Skin-massaging rejuvenating device

Skin-massaging rejuvenating device

10:58 AM, 28th June 2017
Skin-massaging rejuvenating device
Mechanobiology is paving a completely new path for cosmetic anti-aging strategies. (File photo)

By Jacques Leclaire


Skin aging is a complex biological process affected by internal and external factors. Skin aging signs concern different compartment of the skin: the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis. It mainly impacts the production of proteins in the extracellular dermal matrix leading to damage to the elastic fibers, lost of skin firmness and wrinkles appearance. The classic approach in beauty care to fight skin ageing, consists in associating chemical or natural ingredients presenting a biological activity and to formulate them in an optimal way to favor their bioavailability into the skin.

In a more global approach of skin aging and in an objective to reach new performance, L’Oreal Research was interested in the use of alternative non invasive technologies as various types of energies or stimuli to induce skin rejuvenation. In this context, researchers have studied the answer of skin cells to mechanical stimuli. The massage-device presented below shows that mechanical forces influence cell behavior: using proper frequencies, skin cells show immediate responsiveness to mechanical stimulation by inducing the expression of structural proteins involved in the biology of skin aging. Clinical trial revealed that twice daily use of the skin-massage device visibly improved aging signs including wrinkles, fine lines and sagging across the face, neck and decollete.

Inducing cells behaviour changes with mechanical stimulus

Mechanobiology means subjecting a biological tissue and hence its cells to mechanical stimuli and observing how they behave. Stress can mean pressure, twisting or pulling. Indeed, mechanical signals influence the biological development of tissues and organs: physical forces can promote cells development, influence their physiology or cause illness. This happens via a process called mechanotransduction, whereby cells incorporate the mechanical signals and convert them into biochemical ones. Changes in cells environment lead them to adjust their internal structure and cytoskeleton in order to adapt external stimuli and lead to visible morphogenesis modifications. The mechanical constrains modify cell formation and adhesion and influence the development of tissue structure. Almost all organs respond to mechanical forces by increasing stiffness in direct proportion to applied mechanical stress.

With cells environment changes, there is a modification of cells cohesion and communication. This process might prevent epithelial cells from spreading and plays a crucial role in tumors invasiveness. While underlying mechanisms, ie. relation between the physical stimulus and the molecular response, are far from being understood, research is interested by using mechanobiology to improve anti-cancer therapies.

At the skin level, previous work showed that mechanical stimulation generates a biological response from fibroblasts. Contraction of cells around a scar facilitates it to close completely and mechanobiology can be used to accelerate wound healing.

The impact of massage, and so mechanical stimuli, on the temperature of the body, blood circulation, muscle strength and the nervous system have all been explored, but very little is known on the impact of mechanical stresses on the structure or biology of the skin, and none at all on skin aging.

Strengthening of dermal matrix

Skin aging is mainly due to internal and external factors that impact the production of proteins in the extracellular matrix. This leads to damage to the collagen and elastic fibers network and degradation of the dermal-epidermal junction quality and elastic properties of the dermis. In adults, the gradual deterioration in the elastic fibers is not counterbalanced by the renewal of functional fibers and in term this process leads to the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles on the skin, loss of elasticity and firmness.

Knowing the potential impact of mechanical stimuli on cells behaviors, L’Oreal searchers have developed a massage instrument, for routine use and evaluate its ability to improve skin aging signs. They found that an oscillatory mechanical stimulus exerted upon the skin surface can induce changes in the expression of some aging markers. In an ex vivo study ie. using excised skin samples maintained alive, they found that by treating skin twice a day for 1 minute with a specific massage device, they induced a strengthening of the dermal-epidermal junction as shown by the higher rate of expression in structural proteins such as collagen 7, laminin 5 and perlecan. The massaging procedure also clearly led to an increase in the extracellular matrix with an improvement of fibronectin and procollagen 1 expression. Altogether these results show an anti-aging response of skin cells submitted to a mechanical stimulus.

A bespoke massage-device

Based on above results, L’Oreal searchers designed a bespoke prototype skin massage device and optimized it to define the best combination between mechanical stress type and intensity and head shape.

Research started by identifying the optimal stimulation required to slow aging. Best results were obtained using a stimulator that emitted surface vibrations, generating 9000 micromassages per minute. All the difficulty of this research work was to identify the optimal frequency of stimulation allowing obtaining the best positive antiaging effect. A whole frequency range of oscillation was so tested on skin explants ex vivo, going from 40Hz to 180Hz. The strengthening of the dermal-epidermal junction and increase in extracellular matrix production as shown by various biomarkers was obtained at an optimal frequency of 75Hz.

Using ultra-fast ultrasound imaging to study the movement of vibrational waves in the skin, researchers optimized not only the type of mechanical stimulus but also the shape of the device. This allows them to design a specific three-point massage head, calculating the distance between various points of contact to optimize the vibration amplitude within the skin and optimize rejuvenation.

The massage device for skin rejuvenation has been designed by engineers at Clarisonic in collaboration with L’Oreal innovation research teams.

Conclusive results on skin firmness, radiance and sagging

Antiaging benefits of the massage device have been assessed in two major clinical studies. One covered two groups of women aged between 65 and 75, using either a cream alone, either a cream with the device twice a day for eight weeks. The evaluation was done by an independent expert in a double-blind study using a global aging atlas for lines and texture. Evaluation was performed on different body zones: cheeks, lip contours, neck and décolleté. The results were completed by instrumental measurement and a self-assessment survey for volunteers’ perceived efficacy. The second study involved two groups of women aged between 45 and 65 for 12 weeks. Skin aging was evaluated by measuring 15 signs of aging, including firmness, radiance, sagging, facial lines and softness of the skin around the face, neck and décolleté.

Among both clinical studies, best anti-aging results were obtained when cream was used alongside the massage device. All data converge on a visible improvement in the signs of aging and in particular: firmness and slackening of the face and the neck.

We assume that changes in skin physiology and mechanical properties can be supported by the concomitant increased expression of dermal-epidermal junction proteins and elastin fibers.


Mechanobiology is paving a completely new path for cosmetic anti-aging strategies. Astounding results are possible to achieve with a simple noninvasive daily routine. Effects are visible immediately and increase after 12 weeks. Similar to a face-lift, these performances are the fruit of groundbreaking research into the effect of mechanical stimuli on skin cell regeneration.  The strengthening of the dermal-epidermal junction and increase in extracellular matrix structural proteins, following regular cyclic mechanical stimulations  lead to improve several signs of skin aging, in particular the elasticity and firmness of skin around the edges of the face.

These results are only a first stage in a thorough work to understand better the impact of various stimuli on the skin. It is about a first concrete application in the field of the mechanobiology and this new approach opens a new field in skin rejuvenation. It is likely that in the future new noninvasive approaches of skin antiaging can be suggested, using other types of physical or energy, only stimulations or in association with active biological ingredients. With every time as objective to push farther the performance to reach high antiaging efficacy levels without invasive surgery or aesthetic procedure.


Ingber DE (2006) Cellular mechanotransduction:putting all the pieces together afain. FASEB J 20:811-827.doi:10.1096/fj.05-542rev PMID:16675838

Khan S, Sheetz MP (1997) Force effects on biochemical kinetics. Annu Rev Biochem 66:785-805.doi:10;1146/annurev.biochem.661.785 PMID:9242924

Caberlotto E,Ruiz L,Miller Z, Poletti M, Tadlock L (2017) Effects of  a skin-massaging device on theex-vivo expression of human dermis proteins and n-vivofacial wrinkles. PLoS ONE 12(3):e0172624.doi:101371/journal.pone.0172624.

Author: Jacques Leclaire is Scientific Director, International Research & Innovation, L’Oreal Group. 

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