In March of this year, Environ announced the appointment of its new medical advisor – Dr Matthias Aust, a plastic surgeon and one of the leading researchers in the field of skin needling. As a long-time supporter of Environ and a close friend of the brand’s founder Dr Des Fernandes, Dr Aust is well placed to build on Environ’s legacy. We find out more about his interest in skin and his new role as medical advisor.
What are your specialisms and why are you so passionate about skin?
“I’m a plastic surgeon, so I trained for six years in reconstructive surgery as well as in aesthetics. During my training, I lived in Los Angeles for a year, which is where I met a very close friend of mine who is also a plastic surgeon and he used to be the assistant of Dr Des Fernandes. That friend brought me to South Africa, where I met Des.
“At the beginning, I was a big questioner – Iwas a young surgeon, so the last thing I believed in was creams and the minimally invasive way of doing things. Des was really kind and said that he liked that I was questioning it and doing my own research. Over the last 20 years, I focused my own scientific career on studying these kinds of projects without any sponsoring, so I’ve done things like RNA [ribonucleic acid] analysis on the products.”
What are the main areas of research that you’ve looked into?
“I started with lots of research about needling. We won many prizes with that, including the Best of Europe Prize in 2014, which is the highest prize worldwide when it comes to treating scars. From there, we looked more towards healthy skin, so we focused on vitamin A and the results it can achieve.”
How did you come to work as medical advisor for Environ and what does it involve?
“Dr Fernandes is my mentor, and he’s also the godfather of my four-year-old son, so we’re very close. 20 years ago, I wanted to return to Germany after my training because that’s where I wanted to raise my family, but Dr Fernandes really wanted me to be part of the Environ family. So, in the beginning I started as the medical advisor for Germany, but I still wasn’t affiliated with Environ at all because I wanted to finish all my research completely separately.
“Dr Fernandes isn’t the youngest anymore, so he started to think about who was going to replace him – and he has chosen me, which makes me really proud. Since March of this year I’ve been the medical advisor, so I’m responsible for travelling around the world and giving lectures and training people, as well as being involved in the research and the science of Environ.”
You specialise in needling – what methods should you use for best results?
“It’s very important that we understand what needling is. It’s just a pin prick from a needle – so even if all of the devices look quite similar, they’re not, because the depth is important. If we’re taking about cosmetic needling, which is 0.1mm, it’s a perfect tool for enhancing product penetration but the needling by itself won’t bring you results. “For needling to achieve results by itself, you need to cause wound healing. This is usually with a needle of 1mm, but you can go up to 3mm.”
When it comes to home needling, what advice should professionals give to clients?
“Clients shouldn’t be trying to cause wound healing. First of all, it’s inconvenient and painful. Secondly, clients will never have the clean conditions that we have in our practices or salons.
“Clients should be needling every day in order to get the products they apply into the skin better, because if they have healthy skin then just 6% of the creams they’re applying actually get into the cell. By needling, you can enhance the penetration by up to 400 times.
“It’s better for clients to go for the best products and use a cosmetic roller as penetration enhancement rather than trying to cause bleeding because it’s not worth it and they can end up with problems.”
How can needling support the functions of topical vitamin A?
“It’s all about the penetration enhancement. The problem is that the healthier your skin gets through good skincare, the stronger the barrier is that the products need to get through. So, we need to maximise penetration through needling, although sonophresis also works well.
“It’s not about the type of vitamin A you put on your skin, but about the dose. If you start with a too high concentration, you would end up with a reaction – it’s not severe but it is inconvenient. That’s why Environ has a step-up system.”
What are the most exciting areas of research in skin treatment at the moment?
“Within the last few years, I think the most interesting things are peptides. They’re becoming more and more important. Peptides initially came from wound-healing research but the beauty industry is taking on this knowledge and it works really well.
“There are lots of different types of peptides, but they all work in a similar way. They deliver messages directly to the cells. For example, instructing fibroblasts to produce collagen.”