Vaseline's new intensive care cream with Thalaspheres can make your skin feel younger looking and up to 60% smoother” - Product claim from a UK TV commercial.

This product is a small clear plastic jar containing a transparent gooey aqueous gel. Within the tiny jar are suspended thousands of sub-millimetre sized blue gelatinous granules. When applied to the skin these granules dis-integrate and merge with the rest of the goo. These tiny blobs are a cosmetic technology marketed as 'Thalaspheres'. They are made by a process patented by Coletica, a French cosmetics research company.

You can find a British patent application for this technology as GB – 2 376 227 A. The patent is called 'Coated Water-insoluble particles'.

Whilst they provide no obvious benefit to the consumer, they have important properties to the manufacturer – it's actually quite difficult to formulate the blobs in such a way that they suspend evenly without dissolving, so they are a feature that only more expensive skin products can afford. Like fancy packaging, manufacturers can use marketing to accentuate the perceived value of these otherwise insignificant points of difference. In a market place where most skin-care product formulations that are all variations around well known themes, a small difference combined with effective marketing campaign allows a company to charge more for a product.

Thalaspheres can be coloured to indicate their presence in a product. They allow the encapsulation of small quantities of substances. The only recorded use of this technology is in the cosmetics market where Thalaspheres are used to contain small quantities of substances like collagen or Retinol (unrefined vitamin A). Both of these substances are stable at room-temperature and therefore there is no strict need to separate them out from the rest of the material (other than to create a point of difference).

Quite how any product could claim any benefits (other than appearance) from the inclusion of Thalaspheres is unknown to me. I'm not sure how they claim to measure skin smoothness? As far as I know there is no commonly available apparatus or scale for measurement of skin smoothness – it's entirely subjective.

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