Droplette. Well, I'm impressed.
Updated: Jan 2
When I first learned about the Droplette in late December my initial thought was 'yippee, another new skincare gadget!!' I'll be honest, I love the intersection of skincare and technology and I'm quick to click the 'buy now' button when I think the innovation might be promising. I'd estimate that I evaluate a few dozen products in the 'skin tech' category each year, I actually trial about half that many - only a handful of which make it into my content.
I'm here to tell you that the Droplette is exceptional. It is an example of technology truly changing the face of skincare. I'll let you read the company website for the full story, but essentially the Droplette has been developed by Madhavi Gavini and Rathi Srinivas (female MIT trained, no less) to address a serious skin disorder called epidermolysis bullosa (EB). EB, a condition that disproportionally effects children, causes the skin to blister and is extremely painful - especially when touched. Their goal was to find a way to treat patients with critical medicines that needed to reach deep layers of the skin - without having to actually touch the skin. After several years spent researching, testing, prototyping and perfecting, the team had a solution that would successfully deliver drugs (and other actives) deep into the dermal layer of the skin without touching the skin or disturbing its barrier. Once they mastered the delivery of critical medicines via Droplette, using the technology to help penetrate skincare ingredients must have seemed like child's play!
WHAT IS DROPLETTE?
Getting key ingredients where they can do their magic
To put it in the most simplistic terms, Droplette uses physics to deliver select ingredients deep into the dermal layer of your skin. A combination of exceptional velocity and miniaturization of drops enables what appears to be a 'fine mist' do the job only previously possible with invasive needles. That job? Penetrating the skin's barrier to get key ingredients to where they need to be (not resting on the surface of the skin.). Watch my recent YouTube video on Repairing a Compromised Skin Barrier if you want to know more about what an amazing barrier your skin presents to ensure the wrong things don't penetrate to deeper layers.
If you've followed me any length of time, you know how passionate I am about cosmetic needling (microneedling at depths up to 0.3mm). One reason I love cosmetic needling is that it helps increase cellular crosstalk, effectively encouraging cells to communicate better with each other. The other reason I love cosmetic needling is that it helps infuse products into the epidermis; increasing hydration and the ability of those ingredients to perform their respective actions (whether they're addressing pigmentation, inflammation, or overall cellular turnover, etc.) Cosmetic needling's ability to provide conduits in the skin to help irrigate actives is key to why it gives us glowing and healthier skin over time. In my mind, cosmetic needling is an excellent way to boost the effectiveness of active ingredients. But now it has some competition in this space. Big time.
Cosmetic needling gets us through the stratum corneum into the epidermis. As we're not bleeding, the risk of infection is minimal (although good hygiene is key.) Penetrating the epidermal layer with actives can really charge their effectiveness.
The Droplette gets us deeper. How much deeper? There's some variability here depending on different factors. But for sure ingredients in the Droplette capsule get past the stratum corneum and down 20 cell layers through the epidermis and into the dermis. What's more impressive is that Droplette's studies show that those ingredients can permeate cell membranes without damaging them. And because all of this is done so swiftly (and gently!), there is absolutely no time for degradation of ingredients; active ingredients reach their 'target' within the skin cells within a fraction of a second. Without pain or risk of infection.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Droplette effectively has two 'cool factors'. Firstly there's the device's ability to squeeze down or 'miniaturize' molecules so that ingredients that were formerly left on the surface of the stratum corneum are now small enough to get through, with integrity intact. Secondly is the device's engine that creates the most gentle yet mindbogglingly powerful velocity that pushes the droplets into the ideal layers in the skin. Picture a 'bullet' of skincare magic so tiny and stealth being projected into the right levels skin without any sensation or damage. That's Droplette.
As mentioned above, Droplette's ability to permeate the skin and deliver the right products to the right place involves two key processes:
Piezoelectric Transducer (a.k.a. Piezo)
The Piezo (sounds like something I'd order at a café in Rome!!) takes the first step in miniaturizing the drops of skincare actives. Effectively it uses a combination of vibrations and forcing the liquid through teeny-tiny holes in a sort of mesh to compete this first stage of the process.
More shrinking and acceleration (big time)
If the Piezo is the opening act of the Droplette's performance, the (less romantically named) Pump is the star of the show. The Pump draws in part of the mist and expels it with high velocity. When this accelerated mist hits your skin, the droplets inside get even smaller. In fact, on impact with skin, Droplette's droplets get approximately 30-50 times smaller than what comes out of the piezo alone due to a 'splash' effect. These smaller droplets are also moving fast and have acceleration - meaning they can work their way through the skin.
And it doesn't stop there - when the pump accelerates the mist, the air flow transforms the droplets into a high-velocity spray to better infuse the contents of the capsules into skin. Additionally, convection from this airflow evaporates some of the water from the droplets, but won’t evaporate the active molecules. Instead, the droplets get more concentrated as they enter your skin - and the more concentrated a droplet is, the more effective diffusion will be within the skin layers. When I started to get my head around this I just stopped and smiled. To think of these two amazing female scientists developing this technology to help stop sick children from feeling pain while they're receiving their medicine. It leaves me feeling quite emotional. And then that they extended this technology so we could take advantage of it in skincare. Goodness if that isn't a (massive) added bonus.
When I first starting using the Droplette I gave all of my attention to the device itself. After all, this little handheld device (shaped like a droplet) easily steals the show; it's the powerhouse of technology that enables the miniaturisation and velocity that gets ingredients in safely to the right place.
But after a few weeks I started to pay more attention to the capsules, named simply for their star ingredients: Collagen, Retinol and Glycolic acid. But don't let their names fool you - these are not simplistic combinations of 'off-the-shelf' actives neatly encased in a tiny capsule. In fact, each capsule has been carefully formulated by dermatologists to achieve specific goals. If you're anything like me, you're wondering if these capsules are recycled. The answer is a resounding YES - I wouldn't be using nor advocating the Droplette if I didn't believe in their strategy to minimize waste (more info below in my FAQ,)
Collagen capsule. The aim of this capsule is twofold: immediate plumping AND lasting stimulation of collagen. I'm not going to beat around the bush, this is my favorite Droplette capsule. You may have heard that collagen is a HUGE molecule, so not possible to 'infuse' into the dermis. Until now. The plumping bit comes from the ingredient Oceanic collagen which has a much higher water uptake and binding capacity than other forms of collagen. Need barrier improvement? Enter sodium PCA: a wonderful ingredient that is part of our natural moisturizing factor (NMF) and a profound humectant. How about an antioxidant that is a favorite of mine? That would be sodium ascorbyl phosphate and it's also in the collagen capsule. There are so many ingredients that I love in this gem. Then we have peptides to do some signalling work to prompt new collagen generation and turmeric to combat inflammation. TIP: you can run a capsule twice to get your neck and hands or double down on areas of concern (hello under eyes). This ensures that every last drop of the capsule is expressed. Phew! Now that's an ingredient deck I LOVE!
Retinol capsule. This capsule is perhaps the most straight-forward of the three. Its aim is to infuse your dermis with regular doses of retinol. We know that retinol (like other forms of Vitamin A) is fat soluble and has a low enough molecular size that it can actually penetrate the stratum corneum without too much trouble. So why use Droplette to deliver your retinol? If you've ever used retinol you may very well have experienced a dryness and irritation that comes hand-in-hand with vitamin A products (there's even a name for it retinoidization.) The Droplette retinol capsule delivers its key ingredient alongside a serious infusion of the calming cohorts in addition to marine collagen for the plumping effect.
* Note how the dehydration caused by the retinol actually worsened the appearance of forehead lines in Droplette's study
Glycolic acid capsule.
The Glycolic Acid has such a good mix of ingredients. You have salicylic and glycolic acids to encourage cell turnover and stimulate collagen. Add to that peptides to signal the generation of new collagen. And add to that aloe and glycerine for their soothing properties. This capsule is amazing for people who suffer from acne but also as a treatment several times a week to encourage cells to turnover and keep the skin glowing.
* As mentioned above, I think the Glycolic capsule would be ideal to have on hand to treat breakouts on you or other members of the family.
The common ingredient: Water. Lately I've been reading about some cosmetic manufacturers trying to minimise the amount of water in their products in order to reduce shipping/storage cost and to deliver a more concentrated product to consumers. I applaud any effort to reduce our carbon footprint. Interestingly, however, water in the Droplette capsules is your best friend. Why's that? Unlike the water in serums and toners, the H20 in Droplette capsules actually gets into your skin. I mean right into your skin. The technology described above doesn't just send actives into the deep levels of your dermis, it also delivers that thing we all crave so much as we get older; hydration. And that hydration isn't transient - Droplette's studies show that the hydration is maintained in the skin for upwards of four hours.
HOW DO I USE DROPLETTE?
I use the collagen every morning - I love the glow I get without any weight whatsoever. I do proceed with my regular skincare...My pigment inhibitors and hydrators, my fermented serums (hello galactomyces and bifida and their relatives...), moisturizer and sunscreen. Once or twice a week I will use the glycolic capsule and skip any other AHA I might have used. I do still occasionally use an AHA in toner or masque form - that's a different type of exfoliation for me. I still use enzyme masques and, of course, I always wear sunscreen. Two to three nights a week I add the Droplette retinol capsule to my routine. I layer on my regular skincare but I do see how this could replace a retinoid for many people who use retinol.
Here's the thing: It's FUN to use. I can tell I have treated my skin. I look forward to it - and the little ritual has created even more incentive to do my skincare, which is wonderful. Something I think is worth noting: the glycolic capsule could be used as in a "treatment cycle" (this is my thinking not theirs) where you use it for a period of time to exfoliate and then set that capsule aside until the next time. It could also be used as a treatment for a breakout, with usage being complete when the skin clears. There are many ways to get creative with this device. I would say if I had to choose just ONE capsule it would be collagen. This will be different for everyone obviously but I think it's important to know that each capsule is a powerhouse in its own right.
THE FUTURE OF DROPLETTE
I've been lucky enough to have the chance to talk at length to the Droplette founders. While their passion is in the therapeutic application of their technology, they're also dedicated to making the Droplette useful to everybody. In the short term they'll be releasing new capsules including ones to address rosacea and pigmentation (yippee!) and have impressive plans to release a range of capsules to tackle most any skincare issue you might experience in your family (think eczema, psoriasis, etc) I am so excited to have this amazing new tool at my disposal and also to watch Madhavi, Rathi and their team expand the applications Droplette in the future.
I'm sure you can tell that I love Droplette. I think it represents a stunning engineering feat that is changing skincare today and into the future. And I love that the company is run by crazy smart women of color.
Note: The Droplette is an investment - I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. It won't fit into everybody's budget, for sure. But I don't think it's overpriced. Droplette has been in development for over six years. The company is made up of a small team of extremely devoted, highly educated, intelligent and hardworking people. The technology was born to solve critical healthcare problems. This is not a trend nor a toy. It's a serious device that has years of investment in research, prototyping and testing behind it. While it certainly won't fit into everybody's budget I do feel that it offers an exceptional value for those who can afford it. (This article chronicles their story six years ago)
DISCOUNT CODE: Code Penn75off for $75 off your first order
Empty Droplette capsules can be sent back to the company with the handy postage pre-paid bag provided. The Droplette team are spending great energy formulating the most sophisticated, environmentally friendly way to reuse/recycle their cartridges.
*This is not a sponsored post.
Q. The Droplette website says that 90% of our skincare gets ‘sloughed off’, does that mean I’m wasting my money with topical skincare products?
A. My answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ Topical skincare products have so much value. I won’t go into it all here, but there are several reasons we WANT skincare to stay on top. We need to hydrate the stratum corneum to keep our skin looking fresh. We need occlusives to keep the moisture in - those sit on top. We also need SPF to sit on the outermost layer of our skin. Additionally, some ingredients DO penetrate the barrier well. Finally, skincare products have ingredients added to help product penetration, or technologies that ‘enrobe’ key ingredients to get them in deeper and more in-tact (think liposomes). So while the Droplette is incredibly impressive at getting ingredients in deep, it certainly will not stop me from using my other favorite skincare products that have been helping me keep my skin in great condition.
Q. How is using Droplette different to misting my face with a toner filled with active ingredients?
I love some of my spray-based skincare, including NIOD SIOD, Le Mieux Iso Cell Recovery Solution, my fulvic acid mist, and a new find from Drunk Elephant (more on that soon!) and several ‘essence’ type products. These have humectant and antioxidant values that are perfect for reaching more superficial skin layers.
Q. Can I put my existing skincare in to the Droplette capsules?
A. No, absolutely not. For a few reasons; the first reason is that the contents of Droplette’s capsules were designed for purpose. That means they have the right ingredients - ones that were expressly chosen to be projected into the deeper skin levels - and none that should not be there. It also means that the liquid inside the Droplette capsules has the right viscosity to be turned into droplets and projected properly deep into skin layers. Finally, the contents of the capsules are designed not to harm the device itself.
Q. I want to buy just one pack of capsules but it looks like I’m only able to buy into a subscription.
A. The company is only selling capsules on subscription at this time. The good news is that you can add/delete/change what’s on your subscription at any time.
Q. How far from the face do you hold Droplette?
A. A few centimeters or about a half an inch is perfect.
Q. Is Droplette available outside the US?
A. At this time Droplette is only available in the United States. I know they’re working to get a broader reach and they mentioned Canada was first on their list.
Q. Do I need to worry about inhaling Droplette serums?
A. This is directly from the Droplette team:
"While we understand the concern with our mist so close to the nose and mouth, we are confident that ingredients infused via Droplette don't reach the lungs. We have done exhaustive studies with cascade impaction (essentially trying to get ingredients into the lungs!) where we have subjects inhale Droplette-emitted ingredient mists directly into an open mouth for a full minute, and no significant change was detected in the lungs at all. This is because: 1) we don't use chemical propellants or accelerants under high pressure in our system, which can be harmful (our system is mechanical only), and 2) our droplets are so tiny and water based that they can't travel long distances -- they evaporate too easily. So, with intended usage (closed mouths), the risk level is very, very low. The worst case scenario is that you will be hydrating the skin inside your nose."
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Disclaimer: This post is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Content provided on this blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or skin related diagnosis or treatment options. Information on this website should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare/skin professional. The statements made about specific products throughout this website are not to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. It is important that you check labels to determine if a product is right for you. Before starting any treatment at home consult a health care or skin care professional to determine if it’s right for you.
For more answers to commonly asked questions, have a look at my recent video where i record a talk with the Droplette founders.
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