This New High-Tech Skincare Device Is Backed By NASA

by Sara Spruch-Feiner

To state the obvious: Your skincare can only work when active ingredients can actually penetrate your skin. That doesn't always happen, though. Enter: Droplette, a new gadget intended to eliminate that concern.

The device, explains co-founder Dr. Madhavi Gavini, works by "creating a high-speed aerosol made up of tiny, rapidly moving droplets containing skin care actives that can bypass the skin barrier 20x more deeply than topicals—with no needles and no pain." The physics of this fluid aerosol even grabbed NASA's attention, and won a grant from them.

Droplette was inspired, of all things, by a rare disease, epidermolysis bullosa, which, as a result of a single deleted gene, causes fragile and blistering skin, says Gavini. As a result, "topical treatments are both painful (since the skin is covered in open wounds) and ineffective (because the topicals don’t work)," she explains. Gavini learned about the disease at a medical conference and was inspired, with her co-founder Dr. Rathi Srinivas (both trained in chemical engineering at MIT) to develop a technology that would allow effective, but painless delivery of medication to patients battling this disease.

The resulting technology is a pod-shaped device that you insert single-use capsules in. Droplette is meant to be used post-cleanse and pre-moisturizer, when you would typically apply your serums. For this reason, the launch includes three skin care formulas: .15% retinol, 10.0% collagen, and 8.0% glycolic acid. You pick your active, pop a capsule in the device, and mist your face.

Why Droplet-Delivered Actives Make For Effective Skincare

Essentially, Droplette's technology does two things: deliver ingredients in a way smaller particle size, and at super-speed velocity — and both of these factors allow for increased absorption. "We have enhanced evaporation because our custom pump system creates air flow that further shrinks our droplet size," Gavini says. "For reference, the average droplet that comes out of a serum dropper is on the order of five millimeters. In comparison, our droplets are 10,000 times smaller than that. The smaller the droplets are, the more effectively they can actually get through the skin."

And that's not all. "It’s not just a matter of the concentration going up though," she explains, "the droplets are also moving faster and when they hit the skin, they break apart and get even smaller in size. This added momentum helps ingredients get much deeper inside the skin than they otherwise would," Gavini explains.

The Droplette Capsules

Of the three available formulas, unsurprisingly, the retinol and glycolic formulas are recommended for evening use, while the collagen formula can be used day or night. Here's a bit more on each formula:

  • The 10.0% Collagen is recommended for anyone with dry, sagging, or irritated skin. In addition to collagen, there's also a peptide blend and vitamin C in this soothing, hydrating formula. It's recommended for all skin types.
  • The 0.15% Retinol is for skin showing signs of aging, or for anyone dealing with breakouts. It also contains arbutin for balancing skin tone and soothing rose oil.
  • Finally, the 8.0% Glycolic helps address dullness, blemishes, and hyperpigmentation. In addition to the glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid, it also contains salicylic acid (a beta hydroxy acid), and gluconolactone (a poly hydroxy acid), all of which work together to increase cell turnover and increase the skin's glow. This is a strong formula, which Gavini notes smells "like a chemical peel," and is not for sensitive skin types.

Does Droplette Work—And Do You Need It?

In one company study, Droplette officials found that, compared to topical application, Droplette could get up to 60% more water into the skin — and that it would stay under the skin’s surface (versus just evaporating away) for at least three hours after delivery. "In contrast," Gavini says, "topical delivery temporarily increases hydration only slightly and evaporates away in less than an hour."

In a second study, the company looked at the delivery of formulations through Droplette vs. topical products. In a 10-week clinical trial with 40 subjects, they delivered the same formulation to subjects both topically and then via Droplette and looked for improvement in wrinkles, fine lines, and skin texture in both groups. "We found that on average, Droplette delivery resulted in significantly better results relative to topical delivery (up to 68% more reduction in wrinkles)," Gavini says, stating that "the same formulations delivered through Droplette were also more hydrating and less drying and irritating compared to topical delivery."

TZR checked in with dermatologist Dr. Josh Zeichner to get his thoughts on the technology. On the one hand, he acknowledges the challenges of ingredient penetration. "One of the most challenging parts of skin care routines is ensuring absorption of the active ingredient through the skin," he says. "There is no doubt that the device uses novel technology and enhances penetration of actives into the skin. Without head-to-head comparisons to traditional anti-aging formulas, it is hard to know whether the Droplette delivery system truly delivers superior clinical results compared to what we already have on the market," he says, adding that, if it does, it's a "welcome addition to skincare routines"

Of course, Droplette's $299 price tag — though it is currently on sale for $224 — is not cheap, the results are impressive (and so is the fact that the single-use capsules are in fact, recyclable). Is it necessary? If you think it will get you to actually use a retinol, and save some irritation on the way, it could be a worthy investment, but if you know you're the type to let gadgets collect dust, you're better off with good old-fashioned traditional serum.

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