Layer of defence: Kao confirms fine fibre tech’s protective abilities against pollution and mask irritation

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Kao's fine fibre tech can protect the skin against pollution and mask irritation. [Kao Corporation]
Kao's fine fibre tech can protect the skin against pollution and mask irritation. [Kao Corporation]

Related tags: Kao, Science, Sensitive skin, maskne

Kao has conducted new research into its fine fibre technology and confirmed its ability to protect the skin against pollution and mask irritation.

This unique technology creates an ultra-thin membrane on the skin that is created by spraying the skin with a polymer solution of superfine fibres by using an electrospinning device.

In the latest study by the firm’s Skin Care Research Laboratory, Makeup Research Laboratory and Analytical Science Laboratory, the fine fibre membrane was found to keep particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) from coming into contact with the skin.

By observing the fine fibre membrane of a skin model through an electron microscope, researchers saw that atmospheric pollutants such as pollen, dust, graphite and PM2.5 were retained by the membrane.

According to Kao, the fine fibre membrane was able to capture these pollutants because of its structure, which contains innumerable minute gaps that are approximately 1.8 microns.

In comparison, pollen is approximately 30 to 50 microns while dust is around 10 microns. At 1.8 microns, the membrane is easily able to capture those as well as PM2.5.

The scientists found that removing the membrane resulted in the near complete removal of all atmospheric pollutants.

At the same time, the team observed that the membrane was able to absorb sebum secreted from the skin.

An experiment conducted on 29 women in their twenties to fifties showed that the fine fibre membrane was able to absorb 72% of sebum after four hours.

While there are currently film formers on the market that can similarly protect the skin against external pollutants, Kao believes its technology has a leg up.

“We believe that the fine fibre membrane can absorb sebum from the skin and protect the body from the external environment, while also retaining moisture in the skin. Even though there have been other polymeric coating products in the past, they mostly had thick membranes that resulted in an unnatural appearance, and none of them had the above skin functions,”​ said Masayuki Uchiyama, a senior researcher with Kao’s Skin Care Research Laboratory.

Anti-abrasion properties

Furthermore, Kao researchers found that fine fibre membrane was able to protect the skin from face mask irritation, a concern that has been rising rapidly due to the necessity of wearing protective facial masks.

Five men and women in their twenties to thirties were asked to wear a face mask for approximately four hours.

Underneath the mask, researchers had applied formulation using fine fibre technology onto one cheek. After four hours, the film was found to remain largely intact on the cheek.

This indicated to researchers that the fine fibre film can potentially reduces the abrasion and chafing cause by long period of mask-wearing.

Since announcing the development of this technology in 2018, Kao has demonstrated its ability to reduce moisture loss and enhance the coverage of face make-up.

These latest findings open up a new avenue for Kao to explore applications for its fine fibre technology.

“Once we reconsidered the possible roles of the membrane, we realised that it has a function to protect the skin itself,”​ said Uchiyama.

Kao said it would apply these findings to ‘areas of high interest’ such as anti-pollution cosmetics, which were in high demand in markets such as Japan and China.

Additionally, it said it would look into its applications to reduce mask irritation, which has become a priority for many consumers in the past year.

Uchiyama said: “We believe this technology will lead to the development of new types of products that span multiple categories such as skin care and make-up.”

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