“Second Skin” may call to mind the mask Drew Barrymore rips off after deplaning a bomber in the opening sequence of Charlie’s Angels (or the one Christian Bale’s hatchet-wielding American Psycho uses to go incognito) but it’s actually the next big thing in skincare (probably).
The invisible substance, currently in development by a team of Harvard and M.I.T. scientists, is essentially Spanx for your skin. It’s not quite Gwyneth Paltrow-friendly — a report in the journal of Nature Materials outlining the product’s pilot studies reveals Second Skin is composed of commonly used FDA-approved chemicals — but it’s definitely less risky and invasive than a facelift. Plus, the results are subtle, reversible and natural-looking as opposed to obvious, forever and, well, you’ve seen the pictures.
The process is two-fold. First, you put an invisible liquid containing a polymer over the desired area. Next, you top the layer with a white cream made up of a catalyst that sparks a cross-linking reaction strengthening the polymer’s chains and yielding a breathable, moisturize-retaining elastic film you can hardly feel. The only evidence of its existence is smooth, supple skin and an inability to fully remove whatever’s underneath the product for over a day (or until you apply the bond-dissolving solution). So this is a post-morning cleanse ritual, ideally.
“We wanted something that is elegant, and the ultimate test is right there on your face,” Dr. Barbara A. Gilchrest, a Harvard dermatology professor and member of the research team told The New York Times. “You really can’t see it. It’s there. It looks normal. We saw that as a very high bar. If you can achieve that you’ve done something impressive.”
Impressive, indeed. The implications for skincare are endless and go way beyond our culture of youth obsession. Practically speaking, Second Skin could act as a drug delivery system for people with eczema and psoriasis. It could keep your sunscreen from washing off no matter many Olympian laps you take. Cosmetically, it could keep your skin from inflating after a sushi binge session. Eliminate undereye bags after an all-nighter. Totally frivolously, it could make your temporary tattoos stick around forever.
For now, two privately owned, Massachussetts-based companies, Living Proof and Olivo Laboratories (insert dollar-sign face emoji here) are helping the scientists work out the kinks. Although Second Skin-wearing subjects have been subjected to suction cup pinches, drenched by rainstorms and forced to run in the heat to test its longevity, there’s still a ways to go. The prototype has not yet been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for approval, but the team expects to know more later this year.
Hey, we’ll try anything once.