Has space research enabled beauty to progress? Yes and see how.
As we can more and more often hear about a new space conquest, with travels to Mars lasting several months, or even a few years, it may be funny to remind that the skin, or more precisely beauty and space, have already been put in contact, more or less formally. Here is a short reminder of what has already been done.
- Among these various contributions, the first was the primary role NASA played in the development of the photomodulation technique. We owe space conquest this ‘photomodulation that has come to embody soft aesthetic technologies’. It all started when NASA discovered that wounds could hardly heal in weightlessness. The space agency investigated several means to solve this problem. A technique under development provided them with an answer. This technology was based on LLLT (Low-Level Laser Therapy). At that time, a few studies reported significant results as regards the acceleration of wound healing in orbit or the treatment of injuries submarine crews were subject to. In this field, the first patents date back to 1965. Learn more
- It should be reminded that in the 1960s, the initial conquest period, Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon freshly shaven. It may sound insane, since it was considered there should by no means be any dust or particles in suspension in the Moon compartment. When he landed in 1969, delighted Americans announced the whole world how their amazing collection of space gadgets had helped them beat the Russians and make this feat History. One of the main accessories on board Apollo 11 was actually Dutch. Right before take-off, Philips scientists had discreetly offered NASA their latest invention: the dual-spin MoonShaver. It could suck up shaven hairs which, in weightlessness, would have floated in the air. It was designed to protect the astronauts’ eyes, in addition to taking care of their own appearance. That is how Armstrong could step on the Moon ground perfectly shaven! My friends of the Rasophyles, a French association, told me that the Soviets had also gone one step ahead with a razor called ‘Sputnik’. СПУТНИК (Sputnik) was made in Stalingrad. Its size was similar to that of the razors manufactured at that time, but its design was cleaner. Just like the others, it had a winding key and an On/Off toothed wheel on its side. Given the very brief time of the inaugural flight, Gagarine must not have had enough time to test it.
- In 1978, NASA decided to create a makeup kit for their astronauts. But it was male engineers, better used to complex calculations and mathematical models, who were in charge of the development. Let’s see how these engineers tried to engage a dialogue with this extra-terrestrial species most mysterious to them: women.
1978 NASA makeup kit| ©Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum
- That is all very well, but what about the skin? Has the cosmetics industry already taken interest in this issue other than with accessories? The answer is yes. In the 1980s, Pierre Fodor, Helena Rubenstein’s R&D Manager, took interest in an issue that had not yet been much examined: what is the behaviour of certain crystal structures in weightlessness? A few researchers, like Henri Rodot, had studied these issues and predicted that the new tools to come, Spacelab or Soyuz, would help exploit microgravity as a new experimental means in different scientific fields, in particular Fluid Physics and Material Science. Fodor recalls that ‘this experiment had quite humble an objective, but it also had a broad scope for our understanding of our work as “cosmetologists”: try and understand the behaviour of raw materials with one another in weightlessness. And more precisely, find out whether surface tensions are modified, and under what conditions. Here is a simple example: do water and oil become miscible, and if they do, how long do these solutions remain stable? The idea was to start a dictionary of the different ingredient associations and, depending on the results expected, to use as few surfactants as possible, while preserving the stability of formulas. I found this project ambitious and self-sufficient. I was also interested in understanding, maybe with that study, or even with others, the future of cosmetic formulas, once applied on the skin… which ones penetrate the skin? Why do some of them penetrate it better, or more in-depth than others?’ As a real pioneer, and with the means available then, Pierre Fodor initiated a research programme in collaboration with French spaceman Patrick Baudry. The first tests were performed in partnership with NASA, and then at the Toulouse ESA space study centre. These very preliminary studies only resulted in partial conclusions, and nothing allowed anyone to assert, at that stage, that creams would soon be made in space. But since, in the cosmetics world, everything ends up in the form of products, this work led to a product that partially involved its logics. That is how, in 1988, the brand launched an ‘anti-time’ cream: Intercell™. The product was developed partially based on the work done by a Belgian laboratory’s research on the behaviour of fibroblasts in weightlessness. At the end of an original study, these researchers showed that putting fibroblasts in weightlessness inhibited certain functions, compared to the behaviour of fibroblasts on sea level. This effect was attributed to an effect on cell communication, which still remains to be formally demonstrated today. But the intention was commendable, because it was original and innovative. Then, research work on an active able to counter this effect helped characterize an active which, according to the brand, contributed to the ‘emergence of a real anti-time principle that revolutionizes the fight against aging: it restores cell communication. A new active, Transglycanes, helps revive the cells’ biological antennas. Restored communication capacity, recovered ability to adapt to the needs… The skin can guarantee the functions of a young skin, again. It can feel itself come alive again and it just shows: there is a new youth glow on the face.That is how the first cream from space was born! Some of this work was later pursued in Russia, but without any results.
Helena Rubinstein – Catherine Jazdzewski Paris : Assouline, 2002
- Space conquest also contributed to the development of what could have become the ‘3rdMillennium cold cream’. It all started in 2000 in Los Angeles, and the starting point was… the heat. Indeed, this world region is hot, and the man who initiated the project always had to make do with a warm drink. Then, a clever engineer dreamt of designing a can that could refresh its own content. After a visit at the European Space Agency, he founded the Thermagen company to host his technology, the High-Speed Cooling Effect. No doubt it was too complex to be perfectly understood and too expensive to help the ‘food’ industry make profit: his invention received… a cold reception. Still, the system worked well, and the drink was refreshed 70 times faster than in a fridge, without requiring any external source of energy, and without any chemical. A demonstration was even organized at the Paris-Dakar race in 2001. This technology led to the development of ICE SOURCE, a particularly original ‘beauty cream’. I invite you to re-read the following article on this space technology-derived product.
- As for the effects on the skin of prolonged stays in space, knowledge is more recent, since we had to wait for long travels in space modules to be able to study these phenomena. Generally speaking, we know that a prolonged stay in weightlessness accelerates aging on different levels, more particularly on the cell level. For example, the famous twin paradox set out by Paul Langevin a century ago could not be verified: it consisted in saying that, according to the special relativity rules, a twin sent to space at a speed close to that of light gets old less quickly than his brother still on Earth! The limits might actually be biological. Peau Microgravité.
This short inventory of the adventures that made beauty and space closer is not meant to be exhaustive. It will be completed and updated as science makes progress. So, before we get to meet on Mars, have a good read.
Written by Jean Claude LE JOLIFF
To know more :
- 1962-1992. Trente ans de journalisme beauté ou mes trente glorieuses de la beauté. Nadine Corbasson – Editions Publibook, s. d.
- « Après un an dans l’espace, le corps de l’astronaute Scott Kelly a beaucoup changé ». Gentside Découverte, 3 juin 2016. http://www.maxisciences.com/astronaute/apres-un-an-dans-l-039-espace-le-corps-de-l-039-astronaute-scott-kelly-a-beaucoup-change_art38041.html.
- « Comment l’espace accélère le processus du vieillissement humain ? » GuruMeditation(blog), 6 novembre 2013. http://www.gurumed.org/2013/11/06/comment-lespace-acclre-le-processus-du-vieillissement-humain/.
- « Du maquillage pour les femmes astronautes, l’attention louable mais maladroite de la Nasa ». Slate.fr, 29 avril 2018. http://www.slate.fr/story/161023/espace-nasa-trousse-maquillage-femmes-astronautes.
- « Espace : altérations de la peau des souris ». Consulté le 30 avril 2018. http://www.reflexions.uliege.be/cms/c_398917/fr/espace-alterations-de-la-peau-des-souris?part=2.
- « Les voyages spatiaux accélèrent le vieillissement cellulaire ». https://www.futura-sciences.com/sante/actualites/biologie-voyages-spatiaux-accelerent-vieillissement-cellulaire-49990/.
- « La microgravité modifie la physiologie de la peau ainsi que le cycle de croissance des poils chez la souris ». http://www.giga.uliege.be/cms/c_19380/fr/la-microgravite-modifie-la-physiologie-de-la-peau-ainsi-que-le-cycle-de-croissance-des-poils-chez-la-souris.
- Rodot, H. « LA MICROGRAVITÉ, MOYEN D’ÉTUDE DES FLUIDES ET DES CRISTAUX ». Journal de Physique Colloques39, noC2 (1978): C2-128-C2-129. https://doi.org/10.1051/jphyscol:1978224.
- Helena Rubinstein – Catherine Jazdzewski Paris : Assouline, 2002