A team of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) researchers have developed a 'smart' fabric which can boost the effects of face masks produced by beauty companies. FacialSwitch can release components, such as vitamins C or E or aloe vera, when the temperature reaches 36 degrees Celsius, or normal body temperature, after being applied. 'The fabric is made of hydrogel, which is temperature sensitive. It can absorb large amounts of liquid at low temperatures and release the liquid and the nutrients when the temperature goes up to 36 degrees Celsius,' said Hu Jinlian, who leads the group of researchers at PolyU's Institute of Textile and Clothing (ITC). 'FacialSwitch also has an anti-bacterial function because it contains chitosan, which can heal skin problems. The fabric can be also used as wound dressing.' Chitosan is an ingredient extracted from the shells of shellfish, such as crabs and shrimps, and from the bones of cuttlefish. Professor Hu said the new material feels comfortable on delicate skin. 'I use different types of face masks and most of them are too sticky and watery. They make you feel uncomfortable,' she said. 'But FacialSwitch is different. It actually feels like applying gel on your face. 'It also preserves ingredients much better, avoiding unnecessary waste of expensive ingredients during packing and storage. 'Moreover, FacialSwitch was developed using our patented shape memory fabric technology, so it can resume its original shape and can be used repeatedly.' Funded by the Research Grants Council, her team has filed several patent applications for the new technology. Research student Liu Baohua, who is working on the project supervised by Professor Hu, has won the Best Original Paper Award and the Herman and Myrtle Goldstein Student Paper Competition organised by the US-based Fibre Society and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colourists, respectively. Professor Hu said the ITC is hoping to work together with beauty products manufacturers to produce face masks using FacialSwitch. 'A piece of FacialSwitch of the size of a human face costs less than $5 to make. We hope to work with beauty companies to introduce face masks made from FacialSwitch to the market,' she said. 'But as an education institute, we have no plans at the moment to launch our own face masks.'