In order to understand what liposomes do when formulated in skin care preparations one must first understand what a liposome is. Perhaps the most concise definition that I have seen comes from Wikipedia: “A liposome is a spherical vesicle having at least one lipid bilayer. The liposome can be used as a vehicle for administration of nutrients and pharmaceutical drugs.” The only thing missing from this definition is the fact that a liposome also contains an aqueous center.
The use of liposomes in skin care products has become increasingly common over the past 15 or so years due, in great part, to the belief that they are able to penetrate the skin and deliver active ingredients into the skin’s deeper layers. In order to accomplish this, cosmetic companies have created liposomes in which the aqueous centers contain whatever water-soluble ingredients the companies wished to deliver deep into the skin. These nutrient-laden liposomes are then formulated into topical treatments.
Unfortunately, a number of peer-reviewed scientific studies over the past few years, including, most recently an exhaustive study performed by the University of South Denmark in 2016, have shown that, when applied topically, liposomes are not able to penetrate the skin – instead breaking and releasing their contents when they come in contact with the skin’s outer layers.
All may not, however, be lost. Rather than debunking the long-held belief that liposomes are an effective delivery agent for active ingredients; the Danish study suggests that the very action that takes place when the liposomes, break upon contact with the skin may, in fact, “prepare” the skin and render it capable of absorbing the ingredients that are contained in the center of the liposomes. What this means is that even though the mechanism that we thought liposomes used to deliver their nutritious cargo deep into the skin may not be correct, the liposomes may still be able to at least partially perform the job that is expected of them.
This also tells us that more study is necessary on the actions that are in play when liposomes are topically applied to the skin. It is only once we fully understand the mechanisms that are at work when liposomes are applied to the skin that products can be properly formulated to take full advantage of whatever beneficial effects they may be capable of providing.
Please submit your questions by email to Ms. Zaborski at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1978 Ms. Zaborski founded the Corrective Skin Care Institute Inc, a pioneering medical spa, and for the past fifteen years has worked with an international team of cosmetic chemists and medical professionals to develop the System for Optimal Skin™ (SOS™) skin correction system.