include Fullerine C60, a microscopic form of carbon claimed to have anti-oxidant properties to target environmental factors, such as UV rays. The department store also sells OGO Oxygen Water, oxygen-enriched water that’s supposed to improve circulation and therefore cleanse skin of toxins, from Tilburg, the Netherlands-based OGO.
The store’s beauty counter also sells portable oxygen—flavored air in a can that gives buyers 6 liters, or 20 shots, of oxygen for a breath of fresh air.
“This is a great success, especially in an environment such as Hong Kong’s,” said Pedersen.
At Pure Beauty cosmetics retailer, Ozon, an anti-pollution line, hit shelves in July 2006. Created by Le Mans, France-based Santeri Laboratories, its “Actitrionis” formula contains patented active ingredients said to protect skin cells from toxins.
It is not just the luxury end of the market seeing an increased interest in anti-pollution products. Over at SASA, a local chain of beauty stores, brands such as Oe (Organic Elements) are making a mark, according to the retailer’s marketing executive Anita Shen. The organic skin-care brand developed by the Center of Cosmetology at the University of Ferrara, Italy, boasts two key anti-pollution products— ef 40 c-Biosurge, a serum for the face containing glycolic acid, vitamin C and two organic plants, willow bark and dogrose, which purportedly provide a shock treatment for skin that has dulled because of pollution. There’s also an antioxidant day cream, Global Shield, containing a patented biocomplex meant to protect skin from pollutant agents and to fortify skin against aging.
SASA also carries Decléor, which markets its Hydra Floral Anti- Pollution line in Hong Kong. Hydra Floral’s products contain plant extracts said to protect against pollution and external aggressors.
Meantime, Murad, of Marina Del Ray, California, is rolling out the brand’s anti-pollution products, called Murad Anti-Pollution Complex, to Paua spas across Hong Kong. Their formula includes olive extract and Manganese gluconate, which purportedly combats pollution by improving skin’s moisture levels and increasing its resilience.
“The worsening air quality has increased demand from our customers for more protective skin-care products,” said Shen. “This is defi nitely a growing trend.”