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Nanotechnology in Skincare: Everything You Need to Know

by Deborah Duffey, Chief Product Development Officer and President    January 14, 2021

Nanotechnology sounds futuristic, but the reality is that it’s already here. And it’s not just some otherworldly process found in science labs and space, it could actually be the reason your moisturizer works so well.

In the simplest terms, nanotechnology is about making really small molecules. When it comes to skincare, really small molecules make a big difference in how effective a product can be. This is because our skin is technically a barrier designed to keep us protected, and while it works at keeping viruses and bacteria out, it also blocks those vitamins and antioxidants from penetrating too deeply.

We’ll cover how the skin barrier works, why it matters how deeply your skincare ingredients penetrate, and why nanotechnology is a must have when it comes to skincare.

Plus: Kara Vita is a pioneer in nanotech skincare—and has the patents to prove it—so we’ll explain exactly how we nanotechnology in every single one of our products.

What is the skin barrier?

Before we dive into nanotechnology, it’s important to understand how the skin works. The skin’s main function is to protect your body from the outside world, and all the dirt, bacteria, viruses, and other potentially damaging entities in it. The first line of defense, the stratum corneum, is the outermost layer of skin. This layer is made up of the oldest skin cells. As we go deeper through the epidermis, we come to the area where new skin cells are born. Allowing skincare ingredients to reach this area of the skin is important for maximum efficacy.

But our skin is so good at protecting us, it even keeps out the things we might wish it wouldn’t, like skincare ingredients. When substances have molecules that are too large, they are blocked from penetrating skin. The skin barrier isn’t completely impenetrable, though, if the molecules are small enough.

Keeping your skin barrier healthy is key to great looking skin, and it’s important for your overall health, too. As we age, the skin barrier becomes weaker, but over exfoliation, UV light exposure, and other stressors can damage it, too. When damaged, skin becomes more sensitive and inflamed, may appear more red, feel itchy, and it’s more prone to acne. Balancing both ingredient penetration and a strong barrier is necessary for the healthiest skin.

Why some skincare products don't work

While some skincare products might not be the right formulation or type for your skin, other times products just flat out don’t work. A serum could have the best ingredients in the world, but if that product isn’t formulated correctly, those ingredients will never get to where they need to be in the skin. (Some products are designed to work on the skin’s surface—but others, like antioxidants, excel when they can reach deeper layers on skin.)

When the molecular size of an ingredient is too large, it’s blocked by the outermost skin layer. This means it can still provide benefits to the skin superficially, but most of us want our skincare to work harder than that. Especially when it comes to long term, anti-aging products, delivering ingredients deeper—where new skin cells are being formed—transforms skin most efficiently.

What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is used across a wide variety of fields, and while the word might be familiar to you, what exactly is it? Like you most likely already know, it mostly deals with very, very small molecules. Nano-silica is used in fabric to create stain-resistant clothing and furniture. Computers and cell phones use nanotech in the form of very tiny chips that help power the devices. You’ve likely eaten substances created via nanotech, as it’s used in the food industry to enhance flavors, textures, and aromas in food.

But when it comes to skincare, nanotech creates small particles that can not only improve how a product feels and looks, but can actually improve how the product works—the specifics of which we’ll discuss soon.

What are the benefits of using skincare with nanotechnology?

There is one big benefit that sets skincare that uses nanotech apart from the others: the ability to deliver ingredients deeper into the skin where they are able to make big changes. As mentioned, some ingredients work better further into the skin. There, they can make long term changes. Instead of plumping up wrinkles temporarily or exfoliating just the top layer of skin, nanotech allows collagen building ingredients to work where they can tighten and thicken skin, for example. This means that products work better, and work more efficiently.

Nanotech can also improve how a product looks and feels. In the case of nano zinc, a type of zinc oxide that is used as a sunscreen, the smaller particles make the notoriously difficult to use substance much easier to rub into skin, reducing the white cast it can leave behind.

And finally, while there are some ingredients that can be added to products to increase the penetration of skin, these aren’t necessarily “GRAS” by the FDA—Generally Recognized as Safe—making nanotech the safest option.

How does Kara Vita use nanotech?

Kara Vita has several patents for nanotech, and to best explain how nanotech is used in skincare we’ll share how we use it in our products.

Every Kara Vita product consists of at least 80% nanosphere-encapsulated ingredients (the other 20% provide surface level benefits). These nanospheres are 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They are so miniscule that they can penetrate the surface level of skin and travel beyond the epidermis into the dermis. Once there, pharmaceutical-quality ingredients can get to work doing whatever they were designed to do—repair skin, increase collagen production, or have a protective antioxidant effect. By working deeper in the skin, the results are superior and long lasting, meaning you as the consumer will see real anti-aging benefits instead of temporary plumpness that disappears with time (although these short term effects have their place, too!). Water soluble ingredients get to work quickly, while oil soluble ingredients work slower and allow it to absorb into skin over time. This time-release technology means skin receives continuous benefits with less irritation.

What products use nanotechnology?

Any skincare product can incorporate nanotechnology (and Kara Vita does incorporate it into all products). But there are some instances when nanotech can make a bigger difference than others, and this is especially true when it comes to actives and anti-aging products. While some conditions are best treated on the surface of the skin—like acid exfoliants for dark spots or a dull complexion, for example—to target signs of premature aging, you need to go deeper. For this reason, be sure to choose products that incorporate nanotech for your creams, serums, and any other treatments that you’re using for wrinkles and fine lines or loss of firmness. Even discoloration can be treated deeper within skin.

Because of the way nanotech can improve the texture of products, it can be helpful when used in sunscreen. As mentioned previously, creating smaller zinc oxide, aka nanozinc, creates a sunscreen that is easier to apply and leaves less of a white cast, making it easier for skin of color to use it.

Overall, choosing quality products that incorporate nanotechnology can make a noticeable difference when it comes to the effectiveness of your skincare products. Especially when targeting age-related skin concerns, using products that deliver ingredients deeper into the skin can be the difference between temporarily improving skin or completely transforming the texture, firmness, and overall quality of your skin.