Research highlight

Invisible ‘second skin’ helps restore youthful appearance

Nature Materials

May 10, 2016

A new wearable polymer material that can restore the aesthetic and functional properties of healthy, youthful skin is described in a paper published online this week in Nature Materials. The study shows that the biomimetic film is elastic, invisible, durable, moisturizing, adheres well when applied to skin and can reinforce the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and under-eye bagging.

The properties of the skin - the largest and most visible organ - can change over time, or as a result of certain diseases and environmental factors. These changes can result in loss of normal skin function as well as changes in appearance, both of which can have significant effects on personal wellbeing. Treatments to restore the mechanical or physiological functions of skin (for example, skin barrier function) are available, but existing solutions fall short of achieving both simultaneously.

Robert Langer and colleagues show that, when spread on the skin in a two-step topical application process, the new silicon-based film forms a wearable polymer layer that physically reinforces the skin beneath, while also providing a breathable barrier layer. In a series of small proof-of-concept human studies, they show that treatment with the material improves skin function in patients with severely dry skin and restores normal skin aesthetics, limiting the appearance of aging-related structural changes like wrinkles and under-eye bagging. The authors conclude that this ‘second skin’ technology may offer solutions to compromised skin barrier function, pharmaceutical delivery and wound dressings, while allowing the skin to look and behave naturally.

doi: 10.1038/nmat4635

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