TOKYO — Shiseido said Friday that it has acquired an innovative “second-skin” technology from Olivo Laboratories. The patented approach creates a breathable, flexible and essentially invisible layer of artificial skin, with numerous possible applications in the beauty field.
Olivo is a start-up backed by Polaris Partners and based in Cambridge, Mass. While Shiseido has acquired “substantially all of the assets” of the company, it did not acquire the company itself. Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.
The pioneering XPL second-skin technology offers “a number of benefits previously unachievable through traditional cosmetics or even cosmetic surgery,” Shiseido said in a release. Olivo was founded by renowned scientists including Dr. Robert Langer, institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Rox Anderson of Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Dan Anderson, also of MIT. As a part of the transaction, the Olivo research and development team will join Shiseido Americas.
Langer said the technology was developed to respond to what dermatologists said was a giant unmet need.
“You can apply it over the skin, so it’s a covering, but it has a number of properties. It doesn’t change appearance, it’s safe. Also mechanical characteristics such as being conformal to the skin, so it’s not like a Band-Aid so to speak, and being durable so it doesn’t come off [easily],” Langer said. “And you also have the ability, depending on how we do the chemistry, to do things like tighten skin and so forth. So it’s a covering that has all these properties that we built into it by the way we did the chemistry.”
Yoichi Shimatani, chief research and development officer for Shiseido, said the second-skin technology marks an entirely new way of looking at the development of cosmetics and skin-care products.
“Until now, conventional skin-care products have been developed as a mechanism that is applied to the skin and from there, the ingredients penetrate the skin to create a reaction that keeps the skin healthy,” Shimatani said. “However, this time it’s not physiological but rather a physical reaction that creates a new layer over the skin, which is a completely new approach.”
In its current form, Olivo’s second-skin technology works as a two-step process. First, a colorless silicone polymer resembling a beauty serum is applied. This is followed by a slightly thicker, creamier-looking substance. The two react to create an invisible film on the skin that immediately provides very subtle pressure that stretches the skin, giving it a smoother, more youthful appearance.
Langer said he is excited to work with Shiseido to continue to develop the technology into something that can benefit a wide number of consumers.
“My hope, and this is the great value of Shiseido, is that we can get this to a point where it is available to people,” he said. “It takes it from a research program where we were making good progress to something I hope can be a product that can benefit people widely.”
“I think it has implications for antiaging, for sunscreen, for skin brightening, for the under-eye bags, which is the core,” said Amy Schulman, Polaris Partner and chief executive officer of Olivo. “I think it’s up to Shiseido, but they will have whatever support Dr. Langer and the scientists can provide.”
Shimatani said he believes the technology has potential applications in both skin-care and makeup products.
“The philosophy behind the second-skin technology is that because the skin on the face is always exposed to the external environment, there should be protection, not only from internal or oral nutrition, but also by covering over the skin with this new skin-conforming layer,” Shimatani said.
Langer added that second skin enhances not only the amount of beneficial ingredients that enter the skin, but also the duration they stay on the skin. He said that dermatologists say that when applying topical ointments or similar products to the skin, between 90 and 95 percent is lost almost immediately due to rub-off on clothing and other factors.
The acquisition is the latest in a series of initiatives undertaken by Shiseido in order to expand its global beauty innovation footprint. The company also recently acquired the personalization technology startup MatchCo and the beauty company Giaran, which uses artificial intelligence to power its virtual makeup technology. Last month, Shiseido announced that it had developed an IoT skin-care system called Optune, which will begin beta trials this spring.
Shimatani describes these three innovations as being “not independent of one another, but interdependent” in the company’s goals for the future.
“We are aiming not to exclusively follow the conventional business model wherein customers come to stores to purchase beauty products,” Shimatani said.
Shiseido said in a release that the transaction “marks a significant leap forward in the emerging realm of ‘skin shape correction,’ and paves the way for the development of products that provide instant and significantly enhanced skin care and sun care.”
Langer said that apart from the technology itself, Shiseido’s know-how in the field of consumer cosmetics will be instrumental in getting second skin to benefit consumers.
“My main job is being an MIT professor, and one of the things that has meant a lot to me over the years is discovering things and inventing things that can get out to the world and help people,” Langer said. “I like doing basic research, but I want the research to get out and change the world and make it better. Make it happier, make it healthier. And being able to work with Shiseido, with their skills and their resources and their ability to reach people all over the world, the chances of this having a greater impact are much, much higher, and that’s what I want to see.”
“Our transaction with Olivo is an exciting next step in our ongoing pursuit to create entirely new categories of beauty products at a global scale as a part of our Vision 2020, middle to long-term strategy,” Masahiko Uotani, president and chief executive officer of Shiseido said. “Olivo’s groundbreaking ‘second-skin’ technology will join Shiseido’s already robust innovation portfolio. We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues at Olivo and benefiting from the expertise of Dr. Langer as we continue to reinvent the beauty industry and to create new products tailored to each of our customers’ unique and personal ideals of beauty.”
Shiseido is currently constructing a new research and development facility in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo. Construction is slated to be completed by the end of this year, with a targeted opening date of April 2019.