Tech by VICE

Watch Scientists Demonstrate the Anti-Aging Powers of a 'Second Skin’

Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s a tunable crosslinked polymer layer.

by Becky Ferreira
May 9 2016, 8:39pm

Aging stinks and most people hate it, which means there has never been any lack of products that claim to combat wrinkles and saggy skin. But a new "second skin," devised in part by scientists based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is not your standard age-defying formula.

Crafted from siloxane, a flexible compound made of interlaced silicon and oxygen atoms, the material is known as a crosslinked polymer layer (XPL). When spread over skin as a lotion, then activated by another ointment-like catalyst, XPL creates an invisible film that smooths wrinkles and increases the elasticity of the surface to which it is applied.

You can watch the effects of this synthetic layer on humans in a short video on the research, based on a paper detailing human tests of XPL published on Monday in Nature Materials. Pro tip: The creepiest part is a recoil test on a woman's facial skin that begins 19 seconds in. Be warned that you are in for a deadpan stare from the participating subject as her eyebags are unceremoniously pinched by a researcher.

As demonstrated in these human tests, XPL is effective at tightening skin for a period of about 24 hours, though it can be peeled off at any time. These youth-simulating effects make it a promising potential avenue for the beauty industry, but according to the scientists and engineers who developed it, the polymer is a platform technology with applications far beyond cosmetics.

XPL is effective at tightening skin for a period of about 24 hours

For starters, wearing synthetic skin might provide extra protection against ultraviolet radiation and other kinds of sunlight damage, while helping skin retain its moisture. What's more, MIT researchers, along with their colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital, Living Proof, and Olivo Labs, speculate that this artificial layer could be seeded with specialized drug treatments for skin conditions like eczema, and other common forms of dermatitis.

"It's an invisible layer that can provide a barrier, provide cosmetic improvement, and potentially deliver a drug locally to the area that's being treated," said Daniel Anderson, an associate professor at MIT's department of chemical engineering and a co-author on the study, in a statement.

"Those three things together could really make it ideal for use in humans."