Ingredient highlight – amino acids

Amino acids might not be on your skincare radar. However, due to their nature, they are critical for our skin health. What are amino acids, and how do they benefit the skin? Should you include them in your routine?

What are amino acids?

Considered the building blocks in our bodies, amino acids are imperative for our survival. They are an essential component of protein production. Likewise, they play an indispensable part in metabolic processes and chemical reactions in our bodies. As such, they are a vital component, important for both our general health and skin health.
There are two groups of amino acids – essential and non-essential. Don’t let the names fool you – our bodies need all of the amino acids to function.

There are nine essential amino acids. Our bodies can’t produce essential amino acids, and they have to be ingested from food. Essential amino acids include leucine, lysine, isoleucine, threonine, tryptophan, histidine, methionine, valine, and phenylalanine. Animal protein and animal by-products are the primary sources of essential amino acids (poultry, fish, dairy, for example). Some vegan products like soy also include amino acids.

Our bodies produce non-essential amino acids. These include tyrosine, glutamic acid, glutamine, asparagine, aspartic acid, alanine, arginine, glycine, cysteine, serine, and proline.
There are also conditional amino acids (which fall under the non-essential category) that our bodies produce in specific circumstances. Our bodies will produce conditional amino acids if we suffer from certain auto-immune diseases, if we are ill, or stressed.

What are the benefits of amino acids for the skin?

Because amino acids are such an integral part of the chemical processes in our bodies, they are vital for the state of our skin.
Several amino acids are a part of Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF). Found in the uppermost layers of the skin, they are a part of the process that hydrates the skin and increases water retention. They are responsible for keeping our moisture barrier functioning at its optimum.

Another benefit is that certain amino acids act as antioxidants and make our skin strong. They protect it against environmental stressors like pollution and UV light and signal the skin to produce antioxidants.

Amino acids promote healing and cell repair as well as prevent new damage. Several amino acids help minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Peptides are another fab skincare ingredient present in many products. They are made up of shorter chains of amino acids and have some outstanding benefits for the skin.

Amino acids boost the efficacy of other ingredients in skincare products (like ceramides and Hyaluronic acid, for example).

How to incorporate amino acids into your routine?

Since essential amino acids are ingested from food, your diet needs to include their dietary source. But there are skin benefits from applying amino acids in topical products. Since they are such a vital part of our bodies, a majority of people will tolerate them. However, if you plan to include a new product into your routine, patch test first.

Some amino acids to look for in the ingredient list would include:

  • lysine (for improved hydration and collagen production),
  • proline, lysine, and leucine (reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles)
  • glutamine and glycine (speed up the healing process)
  • arginine (a part of the collagen production process that increases cell turnover).
Roberta Striga