The Rise of Cosmetotextiles

The rise of cosmetotextiles, a type of active textiles, reminds us that new technologies are rarely truly new. This project began in the 1990s, mainly related to micro-encapsulation. The first patent was filed in 1953 by the National Cash Register Company, today the NRC Corporation, an American company who pioneered payment systems for distribution. They commercialized carbon paper, a precious tool for accountants. The technical principles were interesting to other sectors and a multitude of patents followed in domains such as medicine, agribusiness, chemistry, electronics, cosmetics, detergents, etc.
The first applications in textiles – Hermès in 1995 and Dim in 1998 – were unsuccessful and left sector professionals skeptical. The few industrials who were involved in this path realized the need to jointly develop three factors: improving the performance of microcapsules, finding promising applications and building a standard for establishing a vocabulary around cosmetotextiles. The results speak for themselves: since 2008, the market has been on the rise.
Micro-encapsulation is a collection of techniques that allow for the containment of a substance in a protective casing. This round-form casing is called a microcapsule. It measures between 1 micron and 1 millimeter. The materials that can be contained within include essential oils, active ingredients (molecules with therapeutic properties), liquid crystals, etc. They are either liquid or encased in resin. The film that holds them breaks through mechanical activity, and their porosity can be adjusted for a controlled release. Photo credit: RBC.
Yann Balguerie of RBC: “Our days as ennoblers were counted since the opening of EU quotas (2005-2008) and micro-encapsulation was an opportunity to seize upon. But the existing molecules were not adapted to our industry. We took a risk and invested in a laboratory in 2009 to create our own formulas. We also actively participated in the drafting of AFNOR FD CEN/TR 15917, which was published in 2010.”
Maurice Tahar, head of research and development at Well: “Ten years ago we watched as market actors stammered and sputtered. Today, as a professional in the shoe market, and formerly in cosmetics, I have no doubt about the quality of microcapsule suppliers. But we must construct an adequate offer for this demanding market, and that requires strong support in the sales end.”
And this is the problem! Consumer activity is not immediately recognizable, and it is necessary to convince consumers through tests, notices, enticing photography and transparency about the conditions necessary to achieve results.
A first step was taken within cosmetics by L’Oréal, whose language around technology successfully addresses the consumer public. But even more so, a new generation of textiles is responsible for allowing this sector to flourish. Combining bio-ceramic fibers, 3D knitting and microcapsules produces a durable result; the principle fault of microcapsules – their instability – is thus magically transformed into an opportunity. On one hand, it allows for flexible commercial applications; recent trails between RBC and the Ibis chain is leading to a range of professional products for spas and hotels. On the other hand, it guides the consumer through the adaptation of the technology, which boosts the chance of success. It is a true commercial turning point. Skin’up is convinced by the niche appeal, developing two visual labels which discolor or luminesce to indicate the remaining strength of the product to the customer, who can then choose a recharge imbued with the desired properties.
Skin’up offers labels that indicate the level of microcapsules remaining in a product, allowing the owner to be involved in the life cycle and establish a reputation of transparency in this technology. Photo Credit: Skin’up.
Although slimming products remain a sort of fantasy land, increasingly performant features are developed season after season. From comfort-based products, offers have evolved towards active coaching products and para-medical features, such as cutaneous rehydration and post-exercise muscle recovery. Quiksilver, in their outdoor ready-to-wear for 2015 launched a collection in this vein, entitled “Enjoy & Care.”
In 2013, the arrival of the category “Functional Apparel Textile” contained the subsection “wearable skincare, cosmetotextiles” at Techtextil, proving to even the most conservative actors that cosmetotextiles have smartly integrated across different textile cultures and can adapt to complex constraints. With a solid technical base and a transversal attention to quality, they never cease to surprise with innovative product positioning.
The Quiksilver “Enjoy & Care” collection, in collaboration with Roxy and Biotherm, offers skiwear combined with microcapsules to protect the skin.