A Japanese cosmetics company has revealed the first skincare line with astronauts in mind. The brand Cosmology, the work of POLA and ANA Holdings, was revealed at the end of August.
The line, which includes a face wash and a lotion, has been adopted by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The products will make their way to the International Space Station (ISS) in the travel bag of JAXA astronaut Kimiya Yui next year, CNN reported.
The project started life as "CosmoSkin" in Sept. 2020, according to POLA, with the aim of developing skincare that can be used comfortably in the extreme conditions of space. In March 2022, JAXA selected the concept to be taken to the ISS as part of its second call for ideas for household goods that solve issues common for people living off Earth.
"Based on the voices of astronauts who have spent time in a restricted environment, we are looking for ideas for new daily necessities that will improve the quality of life in space and help solve problems on the ground," POLA said in a statement.
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A space-based skincare regime is about far more than vanity. According to the European Space Agency (ESA), skin deterioration is one of the major detrimental effects experienced by astronauts in space. This can be a concern because, not only is the skin the largest organ of the human body, it also acts as a protective shield and is highly susceptible to harmful environmental influences.
Skincare products are needed by astronauts. Research has shown that long stays on the ISS dry out the skin, with astronauts returning to Earth reporting burning, itchy, dry and sensitive skin.
These conditions could arise because the environment aboard the ISS stresses and strains the skin. For example, the constant exposure to the space station's ventilation system dries out the skin and makes it prone to scratches and irritation. Additionally, the microgravity of space is theorized to cause skin to thin out, which can speed up the effects of aging.
This won't be the first time that cosmetics have made it to the ISS. But the Cosmology products have been designed with some very specific qualities in mind to help astronauts.
For example, water use is limited on the ISS, so the face wash has been developed in such a way that it can be wiped away without the use of water. The lotion is designed to remain in a semi-solid state, which prevents it from scattering in microgravity.
Consumers who don't want to journey 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the surface of Earth to borrow some of Yui's Cosmology face cream will be pleased to know that smaller versions of the set that the JAXA astronaut will take to the ISS in 2024, called the "Cosmology Space Crew Kit," will be available to buy next month.
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Robert Lea is a science journalist in the U.K. whose articles have been published in Physics World, New Scientist, Astronomy Magazine, All About Space, Newsweek and ZME Science. He also writes about science communication for Elsevier and the European Journal of Physics. Rob holds a bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy from the U.K.’s Open University. Follow him on Twitter @sciencef1rst.