Product Review: Hey, is that a nanocapsule on your face?

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March 19, 2004 — Ask any woman what she looks for in a facial moisturizer and I’d all but guarantee that “nanocapsules” won’t be high on her list. In fact, I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t even make the lists crafted by the women I know.

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I don’t think this is because women are particularly standoffish or unaccepting of high-tech products or processes designed to improve their appearances (consider the Wonderbra, Botox or laser hair removal). It’s that no cosmetic company has really gone out of its way to promote the benefits of nanocapsules in beauty products.

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Sure, if you poke around on the Internet, you’ll find a handful of articles and marketing materials that explain to the fairer gender how nanotechnology is helping the active ingredients in cosmetics go where no active ingredients have gone before. You’ll learn how nanocapsules, which range in size between 130 and 600 nanometers, can carry such things as vitamin A and E into the lower layers of the skin, thus maximizing their effectiveness.

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But when it comes to traditional means of marketing and advertising — like point-of-purchase displays and full-page spreads in Glamour magazine — where’s the nanospeak? Nowhere, I’d argue. Which is why it came as a bit of a surprise when I learned that the high-tech product I’d been assigned to sample was moisturizer made by the very mainstream cosmetics company L’Oreal — moisturizer that’s been on the market for about nine years.

After investigating further how nanotechnology works in cosmetics and moisturizers, I can hypothesize why there’s not an overabundance of cheerleading going on with regards to nanocapsules in these products. Sure, the possibility of moisture or sunscreen reaching into the deep layers of one’s skin is very promising, but not everyone applauds the use of nanotechnology in cosmetics. In fact, some toxicologists worry that nanoparticles — even those made up of harmless substances like zinc oxide — can be more reactive (thus, the research implies, dangerous) when downsized like this.

A bit unsettling considering I read all of this before slathering myself up with my assigned product, but I convinced myself that, if this stuff were menacing in any way, someone would have noticed in the last eight years, right? And then I popped open my bottle of L’Oreal Plenitude Futur-e moisturizer with SPF 15.

How’d it go? Here’s a summary of my experience:

Day One

I’m a little bit unnerved by the notion that tiny nanocapsules are literally shoving vitamin E into my skin. Knowing from my reading that it’s a good thing that the moisturizing power isn’t just sitting on my cheeks helps to reduce my unease a bit. But as I stand in line at the grocery store, sit at a traffic light, and return some movies to the video store, I can’t help but feel just the slightest bit invaded.

Day Two

My eyelids itch. Nothing on the packaging indicated that my eyelids would itch all day long. Maybe the nanocapsules are going too deep? Am I not supposed to put this stuff on my eyelids in the first place? Are the nanocapsules going to penetrate clear into my eyeballs? I think I’d best stop putting the Futur-e on my eyelids.

Day Three

My eyelids still itch. I think I know why there’s not a peep on the bottle about the nanocapsules. The marketing folks at L’Oreal must understand how this awareness could freak people out.

Day Four

My eyelids don’t itch anymore. But now my cheeks are starting to burn. Am I imagining this? I’m glad that I purchased the Futur-e moisturizer myself, otherwise I might be wondering if Small Times has secretly made me a human laboratory animal in some crazy scientific study.

I’m not imagining this, though. I really am feeling burning. I’d better read the bottle again. Ah, yes, the fine print reads: “Delicate skin may experience a slight tingling sensation. If this continues allow 15 minutes after cleansing before applying or use sparingly until skin adapts.” Seems I have delicate skin. I’m going to allow 15 minutes after cleansing from now on.

Day Five

I’m going to admit this. I used my regular old non-nanocapsulated moisturizer today. Call me a wimp, but I needed a break from this strange stuff.

Day Seven

I’m going water-skiing today and I just remembered that my Futur-e moisturizer has SPF 15 protection. I’m going to let the stuff back into my epidermis so I can protect those deep layers of my skin from sun exposure.

Day Eight

My skin and psyche both seem to be adjusting to the moisturizer. And I am noticing that the skin on my forehead looks a bit smoother. I’m not going to say I’m becoming a believer. That may have to wait until, say, Day 45. But I will say that I’m growing increasingly curious about the long-term potential of this stuff on my aging skin. I think I’m going to keep this trial going.


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