The MIT research team set out to develop a protective coating that could restore the properties of healthy skin for medical and cosmetic applications. In their research, the group created hundreds of siloxane cross-linked polymers (XPL). Researchers selected a safe, biocompatible polysiloxane-based material because it can be finely tuned to modulate properties such as spreadability, strength, elasticity, flexibility, elongation, contractility, adhesion and permeability. MIT published its study on the XPL in the journal, Nature Materials. XPL is the result of a collaboration between MIT and two biotech companies, Living Proof and Olivio Laboratories. Now they are exploring medical uses for this cream, which not only masks wrinkles, but actually mimics the properties of normal, youthful skin.
XPL is applied in two steps. First, a transparent cream containing the polymer is worked into the skin. Next, a catalyst is applied that binds the cream to the skin as a transparent film. It is said to dry in just a minute, withstands washing and sweating, and falls off the skin after a few days, although it can also be removed with a polymer dissolving solution. MIT Professor Robert Langer describes it as “essentially an elastic second skin.”1
MIT’s cream sounds like the sort of thing that will have aging Hollywood stars beating down the doors of the University’s science lab, but the technology has its limits. The catch is that, it is only temporary. You can use it to appear flawless on the red carpet during Oscar Night. However, its application and duration characteristics are such that, it is not going to smooth your crow’s feet for all eternity.
Scientists conducted multiple studies to test XPL’s safety and effectiveness. All product ingredients are FDA-approved and researchers say that among the 170 subjects tested, not one person reported irritation or had an allergic reaction.
Under-eye bags are essentially caused by protrusion of the fat pad underlying the skin of the lower eyelid. The researchers targeted under-eye skin due to the proliferation of sagging, puffy skin there. They selected a combination of solvents and concentrations that would provide sufficient compression to shrink the skin with minimal discomfort. The film is tens-of-thousands less than a millimeter thick and applied on the skin as an undetectable coating.
XPL was tested on eye bags and researchers noted how the skin tightened and wrinkles disappeared for up to 24 hours. Once applied, it is resistant to water and rubbing, and it helps skin remain hydrated. Previously, results such as these were only achieved through an invasive surgical procedure called Blepheroplasty. Second skin is an invisible layer that can provide a barrier, provide cosmetic improvement, and potentially deliver a drug locally to the area that is being treated. Two hours after application, skin treated with XPL lost much less water than skin treated with a high-end commercial moisturizer. It was further determined that skin coated with petrolatum was as effective as XPL in tests done two hours after treatment but after 24 hours, the skin treated with XPL had retained much more water.
As skin ages, it becomes less firm and elastic. To measure these properties, XPL was applied to forearm skin. When the XPL treated skin was stretched with a suction cup, it returned to its original position faster than untreated skin. The researchers think the same thing could work for other body parts that have lost elasticity too, such as cellulite.
According to Barbara Gilchrist MD, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a co-author of the paper, prior to XPL, the materials did not have the properties of being flexible, comfortable, non-irritating nor able to conform to the movement of the skin and still return to its original shape. Outside researchers are weighing in on XPL, too. Dr. Thahn Nagg Tran, a dermatologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in this research, said that XPL has great potential for both cosmetic and non-cosmetic applications, especially if it could contain antimicrobial agents or medication. Dr. Richard Glogan, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco tested a similar polymer-based product and commented that this XPL technology definitely works; thanks to its thin application, the film looks natural and feels basically like firm skin. Once applied, the polymer starts tightening the skin, leading some to call it “Spanx for the skin.”
Dr. Samir Mitragotri studies drug delivery through the skin in his lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He suggested that he had never seen before any material so transparent and so effective at changing the mechanical properties of the skin. He referred to this technology as “radical and revolutionary technology.”
“It can be used as sort of a Band-Aid over old and aging skin and get very significant results,” suggested Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, a biomedical engineer at Columbia University.
The film developers also suggest that it can be used to help skin retain moisture or deliver drugs to treat eczema, dermatitis and other skin conditions.
The study looks impressive with its various potential applications, and doctors remain cautiously optimistic, as the study still requires in-depth research and experiments. One major drawback, however, is that the effects don’t last more than 24 hours. Even though XPL seems to provide a more notable, immediate effect, whether it will ever become an affordable beauty aid, is another matter entirely. For now, it can’t be layered on or worn under makeup, limitations that will turn off a large portion of its cosmetic customer base.
1. Sci-tech, May 9, 2016. A. Kooser.
About the Author:
Navin Geria is chief scientific officer, AyurDerm Technologies, LLC. Contact him at navin@AyurDerm.com