Go into any supermarket or beauty store and you’ll find entire aisles stacked high with products that claim to be able to make your skin look its best, whether it’s night creams, moisturisers, or light-reflecting, skin blurring, deny-you-have-pores foundation. Most of them claim to have some kind of anti-wrinkle or at the very least wrinkle-hiding properties but we’ve yet to be convinced. Now, however, scientists at MIT have managed to achieve what cosmetic companies haven’t by developing a new cream that smooths out the wearer’s natural skin by creating an extra layer of invisible artificial skin.
The cream was developed by scientists at MIT Massachusetts General Hospital and manufactured by biotechnoloy company Living Proof and it’s been in the works for around 10 years. It’s essentially a silicone-based polymer that can be assembled into a cross-linked polymer layer and applied to the skin in a two-step process. In the first layer, polysiloxane components are applied to the skin, and this is then followed by a second layer containing a platinum catalyst that induces the polymer to form a strong cross-linked and essentially invisible film that remains on the skin for up to 24 hours.
According to Barbara Gilchrest, dermatologist and an author of the paper, “creating a material that behaves like skin is very difficult” so many studies had to be performed on humans in order to make sure they were creating a material that was “flexible, comfortable, nonirritating, and able to conform to the movement of the skin and return to its original shape.”
In one study, the XPL was applied to under-eye bags and when it was applied the researchers found that it had a compressive force that tightened the skin for about 24 hours. In another, the material was applied to a person’s forearm to test the elasticity and when the polymer-treated skin was distended with a suction cup, it returned to its original position much faster than untreated skin. The material was also found to help the skin retain much more moisture over a day than using a high-end moisturiser and none of the study’s participants reported skin irritation from wearing the polymer cream.
It’s not just about cosmetically smoothing wrinkles, though; the researchers behind the material say that with further development it could also be used medically to deliver drugs to help treat skin conditions such as eczema and other types of dermatitis or to offer a 24 hours protective layer over wounds. It could even be adapted to provide long-lasting ultraviolet protection (everywhere manufacturers of sun cream nervously pull at their collars).
There’s no word yet on when the cream will actually be commercially available but it certainly looks like an eventuality as manufacturers Living Proof have handed the technology over to new startup Olivo Laboratories, LLC, whose team will be doing further tests on the material and initially focusing on medical applications of the technology for treating skin conditions such as dermatitis. Whenever it is brought to market, we imagine a lot of money is going to made.