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Microencapsulated skincare: Do You Really Need It?

Our bodies are so complex that even after years of study, we don’t fully understand most of the processes that happen in our skin. This makes it hard to know the exact product that will work for our various skin issues. Emerging technologies like microencapsulated skincare are now changing the game. 

Despite the huge number of skincare products in stores, most are moisturizers that contain added ingredients to support marketing claims. You can’t grab a bottle of an insta-famous serum and expect it to do exactly what it says on the bottle. You have to determine your skin type and research to find suitable products to treat your skin issues. 

Luckily, microencapsulation allows you to better treat skin issues by delivering ingredients to areas where it is needed. In this article, I will explain the types and benefits of microencapsulated skincare to help you decide whether to buy.

But first

What is microencapsulation?

Microencapsulation is a process whereby a solid or liquid is coated or stored within a shell, membrane or material for protection or later release. We need these benefits in cosmetics and personal care products, which contain active ingredients that are unstable and can easily break down. When this happens, these ingredients lose effectiveness and the product might spoil. Thus, microencapsulated skincare can solve the current challenges that ingredients face in products.

Table of Contents

How does microencapsulation fit in the skincare industry?

For many years, people have yearned to enjoy the full potential of ingredients in cosmetics, but advances in skincare technology haven’t made this possible yet. Most of the skincare ingredients face challenges that affect how well they work. 

Some can’t go beyond your skin surface while some are sensitive to factors such as light, pH and temperature. For example, it is still common to see the disappointing yellow colour in Vitamin C serum, which shows that it has oxidized after a few weeks of use. 

There is an immense demand for more effective and sustainable products so cosmetic formulators need to continue coming up with ways to allow products to overcome the current challenges. Technological advances like microencapsulation are making it possible to create encapsulated skincare, which is more effective and stable.

How are microencapsulated skincare formulations made?

Do you remember why double-cleansing became so popular? Well, it is because of this simple chemistry fact “like dissolves like— it means that water-based ingredients will dissolve water-based ingredients and oil-based ingredients will dissolve oil-based ingredients. This also applies to microencapsulated skincare products i.e. water-based actives need water-based coating and oil-based actives need oil-based coating. Keep reading to learn more about the microencapsulated skincare formulations.

microencapsulation: diagram of a microcapsule

Microcapsules are small capsules with a size that ranges from 1 micro - few millimetres and they are formed when microencapsulation occurs.

There are various techniques for making microencapsulated skincare and here are the 2 common ones:

  • Solvent extraction: The active ingredient (i.e. core material) is first mixed with a polymer dispersed in a volatile organic solvent (e.g. chloroform, dichloromethane). Next, oil with stabilizers and continuous phase with emulsifiers are added to the active-polymer mixture. When the resulting solution is added as drops into a stirring aqueous solution, it forms small droplets (microcapsules) with a shell covering the core material. The organic solvent is removed using pressure or heat so that the capsules can harden.
microencapsulated skincare technique: solvent extraction
  • Spray drying. First, the core material (ingredient to be encapsulated) is mixed with the solvent containing shell material. Next, the resulting mixture is put into a spray dryer — this is a machine that uses hot air to remove solvent before encapsulating the core inside the shell to produce small particles.
microencapsulated skincare technique: spray drying

Examples of shell materials for oil-soluble ingredients

Ingredients like vitamin D, retinoids are soluble in oil. Hence, the shell material can be:

  • Protein: soy proteins, casein, albumin, gelatin 
  • Gums: alginate, Arabic, carrageenan
  • Lipids: beeswax, oils, phospholipids, stearic acid
  • Silicones: dimethicone, etc

Examples of shell materials for water-soluble ingredients

Ingredients like vitamin C are soluble in water. In this case, the shell material can be:

  • Carbohydrates: dextran, starch, sucrose
  • Cellulose: carboxymethyl-cellulose, methylcellulose
  • Gums: alginate, Arabic, carrageenan
  • Silicones: dimethicone, etc.
microencapsulated skincare: single-dose skincare capsules

Benefits of microencapsulated skincare ingredients

Here are the 10 amazing reasons why microencapsulated skincare products should be in your next shopping list: 

  1. Stability: microencapsulated ingredients are more stable because of the shell that prevents their exposure to other ingredients or environmental factors. For instance, vitamin C works wonders on the skin, but it is highly unstable. Research studies have proven that microencapsulated vitamin C has a longer shelf life and improved skin penetration.
  2. Two in a pod: some active ingredients can’t be in the same product because of their incompatibility. For example, two popular antioxidants such as niacinamide (vitamin B3) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can’t be present in the same serum because both need different pH to work well. This is now possible with encapsulation technology. The two antioxidants can now be in the same product since each will be in its own capsule.
  3. Right quantity: pre-dosed skincare capsules hold the exact amount of product that your skin needs talk about single-dose beauty. This takes out the guessing game and you won’t have to worry about using too much or too little. Your expensive serum will also last longer.
  4. Better penetration: research has shown that only molecules with moderate lipophilicity and molecular mass (<500 Da) can penetrate the skin. However, some active cosmetic ingredients are too lipophilic or hydrophilic to go beyond the skin surface. Microencapsulated skincare ingredients that contain suitable shell material won’t face this problem because they have the level of lipophilicity to travel down the skin layers. 
  5. Long-lasting: volatile ingredients like essential oils, alcohol in cosmetics can vanish when the bottle isn’t closed tightly. Microencapsulation boosts the longevity of these ingredients by lessening their exposure to air, reducing the rate of evaporation. 
  6. Targeted treatment: Encapsulation protects the core (active ingredients) from the surrounding environment until it is ready for use. This allows controlled and targeted release of ingredients to a specific area of the skin only when needed.  
  7. Hygienic: you don’t have to dip your fingers into a jar each time you use a cream or lotion, and this reduces the risk of contaminating it. You can easily grab a capsule and break it into your palm when you want to use it. 
  8. Gentler formulations: the use of some products can lead to skin sensitivity and irritation. For example, salicylic acid is an effective treatment for acne, but it can irritate the skin and cause dryness or breakouts. When encapsulated in liposomes, it is possible to control/reduce its release over time and this makes it gentler on the skin. 
  9. Environmental friendly: going green is the way forward, and the materials for some microcapsule shells are biodegradable. So you don’t have to worry about adding to the waste in your environment. 
  10. Compact: Depending on the packaging, a jar of skincare capsules is portable and you can take it anywhere. You can even take few capsules and put them in a small jar/box like people often do with meds.

Key takeaway

Microencapsulation is changing the skincare industry there are improvements in the benefits of products like we always wanted. Now, you can buy better skincare products with long-lasting results without spending thousands.  

Now that you have read all about microencapsulated skincare products, what are your thoughts about them? Will you try them? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Casanova, F. and Santos, L., 2015. Encapsulation of cosmetic active ingredients for topical application – a review. Journal of Microencapsulation, 33(1), pp.1-17.
  2. Ghosh, S., 2006. Functional Coatings And Microencapsulation: A General Perspective.. 1st ed. Weinheim, FRG: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, pp.2-25.
  3. Bee, S., Hamid, Z., Mariatti, M., Yahaya, B., Lim, K., Bee, S. and Sin, L., 2018. Approaches to Improve Therapeutic Efficacy of Biodegradable PLA/PLGA Microspheres: A Review. Polymer Reviews, 58(3), pp.495-536.
  4. Turner, E., 2020. Drone Technology And Micro-Encapsulation: How Skincare Got SO Much Smarter. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 July 2020].
  5. Judd, D., 2017. Microencapsulation-How It’s Changing Skincare – Harley Street Emporium. [online] Harley Street Emporium. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 July 2020].
  6. Ejollify. 2020. Microencapsulated Skincare Ingredients, The Complete Guide. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 July 2020].
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