Some of the most popular skincare ingredients that reduce fine lines and wrinkles and even improve skin tone and texture, such as vitamins A (retinol), E and C, are also among the most unstable. The moment manufacturers start working with these active ingredients, they begin to degrade due to air exposure and also form byproducts that can irritate the skin.
Encapsulation technology has emerged as one scientifically-derived solution to problems caused by unstable ingredients. The skin-benefitting ingredient is housed in a carrier that shields it from degradation and improves its ability to penetrate deeply into the skin. Current encapsulation systems, however, have their own drawbacks: They can be fragile, expensive and limited in the concentration of active ingredients they can carry.
Clariant is offering an innovative new “smart” encapsulation system, VitiSpheres®, that offers better protection for delicate active ingredients. “No one in the industry is asking for better encapsulation technology,” says Sebastian Dahms, whose father founded the company that developed this technology, now since acquired by Clariant. “People are asking ‘Can you protect my active ingredient? Can you make it easier to handle and formulate, and can you do it at a low cost? Our system does all of this,” says Dahms, now head of Encapsulation Technologies at Clariant.
When explaining the technology to his customers—skincare product makers—Dahms often compares it to a malt ball, a solid candy center covered in a chocolate coating that slowly dissolves. It’s a fine balance: The encapsulation layer needs to guard the active ingredient from decomposing, but it can’t overprotect it to the point that it can’t do its job. While other encapsulation technologies tend to release ingredients in a burst that floods the skin all at once,
“we have a solid lipid shell out of which the active ingredient slowly penetrates,” Dahms says.
“All about the film formation”
With the VitiSpheres technology, millions of these tiny encapsulated particles form a super-thin layer of film on top of the skin, trapping in water. Since this water can’t evaporate, it helps to widen the spaces between the skin’s uppermost lipid barrier, allowing the active ingredients to slowly dissolve into the deeper layers of the skin, where it can do its job. “It’s the same principle as applying sunscreen,” says Dahms. “You must apply it 30 minutes prior to going into the sun because it’s all about the film formation during that period.
The carrier remains on top of the skin, as the active ingredient gradually penetrates into deeper layers. Eventually, the carrier washes off, like any skin or body lotion, and is biodegradable, says Dahms.
Other technologies currently available require high pressure and temperatures during the encapsulation process. VitiSpheres uses a low-energy process that simply involves stirring together the carrier and active ingredients. To produce 100 kilograms of encapsulated product, it consumes only 3 kilowatt hours of energy, the same amount needed to vacuum your carpet for three hours, says Dahms. “It’s extremely easy to use and handle compared to other encapsulation systems. Usually you have to rework your entire formulation to incorporate the active ingredients while being careful about temperature control and other factors. We add it, stir it and we’re done. This makes it pretty exciting for formulators.
Dahms, who is carrying on the family tradition of using science to deliver better skincare products, says his father would be proud of their recent innovations. “But then he would probably say, ‘Well, we did great on this. What’s next?’