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‘Second skin’ polymer eliminates wrinkles . . . for a time

2 Min Read
‘Second skin’ polymer eliminates wrinkles . . . for a time

A new silicone-based polymer that mimics the mechanical and elastic properties of youthful skin and is practically invisible to the eye can instantly make wrinkles disappear—including unsightly eyebags—but only for 24 hours. It also may have medical applications as a drug-delivery device. The material was developed by scientists at MIT (Cambridge, MA), Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH; Boston, MA), Living Proof (Cambridge, MA) and Olivo Labs (Cambridge, MA). A paper describing the research was published in the May 9 online issue of Nature Materials.

Starting with a library of more than 100 possible material formulations, all of which had a siloxane building block, the researchers settled on a cross-linked polymer layer (XPL) that could be stretched more than 250% and still return easily to its original state. The material also met the required optical and mechanical properties and did not irritate the skin. “Creating a material that behaves like skin is very difficult,” says Barbara Gilchrest, a dermatologist at MGH and an author of the paper. “Many people have tried to do this, and the materials that have been available up until this have not had the properties of being flexible, comfortable, nonirritating, and able to conform to the movement of the skin and return to its original shape,” Gilchrest told MIT News.

The skin-tightening effect only lasts for 24 hours, so more research is needed to turn this into a miracle cosmetic product. But researchers also found that skin treated with XPL retained much more water after 24 hours than skin treated with a high-end commercial moisturizer. It could also be adapted to provide long-lasting UV protection, add researchers, and by incorporating antimicrobial agents or medications, the material has significant potential in the medical arena.

The XPL is currently delivered in a two-step process, as described by MIT News. Polysiloxane components are applied to the skin first, followed by a platinum catalyst that induces the polymer to form a strong cross-linked film that remains on the skin for up to 24 hours. The catalyst has to be added after the polymer is applied because after this step the material becomes too stiff to spread. Both layers are applied as creams or ointments, and once spread onto the skin, XPL becomes essentially invisible.

Living Proof, a haircare company that has its roots in molecular research at MIT and is co-owned by Jennifer Aniston, has spun out the XPL technology to Olivo Laboratories LLC, a new startup formed to focus on the further development of the XPL technology. Initially, Olivo’s team will focus on medical applications of the technology for treating skin conditions such as dermatitis, according to MIT News.

The video embedded below shows the second skin material in action.

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