TALK OF ANTI-AGEING treatments tend to conjure up images of women beyond the first blush of youth slathering on mineral-rich cream in an effort to turn back the clock. In truth this stereotype has never held true. Women of all ages have always been interested in skincare and now young women tend to dominate the market. For cosmetic companies, this evolution has brought about an unexpected challenge. Unlike their predecessors, this younger band of consumer is more sceptical - they are not convinced by commercials featuring an age-defying movie star waxing lyrical about this cream or that serum. Instead, some have devoted their resources to treatments that have more visible results such as Botox or plastic surgery. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 1994, Botox was performed on 10,000 adolescent patients aged between 13 and 19-years-old. In 2006, that figure rose to 244,000. But it's a big leap to go from skincare products to Botox, putting pressure on cosmetic companies to create innovative products that satisfy a more demanding market. Enter skin research firms such as Noixia. 'It just seemed as if skincare, and even the most advanced skincare ingredients, were band-aids that could not stand up to the major causes of ageing and skin damage,' says Nicole Dial, the company's president. Citing genetics as one of the major culprits, the company has shifted its focus to cosmeceuticals, a marriage between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, believing that the answers will be found in genetics. The decoding of the human genome has already allowed scientists to predict the probability of a person developing a certain disease. Applying the same principles, cosmetic companies hope to anticipate when and where wrinkles will appear. With this information, a range of skincare products can then be customised and formulated to work in concert with a person's genetic makeup. So far, research has uncovered a wide range of findings. Geneticists believe that we have about 30,000 active genes. One school of thought argues that signs of ageing is caused by the slow down of previously active genes as we grow older, and thus skincare products should boost gene activity. Other research has shown that slowing cell renewal may be the key. The argument here is that cells can only replicate a certain number of times over a lifetime, so the faster they replicate, the faster you will age. Also, because of the quick turnover, your skin isn't allowed proper time to repair and regenerate, resulting in new skin that is less than optimally healthy. Scientists at Stanford put forward a third theory related to the protein complex, NF-kappa-B. They found that with creams that inhibit the compound, there was a remarkable reversal in the appearance of aged skin, making it appear younger and healthier. A gene-based treatment is available at the Maria Russo spa in Boston. The Ultra Custom Anti-Ageing Treatment analyses a client's genetic profile to identify the major factors causing their skin to age. Based on the results, a specific cream is then formulated with agents targeting the culprits. Research, however, is still in its early stages. What is clear is gene-based science will shape the new generation of anti-ageing products. The anti-ageing market is a fast-growing segment of the cosmetic industry and consumers will pay top dollar for products that work.