Dry water future for cosmetics

A researcher at Hull University has discovered a property of nanoparticles that could change the way future cosmetics are made.

Bernie Binks, Professor of Physical Chemistry was investigating why water mixed with nanoparticles (such as silica), which are then combined with air, become a dry powder. A similar substance was originally discovered and patented by German company Degussa in 1968, but little development has been made since.

The so-called dry water has a cooling effect when placed onto skin and it releases water onto the skin when sheared by rubbing. The presence of particles means that the top layer of skin is exfoliated so water is absorbed more quickly than water in a liquid form.

Although other elements would need to be added to the substance to make it a marketable product, dry water already has two properties that could be used in skincare – the cooling effect on the skin and the ability to deliver moisture quickly and effectively.

In addition to its simplicity, the dry water scores highly on an environmental level. The substance can have a density as low as one fifth of the density of bulk water, making it lighter to transport, cutting down on carbon emissions. A powder skincare product would also be easier to refill than its cream or gel counterparts. It is also free of harmful chemicals that could be absorbed by the skin.

To prepare the product, Binks put some water and silica particles into a bowl and added air by whipping the two together with a food mixer. The result was powder, made up of tiny water droplets each measuring 50 millionths of a metre.

Binks said, ‘Nanotechnology is currently very fashionable and this dry water is a perfect example of how small particles can be utilised to prepare a novel material and bring about benefits to the consumer. I am particularly excited about the simplicity of the substance and I have secured two years funding from an international company in order to develop the science further.’

Binks has also discovered that foam and a soufflé-type substance can be created with air, water and slightly different types of silica particles. These too could be used in pharmaceuticals or cosmetics.