Until we've got a fully functioning crystal ball, we're relying on the next best thing: educated predictions from experts and scientists who are leading the charge and breaking the mold in the world of beauty. Keep reading for what the filers, lasers, and injectables of the future could like.
Whitney Bowe, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin, researches free radicals and acne.
“Cutting-edge antioxidant skin patches are being developed: Tiny needles on the underside of the patches pierce your skin and — according to a handful of early but promising studies — push antioxidants deep inside. The needles then melt away without a trace. These patches may offer a better, faster way to smooth and brighten skin at home than anything we can hope to achieve with traditional serums, which tend to work wonders in labs but rarely yield those same results in patients. Patches that enhance the penetration of antioxidants will unlock their potential, allowing them to give the wrinkle-smoothing, skin-brightening benefits we crave. In a small double-blind study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, subjects who applied a vitamin C–infused microneedle patch every four days showed a significant improvement in sun damage without experiencing any irritation.
“A major revelation in treating acne has everything to do with antioxidants. In my residency, I was taught that first a follicle becomes plugged, then bacteria invades, and finally inflammation sets in, causing breakouts. But new studies are turning that logic on its head, showing that free radical damage to the oil inside our pores is the match that lights the process. With this new discovery, I feel truly hopeful for the future of acne treatments: Blocking free radicals with antioxidants could prevent pimples. That’s something we’ve never been able to do; all of our therapies focus on treating the pimples you have, not ensuring you don’t wake up with new ones. And really, the timing couldn’t be better — antibiotics, which have been the mainstay of acne therapy for decades, are rapidly losing efficacy due to issues with resistance. We’re running out of treatment options. The key to fighting acne will be replenishing antioxidants periodically throughout the day, as well as in the evening. New dietary antioxidants are in the works, and getting antioxidants in your diet every few hours can really boost your levels. For now, I’m recommending the oral antioxidant Heliocare to nearly all of my patients — especially those suffering from acne, melasma, rosacea, and pollution-driven premature aging. It contains a powerful South American fern extract with remarkable anti-inflammatory properties. The supplement has always been promoted as an added form of UV protection, but emerging science shows it’s beneficial for much more. It can even protect against visible and infrared light — rays that traditional sunscreens can't shield. The skin-darkening effect of visible light is actually more intense than that of UVA rays, and it can quickly worsen melasma and the stubborn marks pimples leave behind.
"By preventing damage, antioxidants will help us take control of the health of our skin from day one. I absolutely envision a time when antioxidant regimens are introduced as early and as matter-of-factly as face-washing.”
Dara Liotta, a cosmetic and reconstructive facial plastic surgeon in New York City, specializes in customized injectable treatments — her LitLift procedure is designed to mimic highlighting and contouring with Botox and fillers.
“The next wave of hyaluronic acid fillers will be specifically designed to make skin look airbrushed: They’ll give little boosts to eliminate shadows on the face, so you’ll seem like you’re always perfectly lit. One that I’m really excited about, Volite, may be available as early as next year. We’ll be able to inject it superficially, across the top layers of skin, to draw in moisture and give a glow for up to nine months. Like a filter, it’ll blur fine lines while remaining undetectable; it’ll keep foundation from settling into creases and add luminescence.
“This sort of extreme attention to detail is the future, and the fillers of the future will be tailor-made for the job. They’ll get finer, silkier, and more flexible. We’ll have formulas made for addressing very particular areas that are difficult to treat with our current cadre of fillers: crinkly eye skin, horizontal neck lines, and crepiness on the chest. Right now, we mix and dilute fillers to try to improve those thin-skinned areas in a natural-looking way, but this approach is far from ideal because it can leave lumps or a bluish tinge.
“And at-home devices with medical-grade hyaluronic acid serums can’t be far off. Imagine being able to do your own ultrasonic hyaluronic acid mask before a big night out to make skin super luminous and plump up fine lines and wrinkles. Pretty great, right? Early research shows ultrasound energy can make ingredients like hyaluronic acid penetrate deeper into the skin than any serum or cream ever could on its own for long-lasting hydration and dewiness. Also on my wish list: a hyaluronic acid treatment that works like a full-body paraffin dip to make skin smoother and glowier from head to toe. With body treatments on the rise, it may be only a matter of time.”
Mathew Avram is the director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Laser & Cosmetic Center, the director of dermatologic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, and the president of the American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery.
“There will be a paradigm shift in laser hair removal — a technology that’s remained relatively unchanged since it was invented in the mid-1990s. We’ve never really been able to remove blonde, red, or gray body hair because they lack the pigment that lasers target in order to work. A company called Sienna Biopharmaceuticals has found a way to get silver nanoparticles into hair follicles — where they act as a target in place of hair pigment — to permanently reduce hair growth. The data is very promising, and the technology could be available by 2019. The silver can also work for acne by making sebaceous glands better bull’s-eyes than they ordinarily are, so we can shrink or destroy them with lasers to lessen oil production.
“We’re just now exploring the potential of lasers to treat basal cells — the most common type of skin cancer in the United States — without producing a scar. Up until now, we’ve relied mainly on surgical removal or scraping and burning. But it turns out, basal cell cancers are an ideal mark for vascular lasers, because they contain an abundance of blood vessels, and those vessels tend to be larger than what’s found in normal skin. There have been several successful studies; now we’re figuring out how best to apply this science in practice.
“And we’re just beginning to look at how light from sources like lasers affects levels of the hormones associated with happiness: endorphins and oxytocin. In one study, when investigators repeatedly exposed mice to UV light, the mice produced beta-endorphins, which numb pain. Extrapolating this to people is a leap; there are no human studies yet. Still, while it may be 10 or 20 years off, I do see the potential for lasers or light sources to someday help regulate pain and even promote a sense of well-being.
“Also on the horizon is a promising face-lift alternative from the Boston-based company Cytrellis Biosystems, Inc. This new technology is actually not a laser, per se, but a novel needling device that physically extracts thousands of tiny, thin columns of skin across the face. As these wounds heal, we see significant tightening without any scarring. The concept is similar to fractional lasers, which essentially create channels of thermal damage in a pixilated pattern to help smooth away lines. But when we use fractional lasers to vaporize skin, we don’t get the dramatic tightening one would expect, even though we’re removing 20 to 40 percent of the skin. Part of the reason why may be because the laser’s heat prevents the holes from closing quickly. Here, with this needling tool, there’s no heat — we’re removing tissue and allowing the skin to close right away, which yields a nice improvement in laxity. The device is still in the investigative stages, but the data I’ve seen is very encouraging.”
Sharon Profis is the executive editor of CNET and reports on what’s new in the technology industry.
“In the next year, augmented reality is going to get really big. It lets you superimpose anything onto a real-life object or person — like using a Snapchat filter that’s highly accurate to the point where you can’t believe your eyes. Eventually you’ll be able to change your lipstick, your hair color, even your nose in a picture, and the results will be hyperperfect. As millennials and Gen Zers get more and more comfortable posting altered, enhanced pictures of themselves, companies are furiously working on ways to make augmented reality better. Sure, right now you can tell what’s been filtered, but soon you won’t be able to figure it out. Someone could look totally different online than they do in real life.
“And imagine if you could be the face in a YouTube beauty tutorial. In the coming years, there will most likely be sophisticated mirrors in stores that project different beauty looks — and the steps that go into getting them — onto your reflection. In the next 10 years, I also fully expect that your entire bathroom mirror could be a smart mirror: You’ll be able to get beauty tutorials on your reflection while you check the weather and new text messages pop up. Companies have already started to play with turning mirrors into touch screens, and there’s so much potential.
“The gadgets in your bathroom will get smarter, too. Your facial-cleansing brush will ping your phone when it’s time to exfoliate, recommend products for your skin type, maybe even tell you when you need to get a new mole checked out. It’ll learn more about your skin the more you use it and recommend new products as your skin changes. You’ll be the center of your own beauty ecosystem.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Allure. To get your copy, head to newsstands or subscribe now.
Gail K. Naughton is a leading researcher in the field of tissue engineering and the chief scientific officer of Histogen, a regenerative-medicine company in San Diego.
“For the last eight years, we’ve been testing and perfecting an injectable treatment for growing hair and have been seeing exciting results —
new hair growth in as little as 12 weeks, with improvement still evident after one year. The treatment, called HSC, works by targeting stem cells in the hair follicles with a mix of naturally secreted growth factors. One factor, follistatin, allows dormant stem cells to shift into a new hair-growth cycle. Another, keratinocyte growth factor, causes cells to proliferate and grow, converting a baby hair into a mature hair or creating brand-new hair. My big aha moment, believe it or not, came when I showed before-and-after photos from our first clinical study to my neighbor’s five-year-old daughter — she pointed to each after picture and said, ‘More hair! More hair!’ I mean, truly striking results. The U.S. trials are planned to commence in 2018; we expect it to gain approval in Mexico first, perhaps in 2020, and then in the U.S. sometime after that.
“It’s worth noting: All of the growth factors in our formula come from cells grown in a simulated embryonic environment — we essentially float young healthy skin cells on tiny starch beads in a low-oxygen system, so it’s as though they’re in a womb, which causes them to revert back into multipotent stem cells, and release a unique blend of growth factors. Why do we this? Well, growth factors made from fetal or embryonic cells are the gold standard. They can stimulate stem cells all over the body, replacing or repairing even very damaged skin. But since traditional fetal stem-cell therapies are, obviously, hotly debated, we mimic the embryonic environment to avoid ethical issues and still get the very best growth factors. Of course, there are also safety concerns surrounding growth factors — can they affect pre-existing cancer cells? — which I think are largely unfounded. There has never been a case where even the injection of a large amount of these naturally secreted growth factors has at all enhanced cancer growth. In fact, we’ve published papers showing that the material our cells give off can actually shut down the growth of basal, squamous, and melanoma skin cancers. Recombinant growth factors are another matter, however. They are not natural — the proteins typically come from a plant or animal, and that genetic material is manipulated and mixed with human DNA. And a number of recombinant growth factors have been associated with an increase in cancer. Natural growth factors derived from human cells really make the most sense.
“And these growth factors could soon revolutionize the skin-care world as well by targeting distinct issues like brown spots, deep wrinkles, or acne. As researchers learn more about the roles of individual growth factors, they’ll be able to isolate specific ones to make smarter, more customized skin care — potentially within the next five years. Since growth factors are large molecules, we’re looking at ways to deliver them deeper and more effectively into the skin, without injections, through a variety of new nanotechnologies. The growth factors that you currently find in topical skin care can reach only the top layer of skin. By being able to deliver growth factors to cells in lower layers, which are responsible for making collagen and elastin, we can achieve skin that’s firmer and more resistant to wrinkles and sagging.
“Looking further out, we’re aiming to create the next generation of fillers — a totally unique injectable that we believe will be more natural and long-lasting than what we have now. Most fillers today contain just one element of the skin, such as hyaluronic acid, and last for a few months. Ours would include several materials — growth factors, human collagen, and extracellular matrix — to serve as a complete replacement for all of the skin’s components that we lose over time. And these fillers would stimulate the stem cells in your own skin to form new collagen and elastin, a long-term treatment for wrinkles and scars that could last several years.”