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Coming Attractions: New Cosmetic Technologies

By: Carol and Robert Trow
Posted: April 29, 2011, from the May 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

In his groundbreaking book Future Shock (Bantam, 1984), Alvin Toffler made the point that, as important and impactful as change itself is, the rate at which it occurs is even more so. The speed of change has a greater effect than change itself. Today’s society is at the point where it is going to see a myriad of new developments coming faster than ever.

For those who watched the original Star Trek television series, the onboard physician, Dr. McCoy, would diagnose every manner of illness and medical condition by passing a hand-held scanner over the body. Once the lights flashed, he had a complete diagnosis and treatment protocol for his patient, and that treatment was usually performed by a machine. Although technology is not there yet, it is getting closer with magnetic resonance images (MRIs), computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans, and the plethora of new imaging equipment and preprogrammed medical devices that can perform cosmetic procedures automatically. These technologies are coming to esthetic care, as well.

Size does matter

In addition to equipment, science has provided the tools to reduce molecular size to unprecedented levels. The technology now exists to create topical products that can penetrate the stratum corneum and epidermis as effortlessly as an injection.

The skin is waterproof and protects from the onslaught of environmental factors that can be damaging to a person’s health. To get through the epidermis, people have traditionally resorted to making a hole via injection. The technology now exists to accomplish the same penetration without punching holes in the skin, but rather by making molecules small enough to enter the body by fitting through the skin on their own, called nanotechnology. Although nanotechnology is novel, it isn’t necessarily new. For example, the The Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University in Houston is a noted research center that studies this type of technology.

The mass of molecules is measured in daltons, a unit that equates to the mass of one proton or one neutron. These are atomic particles. Many skin care products measure 20,000 daltons and higher. As treatment products, their effect is minimal. Skin care companies can now make products with a molecular size less than 100 daltons. In effect, skin care products will be able to be introduced into the body transdermally, as if injected, allowing it to work from within the body outward. Products will be able to affect DNA, reprogram damaged cells and turn fibroblasts into raging furnaces, yielding collagen and elastin as easily as a person pops popcorn. Ablative skin care will slowly take a back seat to preferred treatments and topicals that work from within.