It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie: Scientists at MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Living Proof, and Olivo Labs banded together to develop a “second skin” that tightens skin and smoothes away wrinkles, according to a new study.
The researchers created a silicone-based coating that mimics the appearance, elasticity, and strength of younger-looking, healthy skin. The protective polymer can make up for the natural loss of elasticity as we age, which contributes to wrinkles and sagging skin. In fact, the polymer is stronger than human skin — in lab tests, it snapped back to its original state after being stretched more than 250 percent, while natural skin can be stretched about 180 percent, according to a statement put out by MIT.
Here’s how it works: The polymer is applied to skin in the form of a cream or ointment, followed by a “platinum catalyst” that triggers the polymer to form a strong yet flexible film. The film lasts up to 24 hours and remains nearly invisible to the naked eye. To test the polymer’s safety and effectiveness, researchers applied the coating under the eyes where people tend to get bags. The polymer acted as a “steady compressive force” that tightened the skin, reducing under-eye bags for about 24 hours. In another test, the protective coating improved hydration on dry legs by preventing water loss.
The researchers note that there are many uses for this breakthrough technology. “A number of them are in dermatology, such as treating eczema and dry skin,” Robert S. Langer, PhD, a professor at MIT’s David H. Koch Institute and one of the study authors, tells Yahoo Beauty. The coating could directly deliver treatments for certain skin conditions that would stay put, improving effectiveness, such as cortisone for eczema. The “second skin” could also be adapted to shield the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, like a high-tech sunblock.
“It’s an invisible layer that can provide a barrier, provide cosmetic improvement, and potentially deliver a drug locally to the area that’s being treated,” Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT’s department of chemical engineering, said in a statement. “Those three things together could really make it ideal for use in humans.”
What’s more, none of the study participants reported any reactions to the coating. “We have not seen any from studies on nearly 200 people,” says Langer. However, the polymer isn’t designed to be worn constantly, so you would eventually have to take off the magic skin. But you can’t blame us for being excited about the possibilities — and some dermatologists feel the same way. “I think it is brilliant,” Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University, who was not involved in the research, told the New York Times . “What they have done is design a clever biomaterial that recapitulates the properties of young and healthy skin. They can use it as sort of a Band-Aid over old and aging skin and get very significant results.”
Article originally featured in Yahoo Beauty by Rachel Grummer Bender