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What do chocolate, coffee, red wine, and MIT’s second skin have in common? They each deliver on two fronts. Each can have significant health benefits while at the same time helping you feel great or look good.

Co-developed by scientists from MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Living Proof, and Olivo Labs, the second skin, is a polymer film that is applied to human skin. There is as yet no commercial name, so let’s just call it “second skin.” Second skin is invisible. The product’s health benefit involves drug delivery — drugs can be placed on your real skin to treat skin conditions, for example, and then when Second Skin is applied it keeps the drugs in place so they won’t wash or brush off. The other benefit? Your skin is tightened and for up to 24 hours you can look years younger!

The scientists have been working on this project for 10 years, seeking a polymer for both medical and cosmetic purposes. As we get older, our skin sags, wrinkles, and dries out. They sought a polymer combination that was both invisible (which depends on optical properties) and flexible (mechanical properties). Eventually they started testing various siloxane polymers, chains of alternating atoms of silicon and oxygen. This type of polymer can be arranged into what’s called a cross-linked polymer layer (XPL). They then tested for appearance, strength, and elasticity.

The eventual polymer they settled on is invisible, stretches further and snaps back, faster than real skin,, and retains water after 24 hours better than a coating of petroleum jelly. Second skin is applied in two steps. First the polymer is laid on the skin, and then a catalyst is applied that converts the polymer to a strong, cross-linked film. Each layer can be applied as a cream or ointment.

No commercial product is planned yet, but Olivio Laboratories is a startup that will focus on medical applications of this new cross-linked polymer.