Face Forward: Revolutionary Second Skin Erases Age

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Face it. No body part wears the mark of time like our face. Hiding this record of our vintage is a thriving industry generating more than 2 billion dollars annually in the US alone. A Google search for "skin cream for aging" delivers over 14 million hits.

For all the promises, no cream or surgery has returned aged skin to its youthful tight elastic innocence. That is about to change. A topically applied polymer that mimics the properties of young skin has recently been synthesized.

I know. Sounds like many of the existing products that disappoint after a king's ransom has been squandered. But the findings come from some of the most reliable research institutions and were reported in one of the most prestigious science journals. Investigators at Harvard and MIT published their game-changing results in Nature Materials, a periodical alien to the beauty parlor.

The report is filled with terms like tunable polysiloxane-based, contractility, tensile strength and occlusivity. Clearly not user-friendly language for targeting the public. So here's the translation.

The product contains common chemicals considered safe by the FDA and thus far no allergic reactions have been reported. The pilot study involved only 170 subjects. Testing in a variety of conditions including loose skin under the eyes, eczema, psoriasis and use as a vehicle for topical medication delivery, showed promising results.

The procedure involves two steps. An initial polymer base is applied followed by a solution that adjusts the binding of the polymers. This allows fine-tuning of the material depending upon the clinical target.

A caveat emptor is required. The research was funded by Living Proof, a privately owned biotech company in Cambridge, Mass. The authors of the study all acknowledged having an equity interest in Living Proof.

Confirmation of their findings with larger populations is necessary for FDA approval. But one way or another newly minted materials will soon transform what it means to put your face on.

You will be able to paint yourself young. Youth will be skin deep, but it's a start.