Cosmogizmoceuticals: The Physics and Chemistry of Looking Better

Dec 1, 2012 | Contact Author | By: R. Rox Anderson, MD, Harvard Medical School and Wellman Center for Photomedicine , Massachusetts General Hospital
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Title: Cosmogizmoceuticals: The Physics and Chemistry of Looking Better
opticsx cosmeticsx pharmaceuticalsx chromophoresx translucencex interferencex
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Keywords: optics | cosmetics | pharmaceuticals | chromophores | translucence | interference

Abstract: This article presents skin optics and strategies to design cosmetics that more closely match normal human skin. Topics covered include the spectral reflectance of hemoglobin chromophores, spatial variations and color texture, and optical scattering and translucence. In addition, interference coatings are considered, as are examples of the interplay between home-use devices and agents that affect aging skin.

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RR Anderson, Cosmogizmoceuticals: The physics and chemistry of looking better, Cosm & Toil 127(12) 860-867 (Dec 2012)

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Editor’s note: This article is the basis for the Dec. 6, 2012, Frontiers of Science Award Lecture sponsored by Cosmetics & Toiletries and presented at the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ Annual Meeting in New York. Here, the esteemed Rox Anderson, MD, explores the biology, physics and chemistry of skin in relation to technologies that could shape and are shaping the direction of the cosmetics industry.

It often is for the same reason—a desire to look better—that consumers use cosmetics and topical medications, and undergo skin treatments with lasers and other devices. The advantages, disadvantages and mechanisms of these three strategies are different. This paper explores the potential to improve and combine these strategies, from the perspective of a long-standing student of physics and skin biology, who practices dermatology and has introduced laser and other technologies for skin treatments.

These experiences suggest there is no well-defined line between esthetic and medical problems in dermatology. Similarly, it is only for convenience that cosmetics, herbal agents, drugs, devices and procedures are viewed as separate entities. In practice, the boundaries between them are blurred and they are often used simultaneously, with many interesting interactions.

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This content is adapted from an article in GCI Magazine. The original version can be found here.

 

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Figure 1. Schematic representation of light reflected and back-scattered from human skin

Figure 1. Schematic representation of light reflected and back-scattered from human skin

Visible light returning from normal skin consists almost entirely of two components: the surface reflectance component and the dermal back-scattered light component due to scattering from dermal collagen fibers, shown here. A small fraction of visible light at longer, i.e., red, wavelengths penetrates through the entire skin but in thinner skin, such as under the eyes, the loss of this transmission contributes to a darker, gray-bluish appearance.

Figure 2. Almost all visible light back-scattered from human skin has multiple scattering events

Figure 2. Almost all visible light back-scattered from human skin has multiple scattering events

Almost all visible light back-scattered from human skin has taken a “random walk” of multiple scattering events in the dermis. A point-spread function describes the spatial distribution of back-scattered light and is related to translucence of the skin, which can be easily measured.

Figure 3. In theory, it is possible to make an anti-reflection coating

Figure 3. In theory, it is possible to make an anti-reflection coating

It may be possible to create wearable anti-reflection or other optical interference coatings on the skin surface. Adding protective agents such as sunscreens, emollients, antioxidants and barrier layers to cosmetics or other preparations that provide some immediate gratification is a good idea. Further, elastic cosmetic layers that change the physical shape of skin appear to be promising.

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