Hot off the presses, a new so-called “second skin” is being redeveloped and rebranded for use in both cosmetic and medical dermatology. But what is this substance, and will it hold up to all the claims the manufacturer and research team suggest?

Recently described in Nature Materials , the liquid polymer developed by chemical engineers at MIT is a synthetic, adherent silicone-based film that lies perfectly invisibly on the skin – providing a pulling or temporary tightening of the skin. The product was initially marketed by the company Living Proof as “Neotensil” [an acronym for (Neo) new, (T) transforming, (E) elastic, (N) non-invasive, (S) supportive, (I) invisible, and immediate (L) layer solution]. When applied to the area under the eye, the product creates a so-called “Spanx” effect or tightening of periorbital skin.

The material – called XPL – is delivered in a two-step sequential process. First, a polysiloxane cream is applied to the skin, followed by a platinum catalyst that induces the polymer to harden and tighten the skin underneath. The product uses patented Strateris technology, which is described as creating invisible “shapewear” for the eye; a film that tightens, smooths, and lifts the appearance of skin for up to 24 hours. It was briefly on the market in 2014-2015, then taken off the market to be redeveloped.

Does it work? Yes. Although it takes about an hour to take effect, the clinical results are jaw dropping. However, it also has its drawbacks. The polymer – which hardens within 2 minutes – must be applied to clean skin, with no creams or makeup whatsoever. And makeup cannot be applied over the treated area either, as the area looks irregular and uneven with makeup. This is a very difficult obstacle to overcome for many female patients.

Additionally, to take off the product, the polymer must be dissolved with a special chemical remover that is packaged with the product. Without this key component, it is very difficult and very irritating to remove. Although none of the patients I have used this product on have developed allergic reactions, any synthetic polymer, particularly one with adherent properties, has the potential to be an irritant and/or an allergen. Long-term clinical trials are needed to both validate its efficacy and side-effect profile.

The potential for clinical uses is vast. The product has been shown to provide a synthetic skin barrier that minimizes transepidermal water loss, improving skin hydration. Its uses in burns, atopic dermatitis, bullous disease, and psoriasis could help those with altered skin-barrier function. The researchers are also hoping to use this product for targeted drug delivery and for UV protection.

After a decade of research, the MIT team has developed a skinlike material that is invisible and mimics both the mechanical and elastic properties of the skin. Future clinical studies are essential to evaluating its broad applicability in both dermatology and general medicine.

1. Nature Materials 2016. doi:10.1038/nmat4635 .

Dr. Wesley and Dr. Talakoub are co-contributors to this column. Dr. Talakoub is in private practice in McLean, Va. Dr. Wesley practices dermatology in Beverly Hills, Calif. This month’s column is by Dr. Talakoub. Dr. Talakoub has no disclosures related to the product. Write to them at dermnews@frontlinemedcom.com .

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