Getting under Kao's 'future skin'

By Julian Ryall 19-Dec-2019

With a groundbreaking Japanese nano mask claiming to offer consumers better skin protection, Cosmetics Business takes a look at the science behind the concept

Japan’s Kao Corp has unveiled the first cosmetic product making use of its cutting-edge Fine Fibre Technology to moisturise and protect the skin.

A Biomimesis Veil product was added to the cosmetics giant’s Sensai prestige brand in Japan on 4 December 2019, with launches in other markets to follow.

This Fine Fibre Technology was perfected in 2018, after more than a decade of research and development work, but Biomimesis Veil is the  first commercial application of the technology. And while the initial application is in skin care, the Tokyo-based company is confident that the new technology has a number of additional applications, including make-up, body care, medicine and even body art.

“We call this ‘future skin’ because it brings a new dimension to skin care and we are aiming for this technology to contribute to delivering a new quality of life to our customers,” said Yoshihiro Murakami, head of Kao’s cosmetics business (President of its Kanebo Cosmetics division), at a launch event in Tokyo on 1 November 2019.

“The applications are borderless but, concretely speaking, we have already taken steps in four areas and our research has shown this product can have a remarkable impact on skin care, so that is where we are focusing our efforts at the moment,” he said.

What is it?

The product is comprised of three items. There is a 40ml Sensai Biomimesis Veil Effector, which pours from a bottle; this is a smooth serum that is worked into the skin after the user has completed a night-time skin care regime.

The user then points the ultra-fine nozzle of the Sensai Biomimesis Veil Diffuser at the skin from around 10cm away. By pressing a button, the Veil Potion is evenly applied to the skin as a membrane. This quickly becomes invisible.

The potion is stored within the device in a pouch that can be replaced when it is empty.

In the morning, the user simply peels away the membrane.

The effector retails for Japanese yen ¥12,000 (US$110), the diffuser costs ¥50,000 ($458) and the 9ml replacement Veil Potion pouches will be ¥8,000 ($73.20).

The product was launched at the Isetan department store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district and the Hankyu store in Osaka on 4 December 2019, and will be followed by Harrods in London and Le Bon Marché in Paris, in February, with further releases planned for department stores and perfumeries in Europe and the Middle East over the following months.

How it works

The technology behind the product has emerged from Kao’s Skincare Research Laboratory and Analytical Science Laboratory, which were tasked with creating a membrane that is permeable to moisture but can still control water evaporation on the skin.

Kao’s solution is effectively a second skin, an ultra-thin membrane of superfine fibre sprayed directly onto the skin with a polymer solution that moulds to the shapes and contours of the user’s face or body. The product uses superfine fibre-spinning technology known as electrospinning.

Electrospinning sprays a positively charged polymer solution onto the surface of a negatively charged target, in this case, human skin. The stretched, string-like polymer solution, much like silk spun by a silkworm, is forcibly ejected through the nozzle of a specialised applicator developed by Japan’s Panasonic Corp.

“This membrane, made of thin fibres with a diameter of 1mm or less, consists of many layers,” said Masayuki Uchiyama of the company’s Skin Care Products Research division. “It is light and soft, and moves flexibly with the skin as it evenly smooths the skin surface.

The film becomes thinner towards its edges, allowing it to blend naturally with the skin and rendering its boundaries unnoticeable,” he added. “Additionally, because there is only a small difference in level between the membrane and the skin, it will not come off easily.”

The strong capillary force of its ultra-thin fibres allows liquid formulations to be distributed quickly and evenly throughout the entire membrane, ensuring cosmetics are distributed evenly. At the same time, excess water vapour can escape from the spaces between the interwoven fibres, so the film maintains moisture permeability without blocking the skin.

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Yoshihiro Hasebe, Director and Senior Vice President for Research and Development at Kao, told Cosmetics Business that while Biomimesis Veil is the technology’s first commercial application, there are numerous other potential uses, including in medicine, as well as combating dry skin, evening skin colours and reducing blotches.