Nimue explains how neurocosmetics will change skincare as we know it
If you put your hand on a hot stove, you feel heat and the message to the brain is to take your hand away. Educators Vicky Convy and Heidi Cerfontyne explain why this skin-brain connection is now catching the R&D team’s attention.
26 Sep 2023

Since founded in 1994, South African professional and retail skincare brand Nimue has been all about skin health and how to accomplish healthy skin. Not just fixing on the surface but going into the skin and making everything work as it should.

— When people see the results, it allows them to see that it is going beyond what they’ve been used to using on the skin, says Heidi Cerfontyne (pictured right above), International educator.

How do you accomplish this?

— It’s about visible results. We work with independent laboratories in Germany and France and have in-house clinical studies in our laboratory in South Africa. We work very much with case studies and present clinical independent trials. It’s not just saying what our story is but showing actual results.

— We will never bring anything to market just because it’s trendy, International regional educator Vicky Convy adds. We’re respected because of the innovation and technologies that we use. Sometimes it takes a lot longer than other companies might use. Now, we get asked a lot about retinoids, and why we don’t have them in our products. It’s because we always want to stay true to the brand, to skin health, and to make therapists get the results with their clients. 

With colder days ahead, Nimue introduces the Sensitive Range, which consists of one professional and two retail products.

— Sensitive skin is becoming more and more common, Cerfontyne explains. Over the past few years, consumers are expressing concern about their skin changing, due to the weather, environment, and lifestyle impacting it. With this range, we’re looking at the link between microbiome health and skin sensitivity, inflammation, and the skin-brain connection based on how consumers are expressing how their skin is itching, burning, and stinging.

— The other thing is the barrier, preserving a ’security guard’ that is important for the health of the skin. The keys here are to reduce inflammation and improve barrier strength, the health of the skin microbiome, and the skin-brain connection. This is a different approach; normally, for sensitive skin, you just want to get something that is going to reduce the redness. We’re looking at going beyond that and what’s causing these conditions, working on healing it or helping it from different angles.

Vicky Convy and Heidi Cerfontyne.

What can you say about how you work with skin-brain connection?

— On our skin, we have neuroreceptors, says Cerfontyne. If you put your hand on a hot stove, what happens? You feel heat and the message to the brain is to take your hand away. That is the skin-brain connection, sending neurotransmitters and communicating a message to the brain. So if your skin is sensitive and there’s excessive heat on it, or also from an ingredient or product used, the skin perceives the message and says that it’s not comfortable. You can’t take the skin away from it — the product is there — but the neurotransmitters that are linked can send messages to the brain. What we need to do is to control those messages. What we also focus on is to improve the well-being. How do consumers experience their skin when they are sensitive? It’s discomfort, can be frustrating and irritating, and actually, the endorphins also go down. With the ingredient technology, we’re working on the skin-brain connection, helping to improve these endorphins so that the skin feels well and more comfortable.

This is holistic thinking on a new level.

— Holistic, but hi-tech, says Cerfontyne.

Is this also a focus area for your R&D department now?

— Yes. The ingredients that would be focusing on the skin-brain connection, she continues, are what’s called neurocosmetics. It’s working within the skin, so it is very advanced. We’ve been asked over many years to bring something that is more potent for skin sensitivity. But you also want to see what is available in terms of technologies and research, so that it’s not just about quickly formulating something but using the right ingredients.

— We use the best of both worlds, biotechnology and plant stem cells. We’re reducing the neurogenic inflammation, pain, and the sensation and are also helping to release the good endorphins, says Vicky Convy.

But it can also be quite tricky to educate such advanced technologies.

— Therapists are quite knowledgeable when it comes to skin protection and barrier and they definitely get more knowledgeable about the microbiome, says Convy. The neurogenic inflammation is perhaps a little bit newer, especially the three areas combined (the skin-brain connection, sending neurotransmitters and communicating a message to the brain Ed’s note), and I think that’s what really makes us stand out with these products. 

How have you seen consumer behaviour change post-pandemic?

— We’re living in a world now where we’re tightening the purse strings, says Cerfontyne. So, they want bang for their buck. Something that is going to be multifactorial treating many things in one product, which is why we have only launched two retail products and one professional. Also, when we’re looking at sensitivity, less is more. We wanted to ensure that we’re not overwhelming the skin with too many products and ingredients. 

— Clients post-pandemic are a lot more knowledgeable. They want to read and understand the skin and they know about the microbiome. They’re probably even asking their therapists, ’does this work on the microbiome? Which is great. And they are doing a lot more for their skin — the DIY trend is still there. I know a lot of people are still doing strong peels at home, and definitely, a lot more home care, which is a great marriage of the two with the professional treatments and home care that delivers the results.

— People now are a lot more aware of stress. It’s not just topical addressing their skin concerns but taking a step back, looking at how we’re living on the inside, well-being, and taking time out for ourselves. One of our educators has just opened a practice where she is combining different modalities, treating the skin, but also combining the health, well-being, and destressing from inside. Together, that synergy and marriage of inside-outside is able to have a more significant result.

If we take a future perspective, what do you see coming in neuroscience?

— Plant stem cell technology, definitely. We’re going to see a lot more with microbiome as an industry topic in general, within dermatology and skin. We’re just scratching the surface with it, it’s just going to evolve over the years. And so will the controlled inflammation side, says Vicky Convy, International regional educator.

Heidi Cerfontyne, International educator, agrees, also sharing that we now understand, about inflammation, that it’s not just creating sensitivity. 

— It results in aging, hyperpigmentation, and problematic or acne skin. It’s about looking at neurocosmetics in all the avenues of skin health and we’ll definitely broach into the other areas to help. It’s an interesting time to be in terms of Research and Development and innovation. I was talking to a chemical engineer who works in a raw material company and he said that at his particular business, they have a whole division just targeting microbiome and microbiome ingredient technology. So, these raw material companies are investing a lot of money into the research because they realise that this is a pot of gold. This is where all the skin disorders originate from — just look at all the conferences that is discussing microbiome.