Modern-day lifestyle changes such as physical inactivity, stress and lack of sleep are leading to a growing number of skin-related issues like acne, dark circles and dark spots. Therefore, the demand for facial and skin care products has continued to rise. Now, a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a “second skin” that can temporarily protect and tighten skin, and smooth wrinkles.
Speaking to MIT News this week, associate professor Daniel Anderson says the idea was to create a product that treated the skin. However, they now believe the polymer could also be used to deliver medicines and provide sun protection.
The project began almost ten years ago. Almost every cosmetic product on the market claims it can reduce the signs of ageing, but the research team at MIT set out to create a protective coating that could be used for both cosmetic and medical purposes.
They created a library of more than 100 possible polymers, all of which contained the chemical known as siloxane. According to the article published in Nature Materials, these polymers can be assembled into an arrangement known as a cross-linked polymer layer or XPL. They began testing these materials to try and find the closest equivalent to healthy human skin.
While the research team at MIT developed the science for the material, it was a private biotechnology company called Living Proof that manufactured the end-product. The XPL is applied as a thin coating and mimics the elastic properties of youthful skin. In lab tests, it has proven to be even stronger than human skin. It was able to return to its original state after being stretched more than 250%.
How it works
The XPL is currently delivered in a two-step process. First, a clear liquid (polysiloxane components) is applied to the skin. This is followed by a platinum catalyst that causes the film to harden.
The film only takes a minute to dry and it remains on the skin for up to 24 hours. Anderson says users don’t have to worry about washing the material off, because a special solution was created to dissolve it off the skin. Alternatively, if you’re feeling lazy, the film will fall off your skin after a few days.
Researchers also believe it could be adapted to provide long-lasting ultraviolet protection and for drug delivery. In a advanced drug delivery market set to value $227.3 billion by 2020.
The published article details several studies the team performed to test the product’s safety and effectiveness. In one study, the XPL was applied to the area where bags form under the eyes. It proved to be a success, tightening the skin and lasting for almost 24 hours. In another study, a suction cup was used to extend the skin and test the XPL’s elasticity. The result - the XPL-treated skin returned to its original position faster than untreated skin.
The sample group consisted of 170 participants. None of the participants reported any allergic reaction or irritation from wearing the XPL. The wearable polymer was proven to minimize the signs of aging, such as wrinkles under the eyes and on the forehead. But the MIT scientists believe the film could also be used to treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis by protecting the skin.
It will be interesting to see whether this has any effect on the facial care markets, which were both forecast to grow in the coming years.
This is the latest in a number of exciting developments in polymer technology. Researchers from the United States and China recently unveiled an elastic polymer that could mimic the properties of animal muscles, including flexibility and self-healing.
The market for medical polymers is exhibiting great potential, with a recent report expecting it to be worth $2.9 billion by 2021.
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