Science floors us once again with its forward strides in the beauty industry.
A team of chemical engineers and medical researchers led by Robert Langer at MIT just developed a wearable second skin. It’s a breathable, silicone-based film that’s effectively invisible to the human eye. Called XPL (for crosslinked polymer layer) the film is durable and elastic yet fits taut to the skin, with a pressure that reduces the appearance of wrinkles when applied. The invention is outlined toady in the journal Nature Materials, in a paper titled “An elastic second skin“.
“A FRESHLY APPLIED LAYER OF XPL IS ONLY ABOUT HALF AS THICK AS A CRISP NEW DOLLAR BILL.”
How It’s Applied
XPL is applied onto the skin in two steps. First, a material called polysiloxane—think of it like a see-through silicone plastic—is carefully coated onto the skin in a exceedingly thin layer. That layer is then cured by a second material, called a platinum catalyst, which pulls the polysiloxane tight by ordering its molecules into a rigid grid. Measuring only 70 micrometers at its thickest, a freshly applied layer of XPL is only about half as thick as a crisp new dollar bill.
You can peel away XPL harmlessly at any time… although doing so looks eerily like peeling away skin a day after a bad sunburn. But you wouldn’t need to worry about the second skin ripping while you’re wearing it, as XPL tears at just below the same pressures and forces that would otherwise break human skin.
Rox Anderson, a medical researcher with the research team at Massachusetts General Hospital, forecasts a future in which his silicone skin has benefits beyond the cosmetic. For instance, he imagines layering ultraviolet light-blocking materials or dermatological creams into the skin for a healthier you. “For eczema or sun protection, as examples, this second skin platform [could] serve as a reservoir for trans-dermal drug delivery or SPF ingredients,” he says.