They arrived with the turn of the century and the development of microencapsulation. With their promise of slimming and firming the body, they began to timidly adhere to the fibres of tights, leggings and even lingerie. They are already to be found in skinny jeans, shorts and T-shirts. For both women and men. Cosmetotextiles, in combining the alchemy of cosmetics with the appeal of certain textiles, are revolutionizing skin care.
Cosmetotextiles are cosmetics that are worn. According to Textiles Intelligence, the cosmetotextile market is a promising one, worth 500 million euros in 2013. It is based on an innovative idea: to use the clothes we wear daily next to the skin to remove excess fat, boost skin hydration and firmness and improve muscle tone. How? By introducing, in the fibres of clothing, microparticles of certain ingredients – like caffeine (a microcirculation activator), Aloe vera (a moisturizer), retinol (a regenerator) and vitamin E (an anti-oxidant) – so that, with our movements, these substances can be released into the epidermis.
Patience, patience ...
No effort, no hassle, just results. That, at least, is how the manufacturers taking advantage of the invention sell their products, although they also admit – and that's what the packaging of their products state – that you need to be constant. In other words, to see a change, you need to wear cosmetotextiles for six or even eight hours a day for at least a month.
These garments, however, withstand only a certain number of washes. Some brands include a small quantity of bactericidal silver in their products so that the item only has to be washed every fortnight, while other manufacturers offer recharging sprays.
It’s chemistry, not magic. But an increasing number of products include these substances. The scientific literature contains no formal classification of cosmetotextiles, although there is some consensus that the most exploited market segment is that of slimming products that take the classic corset a step further, namely, tights and leggings of all kinds and, more recently, lingerie and jeans. Algae, retinol and caffeine extracts are generally added to these textiles to fight cellulite and moisturize the skin.
Next most popular are aromatherapeutic garments, whose textiles are impregnated with essential oils with relaxing or invigorating properties.
Next comes anti-solar clothing, with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 35. Anti-UV lycra clothing has been sold in the surfer sector for several years. Now, sun-protective items, such as shirts, skirts and trousers, are becoming popular for other outdoor activities.
Finally, anti-ageing cosmetotextiles are beginning to appear in the market. One example is anti-ageing masks, which are designed to enable ingredients like resveratrol – an anti-oxidant molecule that the skin absorbs with difficulty – to act over long periods. Another matter entirely is that its action might have other consequences for the epidermis.
In 2004, the EU decided to create a group to study effectiveness, toxicity and durability validation methods for textiles with cosmetic properties. In 2009, the European Committee for Standardization approved a technical report which stated that the ingredients included in cosmetotextiles had to be “as safe as if applied by conventional means.”
Optimization of the amount of ingredients to use and longer-term effects continue to be undecided issues in the sector. Even so, the future of wearable cosmetics is undoubtedly promising.