Active Ingredients On Demand

From microwaves to DVR to high-speed downloads, clearly, we want what we want when we want it. Unfortunately, skincare products haven't always complied.

Although formulas have come a long way with time-release capabilities and compatible ingredients, the ability to elicit benefits at exactly the right time has eluded cosmetic chemists-until now. UC Berkeley scientists have developed a technology that could mean a major boon for the beauty industry, as well as your skin.

They formed a special kind of microcapsule, no bigger than a grain of sand, that holds an active ingredient until a deliberate source of light tells it to rupture and release the contents whenever it may be needed. (So far, the researchers have used a laser to "phototrigger" the microcapsules.)

In addition to having complete control over the timing of ingredient delivery, this kind of technology could also lead to formulas featuring otherwise incompatible ingredients, as the nylon barrier of the microcapsules could keep them separated until preplanned light prompts a release.

Dr. Jean Frechet's breakthrough takes the concept of time-release formulas to the next level, giving control over ingredient optimization to consumers, skincare specialists and doctors. It may be a while before the technology is implemented by manufacturers, but the virtually flaw-free results of the research hold a lot of promise for the future of high-performance products.