Global News | Apr 25, 2018
Avon develops laser technology to test the efficacy of anti-ageing products
Avon has partnered with a team from Michigan Technological University to develop laser-based technology that measures the elasticity and firmness of skin. This new technology could help Avon create and test experimental formulas faster and more effectively than the current system of visual grading by dermatologists or subjective feedback from consumer trials.
As people age, their skin loses its youthful bounce, which leads to wrinkles and sagging – two key reasons they turn to anti-ageing products. These serums and creams then seek to boost skin elasticity to combat the signs of ageing. This new technology uses a green laser light and measures how the light scatters when the skin is stressed with a puff of air.
The idea itself is simple, Sean Kirkpatrick, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering says, but the maths behind it is complex. "That light that is scattered back is in a random diffraction pattern—and that pattern moves around," Kirkpatrick explains. "The real art of all this is tracking the motion of that diffraction pattern and mapping it back to the skin."
Other quantitative technologies do exist to measure skin elasticity and firmness; most use vacuum or indentation of the skin surface. However, they are not effective at examining tiny changes in the skin's outermost epidermis, which although shallow, are linked to visible wrinkles and loss of firmness.
"Our technique is more sophisticated that what's currently available on the market," Kirkpatrick says. The technology, which was originally developed for clinical use in the medical care and diagnostics of skin cancer, is being refined and could lead to handheld devices that measure the effectiveness and longevity of beauty products. The more refined laser-based system could also be better at sorting out how products differ by skin color depending on melanin levels, which are only significant in the epidermis, and can't be tested with existing technology.
Kirkpatrick's work with Avon shines a light on new possibilities for measuring the skin-deep pursuit of youthful beauty. Using lasers and big data algorithms, the collaboration moves the age-old quest for the fountain of youth past science fiction into real 21st century technology.