SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST (14-Jun-01)

Beaming Faces

The laser has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and the outpatient treatment polishes skin and helps smooth wrinkles. It takes 15 minutes and users can return to work immediately afterwards.

For every 15 or 20 microdermabrasion treatments performed at Dr Simon Ourian’s office every day, at least four are done on Asian faces. The rate is about the same for laser procedures.

This wouldn’t be unusual, if Ourian’s office wasn’t in the heart of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and if the majority of his clients did not fly in from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia to have the treatments done.

Ourian and his brother Bob — also a cosmetic surgeon — run the Epione Skin Institute (www.epionebh.com), one of the busiest skincare practices in a building crammed with similar businesses.

But they have one thing on their side: new laser and microdermabrasion techniques they have devised to treat Asian complexions specifically. It’s one thing to tend to the facial requirements of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, but another to ensure that Chinese and Japanese women are not neglected.

”We call them ethnic skins, and Asians tend to have a more yellowish skin-tone. But products and treatments are mostly designed for Caucasian skin, so either they are too strong for Asian skin, or they are not strong enough, ” says Simon Ourian.

So the brothers came up with Coolaser, a patented procedure which Simon Ourian says ”freezes the skin before the laser hits, because lasers can create a lot of heat”. The laser has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and the outpatient treatment polishes skin and helps smooth wrinkles. It takes 15 minutes and users can return to work immediately afterwards.

”I have tried every over-the-counter [product], even prescribed medication, ” says Kumiko Akimoto, a 38-year-old Japanese business owner, who had been looking for a way to even out her skin tone. ”This is what I had been waiting for; I had no downtime, no waiting, and my skin has been glowing.”

In the course of the treatments, Ourian explains, he basically ”puts to sleep” for about six weeks the cells in the skin that create the pigment melanin. This process isn’t long enough to do any kind of damage, but rather helps to speed up the efficacy of the whole treatment.

”The advantage of melanin is that it helps Asians to age slower. But on the downside, the more melanin you have, the more prone you are to discolouration. Any little blemish will stay for many years unless something is done.” As Ourian passes the laser light over the skin, less than a millionth of an inch of tissue is removed at a time, and this incredible control allows him to treat only as deeply as needed. After the damaged skin is removed, new skin grows quickly in its place.

For microdermabrasion treatments-where tiny crystal granules are rubbed across the skin, buffing away dead cells-a similar approach is used. Ourian combines a few topical medications-such as kojic or retinoic acid-to put the melanin to sleep and follows this with the microdermabrasion technique. ”I started to work with medication as the concept works well with Asian skin. The results we are getting are superior compared to what our Asian patients were seeing otherwise.”

Ourian worked with a few doctors in Asia to see how they were treating their patients, but found that results were often mixed. ”We researched for quite a few years to get the right combination, ” he says, adding that his Asian client base is now 20 per cent of total customers and growing.

”Many combine a visit to us with a holiday or business trip to the West Coast, ” he says. ”Sometimes they see a difference in one or two sessions, sometimes it takes longer. Almost 30 per cent of them are men, who are mostly concerned about lines on their forehead.”