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Donna Trope
Photography Donna Trope

Does your skin need drone technology?

TextElizabeth Bennett

A new, targeted skincare trend that delivers activated ingredients to deep within your skin

In 2019, new beauty buzzwords get bandied about on a daily basis. While many fall short on their promises, the latest doing the rounds is a little different. The phrase ‘drone technology’ may imply that beauty supplies will soon be landing in a sci-fi fashion on your doormat, but in terms of skincare it has nothing to do with an actual aerial vehicle. Although this new method of delivering active ingredients to the deep layers of your skin is arguably as futuristic.

With the wealth of information shared on social media and democratisation of skincare via affordable and transparent brands like The Ordinary, we’re becoming more knowledgeable than ever about the products and ingredients we’re putting on our face. But sometimes simply incorporating potent active ingredients (ingredients that are deemed to have a pharmacological effect by the FDA) in a cream or serum isn't enough, more often than not they need to be carefully targeted. After all, what's the point in applying an active ingredient if it just sits on the top layer of your skin.

“Your skin is designed to be a barrier which keeps everything out; pollutants, irritants, and even skincare. Often active ingredients have a hard time penetrating deep enough to have an effect,” Daniel Isaacs, Head of Research and Development at skincare brand Medik8, explains. Although methods such as simple encapsulation (creating protective molecular shells around an ingredient) or using nanoparticles (a controversial method that harnesses the power of tiny particles smaller than our skin cells) can ensure ingredients penetrate deeply, drone technology takes this a step further.

“Instead of simply going deeper, drone technology can deliver active ingredients to the skin cells that need them most.” 

Instead of simply going deeper, drone technology can deliver active ingredients to the skin cells that need them most. “Drone delivery is one of the newest and most pioneering fields of active delivery. It makes it possible to deliver the actives to a specific, targeted receptor cell, ‘drilling’ down deeper than is usually possible to ensure optimum results,” Isaacs says. An easy analogy is thinking of it like GPS for your skin.

Currently, the majority of drone delivery systems are being used to improve the performance of peptides, an ingredient that stimulates collagen and elastin production to create plumper and glowier skin. For example, Medik8’s new Liquid Peptides (£45) contains copper peptides encapsulated in a special drone-style polymer shell. “The shell has external ligands (binding particles) that will only fit into receptors found on collagen-producing cells, much like a lock and a key,” Isaacs says. “After it’s been directed where it’s needed most, the polymer encapsulation is naturally broken down and the peptide inside can diffuse out.”

ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Overnight Matrix (£145) and ELEMIS Ultra Smart Pro-Collagen Complex 12 Serum (£210) both work in a similar way, using two peptides, one encapsulated within the other. Designed for stressed skin, from sleep deprivation to pollution, it aims to boost hydration and elastin production. According to Noella Gabriel, ELEMIS Co-Founder, “The outer peptide guides the inner peptide to a specific area of the skin. Only when it reaches its target site is the encapsulated peptide released. This then encourages the skin's natural production of Hyaluronic Acid and restore the skin’s balance.” Their drone delivery system guarantees the active ingredient performs at maximum efficacy when it reaches where it needs to go. “Not only does this help to stabilise the ingredient, but it also allows it to be released slowly into the skin, prolonging the skincare benefit,” she adds.

“While improving efficacy is one thing, drone delivery can also reduce the chance of skin irritation.”

It isn’t just peptides that can be drone targeted. While there is no point using drone delivery for active ingredients that work on the very upper layers of the skin, for example exfoliating acids, anything designed to target a specific deeper molecule could technically benefit. “For instance, an active molecule which is designed to tackle hyperpigmentation will need to target a melanocyte - a type of skin cell responsible for making pigment,” says Isaacs. In fact, there are a few new launches using this drone system to specifically tackle pigmentation, particularly around the eye area. Both NIOD’s Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate (£43) and Skyn Iceland Brightening Eye Serum (£30) use this technology to tackle the pigmentation that causes dark under eye circles.

While improving efficacy is one thing, drone delivery can also reduce the chance of skin irritation. “Before the arrival of advanced delivery systems, products contained an over-concentration of the active ingredient, often causing skin irritation. Drone technology allows precise delivery to the targeted skin cell, resulting in faster more efficient and effective results without the possible adverse reactions,” Lisa Franklin, facialist and founder of Pro Effect, explained. Essentially this also means you’re getting more bang for your buck.

Speaking of buck, currently, this technology doesn’t come cheap. Much like most advancements in skincare, research happens first at the premium end of the market before filtering down into high street products. Nevertheless, watch this space, as drone tech is a trend set to grow and grow and with that will come cheaper options.

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