Polymer scientists are putting a fresh face on skin care with an elastic “second skin” that reduces the appearance of wrinkles and bags under the eyes. The material, developed by MIT chemical engineering professor Robert Langer and coworkers, might also find use as a wound dressing or as a protective barrier for skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.
The second skin goes on in a two-stage process: First, a polysiloxane-based cream is applied directly to the skin followed by application of a cream that contains a platinum catalyst. The catalyst crosslinks the polysiloxane in a matter of minutes, explains Daniel G. Anderson, a medical engineering professor at MIT who was part of the research effort. “You end up with a thin film that adheres to the skin and provides elastic properties, moisture, and visible benefits.”
The researchers spent five years and examined more than 100 different polymers before finding the right formula (Nat. Mater. 2016, DOI: 10.1038/nmat4635). The polymer needs to be applied daily, and can be scrubbed or peeled off. “It doesn’t really feel like anything,” Anderson says. “You don’t notice that it’s there.”
Kelly Dobos, a cosmetic chemist with Sun Chemical who specializes in skin treatments, says the work is an interesting approach to anti-aging cosmetics. Dobos says the tests in the paper are impressive. “Sometimes cosmetic efficacy studies make claims based solely on consumer perception, which isn’t always reliable,” she adds. She also notes that the platinum catalyst used may limit the product’s widespread use because of cost.
Anderson says that the amount of platinum the team uses is pretty small and shouldn’t make the second-skin treatment too pricey. Olivo Laboratories, cofounded by Langer and others, has plans to commercialize the material.