A recent article in the journal Nature Materials made its way into national headlines this past week because of a new product that has great potential for use as an anti-aging cosmetic. The product, called XPL in the study, is a silicon-based polymer that becomes a skin-conforming elastic “second skin” that smooths out wrinkles, reshapes the surface of skin to accomplish such feats of wonder as eliminate puffy bags under eyes and vanish visible signs of aging almost instantly.
Impossible you say? Well, I certainly was skeptical, but apparently such a product is a reality and commercial use is on the horizon. Over the last five years, a research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has focused its work on a chemical structure known as siloxane, a complex chain of molecules containing silicon and oxygen, that evolved into the final XPL material. It can be produced either as a cream or an ointment.
XPL is applied to skin in two layers. The first contains the key XPL silicon-based substance and a second layer applied over that contains a platinum catalyst that causes the material to stiffen into an elastic coating that can remain in place for 24 hours—currently the duration of its cosmetic effects.
The product smoothed out age-related wrinkles, flattened the fat padding below the eyes that cause under-eye skin sagging and produced a barrier that helped natural skin retain moisture much better than top-of-the-line commercial moisturizers.
Elasticity testing determined that the material easily bounced back to its original state after being stretched more than 250%. This outperformed natural skin, which can usually only be stretched to about 180%. XPL certainly has the potential to be a topical fountain of youth!
The potential use for such a product, however, goes far beyond its marketing potential as a cosmetic. Wearable “second skin” could be used to cover birthmarks and tattoos, and it could be made into a topical remedy to treat eczema and other skin conditions.
Other potential medical uses include applications as wound dressings, adding a sunblock to screen out harmful sun rays, or as a new drug delivery method. Transdermal patches now deliver a wide variety of medications, but topical drug delivery technology has its limitations, as I indicated in my Transdermal Poisoning blog earlier this year.
XPL technology has the potential to expand the transdermal drug application market because of its enhanced properties of being flexible, non-irritating, more optically pleasing, and its unique ability to conform to the movement of skin and yet return to its original shape.
From my viewpoint as the author of thrillers and murder mysteries, I see the potential for interesting plot developments using an XPL-type product with GPS technology, absorbable poisons, and information transportation on an unique, never-before-seen micro-scale.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!
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