Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a material that can serve as a “second skin.”

Unless you possess the magical healing powers of a Hollywood celebrity, your skin is going to lose elasticity and gain wrinkles as you grow older. And the effects are not just cosmetic, with the skin’s ability to guard against extreme temperatures, radiation and toxins diminishing over time.

A new invisible polymer coating from MIT may offer a way to apply the brakes, by stretching over existing skin to smooth out wrinkles, act as a protective barrier and even slowly deliver drugs to treat eczema and other conditions.

“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,” says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering. “Those three things together could really make it ideal for use in humans.”

Described as a second skin, the polymer is applied in two stages. A chemical structure called siloxane, which is made up of alternating atoms of silicon and oxygen, is first spread out over the skin in a clear cream. A platinum catalyst is then applied, which transforms the siloxane into a cross-linked polymer layer (XPL).

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The resulting material is invisible and has very similar elastic properties to healthy, young human skin. In testing, the researchers applied the XPL to bags under a subject’s eyes. They found that the material compressed and tightened the skin and remained in place for about 24 hours.

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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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