Donna Tozzi, R.N., B.S.N., believes amino acids are the key to maintaining skin health. Tozzi, an aesthetician and aesthetic nurse who has worked in plastic surgery practices in the U.S. since the 1990s, has so much faith in the power of amino acids that she devoted her career in recent years to developing and patenting the Tozzi Peptide Injectable, an aesthetic medical injectable product that isn’t yet available on the U.S. market. It features amino acid actives in an aqueous solution that providers inject into the dermis to improve skin tone and quality, she says.
Amino acids stimulate fibroblast cells, according to Tozzi.
“It’s like giving nutrition for the fibroblast cells to produce collagen and elastin. Amino acids also have wonderful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” Tozzi says.
Amino acids help build dermal density, increase skin brightness, provide defenses from environmental hazards and improve skin hydration. They can be used on the face, neck, cleavage, décolleté and backs of the hands. Amino acids are classified as organic compounds and are safe for the skin because they’re natural. They don’t cause allergic reactions, she says.
Among many topical cosmeceuticals, amino acids are a key active. They’re the building blocks of protein and an important component in what’s known as skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF), according to Paula Begoun, founder of Paula's Choice Skincare.
“In skincare products such as toners, serums, eye creams and moisturizers, amino acids play a vital role in maintaining skin’s ideal levels of hydration. They do this by acting as ‘conductors,’ working with proteins in skin known as aquaporins. Amino acids help aquaporins transport water throughout skin’s layers…,” Begoun responds in an email to The Aesthetic Channel.
A secondary benefit is that amino acids can stimulate the production of glutathione.
“Sun damage, blue light and air pollution steadily deplete skin’s supply of this antioxidant, but amino acids (and daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen, of course) can help revive it! Amino acids go beyond hydration to also strengthen skin’s environmental defenses,” she writes.
While all 20 amino acids play a role in creating and maintaining smooth, healthy, younger-looking skin, there are some that have more specialized roles making them even more desirable to see in skincare products, she writes.
- Arginine plays a role in repairing visible skin damage
- Histidine has antioxidant ability and can soothe skin.
- Methionine neutralizes damaging substances before they can harm skin.
- Lysine helps visibly firm skin’s surface by reinforcing its supportive elements.
- Proline, leucine and glycine diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
Skin recognizes amino acids and knows how to put them to use, according to Begoun.
“As a group of ingredients, there isn’t necessarily a special delivery system or base formula needed, it just needs to penetrate skin’s uppermost layers, which most leave-on skin care products can do,” she writes. “Interestingly, research has shown that synthetic amino acids often have greater hydrating ability than animal- or plant-derived amino acids.”
Injectable amino acid delivery takes amino acid skin benefits to the next level, according to Tozzi.
A sampling of the science behind amino acids in skincare
There is science behind the use of amino acid active ingredients in skincare and cosmeceuticals. Begoun recommends these published papers:
Yamamoto E, Akimoto T, Hirano Y, Yasui M, Yasuoka K. 1/ f Fluctuations of
amino acids regulate water transportation in aquaporin 1. Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin
Soft Matter Phys. 2014 Feb;89(2):022718. Epub 2014 Feb 21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25353519
Lu SC. GLUTATHIONE SYNTHESIS. Biochimica et biophysica acta. 2013;1830(5):3143-3153. doi:10.1016/j.bbagen.2012.09.008.
Arezki NR, Williams AC, Cobb AJA, Brown MB. Design, synthesis and characterization of linear unnatural amino acids for skin moisturization. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2017;39(1):72-82. doi:10.1111/ics.12351.