I barely survived chemistry in high school. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a science fiction flick. But when it comes to beauty, I’ll happily spend hours learning about lab results and cosmetics discoveries. Go figure.

Here are the latest, greatest beauty breakthroughs I’ve come across.

It’s electrifying

You can’t swing a curling iron these days without noticing other ionic tools, from hair dryers to flat brushes. But here’s a twist: a face cream that increases positive ion flow within the skin’s surface.

"Studies show that as you age, the flow of bioelectricity decreases," explains Nowell Solish, director of dermatologic surgery at the University of Toronto.

"This decrease means less cell-to-cell communication and less production of collagen and elastin."

Neutrogena Clinical is a new anti-aging line focused on bettering the dialogue between skin cells using ion mineral conductors. A serum made with zinc and copper "acts like a little battery" to create a positively charged ion flow. The result is a faster rate of skin renewal and firmness. But don’t worry about getting shocked — the electricity is imperceptible, I promise.

Grey today, gone tomorrow

The biggest hair-care news I’ve heard in a long time is that grey hair might be going the way of the dodo.

Grey hair doesn’t happen overnight; hair loses colour gradually, strand by strand.

Patricia Pineau, corporate R&D communications director for L’Oréal, says addressing this progressive change is the key to putting a stop to silver. "While there are still active melanocytes — cells that produce colour — in the hair, there is a chance it can be somehow repigmented."

How, you ask? Perhaps by applying a topical lotion or even taking an oral supplement, depending on what L’Oréal’s researchers discover. But never mind how it will happen — the question is when? Pineau says researchers are working on it as fast as they can, but it may be awhile. "If we’re lucky, it could be as little as two years. But it could take as long as 10."

Damage control

The white coats at L’Oréal aren’t leaving hair colour lovers high and dry, though — INOA, launched in salons in March, represents a major shift in the way hair colour works. Traditionally, ammonia is used in permanent colour. This usually means breathing through your mouth during application and trying to distract yourself from the itching with a good magazine.

INOA’s oil delivery system pushes the colour deep into the hair shaft without disrupting the health of the follicle as much as ammonia does. "The cuticle layer of the hair is less disturbed, so hair remains more in its natural state," explains Colin Ford, national director of education and events for L’Oréal Professionel. Other benefits: Colour lasts longer and there’s no noxious odour.


3-D creativity

Trends are often dictated by consumer demand. And this is certainly the case when it comes to cosmetic surgery. Clients now want to be able to fully visualize the types of improvements they’re considering before going under the knife. Cory Torgerson, a nasal and facial plastic surgeon in Toronto, relies on the Vectra Face Sculptor, a space age-like machine that takes an editable 3-D image of a patient’s face.

Torgerson believes this technology is going to become the new norm in cosmetic work because of how well it bridges the communication gap between physician and patient. It will also reduce the typical celebrity facial feature requests. "Bringing in a photo of a famous person’s nose you want is pointless," he says. "You need to see the right, balanced nose for you, not someone else."

Nourishing beauty

"You are what you eat" takes on new meaning with the latest batch of beauty ingestibles. Glisodin Skin Nutrients are vitamins billed as skin’s "secret weapon" because they use superoxide dismutase, one of the most powerful antioxidants.

Popping a pill as part of a beauty routine has become more common, but what about beauty foods? In Europe, you can spread Noreva Norelift "anti-wrinkle" jam on your toast, or anti-age with your java in East Asia, where Nescafé has launched an instant coffee with added collagen.

But the jury is still out on just how effective "nutraceuticals" are, with both dermatologists and devotees claiming varying degrees of success.

Sci-fi skin creams

There’s a lot of buzz around stem cells cropping up in face creams. Are they worth the hype? And ethically, is there an issue? First of all, these creams don’t contain anything remotely close to a human stem cell. (The infamous baby foreskin cream uses the growth hormone left over from growing artificial skin, not actual tissue.) Most of these products work by helping to create a healthier, stimulating environment for skin cells, not by morphing human DNA.

So where exactly do these stem cells come from? Plants, usually. La Mer The Regenerating Serum uses a marine plant from France, while 3LAB’s high-tech "M" Cream uses Nano-Claire GY (marketed as the world’s first bioengineered growth hormone) and stem cells from a rare Swiss apple — one of only three such trees in the world. Meanwhile, the cult-favourite Swiss spa line, Cellcosmet, uses equine stem cells.

The medical community is looking at stem cells in a big way, says Frances Jang, a dermatologist in Vancouver, "but in terms of skin rejuvenation? It’s interesting, but it’s still very early days." Jang stresses that focusing on the basics of skin care (aka, slathering on sunscreen) is still by far the best way to spend your beauty budget.