In The Air _Future Cosmetics

22nd October 2012

Recent developments in the areas of nanotechnology, synthetic biology and computing are driving forces for innovation in the cosmetics industry, blurring the edges between food, scent and the body. Innovation will come from new materials, which will have properties reaching far beyond beauty and physical enhancement. Cosmetics of the future will take inspiration from scientific developments, conceiving make-up and skincare differently to invent new forms of perfuming and skin rejuvenation. Emerging research will lead to new words for new products and applications, ranging from edible perfumes to epidermal electronics and conductive paints. While using advanced technologies and science, cosmetics will become more human, looking beyond the skin to create more personalized and natural body enhancement. Stylesight explores this exciting new world of cosmetics, where groundbreaking research is fueling innovation.

The emerging field of Nanotechnology could revolutionize cosmetics by radically subverting our notion of what is natural. NanoLift explores the possibility of a physical Photoshop. A grid of tiny magnetic nano particles injected into the skin could be used to physically adjust and change the human face. A nano tattoo, developed by Heather Clark of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University, could be injected into the skin to provide an instant snapshot of the body's inner workings. Furthermore, current research could lead to potential nano-sized colorants, which could redefine future coloring techniques and even prevent greying of the hair. Grown from your own skin cells, Skin Paper by Vanessa Harden and Tommaso Lanza could be developed into a book to be used for testing cosmetics on potential nano skin.

Developments in digital technology and electronics are providing a new platform for innovation. Future makeup may not use powders and paints, but LEDs and electronic inks instead. Designer Lulin Ding has developed an LED Eyeshadow concept that puts small lights in the corner of the eye, painting the eyelid with color. Bare Skin by BARE Conductive is the first skin safe electrically conductive paint, certified as a cosmetic in the EU. The conductive ink is a unique material technology that delivers a new platform for non-toxic flexible electronics, which can be applied across the surface of the body. This development paves the way for moisturizers and makeup that utilize the body’s natural conductivity to create electronic cosmetics. The ‘epidermal electronics’ by John Rogers and co-workers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a temporary sticker tattoo, which can be placed on the skin and stay attached for over 24 hours. This wearable circuit that was initially designed to monitor heart and brain activity could also be applied in the area of future cosmetics.

Science and biology are inspiring a new approach to scent design, leading to new connections between odor, materials and the human body. Body architect Lucy McRae and Harvard Biologist, Sheref Mansy, have collaborated to create ‘Swallowable Parfum’: a digestible perfume as a scented capsule. Breaking new ground in the science of human instinct, the pill’s fragrance molecules are excreted through the skin’s surface during perspiration. Tiny gold-like droplets will appear on the skin, emitting a unique odor. ‘LAVANDÉ’ by Fay Gascoigne is a fashion collection for Swiss fragrance house Givaudan, exploring the therapeutic healing properties of lavender oil. Helium Scent by Emily Crane is also a project in conjunction with Givaudan, aiming to create a multi-sensory experience as a new form of transport for scent. The project 'Scentient Beings' by Jenny Tillotson has been in research for over a decade but points to the future of scent and perfumery and invents a new science of aroma delivery, focusing on smell and the impact it has on health and wellbeing.

Innovations in biotechnology and programming are offering a new perspective on the future of fashion and cosmetics using body modification.
Digital Skins Body Atmospheres by Nancy Tilbury is a film exploring the future of cosmetics as a biological experience, where nano-electronic-particles create 3D liquid formations, and swallowable technologies that pulse light through the skin. Her proposed cosmetic future also includes an electrodynamic moisturizer that creates an electronic surface on the skin and dynamic nail polish.

Augmented Reality(AR) is blurring the boundaries between the real and the computer-generated by enhancing what we see, feel, hear and smell. The intangible nature of data will enhance our senses by seamlessly integrating virtual worlds into real-world environments. Digital enhancements will allow humans to merge with the immaterial world of data, creating entirely new potential applications for the cosmetic industry. ModiFace, a leading provider of virtual makeover technologies, released a new iPhone application that is the world's first Augmented Reality (AR) virtual makeover tool. Designer Jenny Lee looks into this area with her project ‘Immateriality: The Future Human’, creating digital skins to augment the human body through facial, color and pattern modification.

Advances in prosthetic technology and biologically produced materials are developing entirely new possibilities for creating implants and new body forms. Researchers from the Elisseeff Lab, Johns Hopkins University have created a new Biomaterial that can be injected under the skin and may help surgeons rebuild the delicate soft structures of the human face leading to a potential future of dynamic augmentation. Silk-Silicon Electronics created by a group of research institutions, can be implanted to conform to the body's tissues, opening the door for enhanced implantable medical devices of various uses. The Fraunhofer Institute developed the first mass produced artificial skin, which is a step towards automated tissue engineering.

The marriage of cosmetics and pharmaceutical ingredients promises to change forever the way we look at makeup and cosmetics. A new generation 'cosmeceuticals' could induce physical changes in the body’s DNA as the swallowable perfume from Lucy McRae suggests. Applied to the inside of the human body instead of its surface, cosmetic tablets are affecting the biological function of the skin. The first anti-wrinkle pill by John Casey's team at the laboratories of Unilever in the U.K. is able to shrink wrinkles from inside the skin, activating genes that improve skin tone. Recent research into sea corals sunscreen pill could lead to a pill that prevents sunburn within five years. Natural sunscreen compounds could be synthesized in digestible tablet form to protect human skin and eyes from harmful UV rays.

As we move into a post-digital era where technology touches our very being, cosmetic products will begin to be developed by crossing with the emerging disciplines of wearable electronics, augmented reality (AR) and the biosciences. Cosmetic enhancements will infiltrate the body from within to create a new sensory experience while swallowable perfume and OLED (organic light emitting diode) and dynamic nail polishes will potentially become the norm. We wait the near-future appearance of magnetic nail polish from Nails Inc. as a glimpse of where fantasy and reality meet. Cutting-edge innovations will redefine the human body in exciting new ways, questioning the very definition of what is natural.

Published October 2011 © Reproduced with kind permission of