The 21st century has brought an endless parade of ways to keep skin looking ageless — and we're not just talking about Facetune and filters. Serious advancements like Botox and hyaluronic acid injections, radio frequency skin tightening, dermabrasion, and chemical peels have blown other options out of the water — and it's just the beginning. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Americans are spending $5.7 billion — more money than ever! — on nonsurgical procedures in efforts to Benjamin Button like Pharrell Williams. But these seemingly modern procedures may suddenly seem passé, thanks to a technological breakthrough by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School researchers. In a Nature Materials article, the authors have introduced a technology that allows us to smooth a literal second skin atop our imperfect complexions in order to stamp out wrinkles, sagging, hyperpigmentation, pores, and other blemishes — essentially, creating the illusion of flawless skin, sans makeup. Here’s how it works: After applying a invisible cream packed with polymers on your skin, a second topical (dubbed a “catalyst”) is applied. This creates a freakishly skin-like adherent layer on top of the actual skin. The substance is soft to the touch, yet strong enough to withstand the movement of facial features — just like real skin. And unlike prosthetics or other skin-like applications, the application is truly invisible. (For example, it doesn’t give off a sheen like an “invisible” bandage might.)
The application is referred to as “cross-linked polymer layer” or XPL. And though its current moniker sounds hopelessly nanoscience-y and out of reach, its technology may be bound for beauty applications sooner than you think. As noted in the research paper, all authors hold a financial interest in Olivo Labs and/or its parent company Living Proof. Yes, that Living Proof — the Aniston-fronted beauty brand that spun MIT technology into its cult favorite volumizing hair products and dry shampoo. XPL won’t be the first beauty product that aims to re-face natural skin. Dermaflage, a silicone-based, skin-mimicking “cosmetic” that helps fill scars with skin-matching silicone, is already on the market. But if the relentless cultural shift toward achieving photoshopped and perfectly filtered faces IRL continues, it’s likely we’ll all soon be painting a full face of faux skin atop our faces every morning before we put on makeup. How’s that for a perfect canvas?