We talked about peptides, the short chains of amino acids needed for building proteins like collagen and elastin. But we never mentioned what amino acids are, and it’s about time as these are definitely worth a spot in our beauty routines, whatever the skin type or age. A good dose of amino acids addresses wrinkles, skin repair, hydration, and way more. By the end of this post, you’ll know the science behind it, why amino acids are keepers and what are the best amino acids for skin.
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are molecules that serve as building blocks of proteins, including collagen, elastin, and keratin, and have a role in all biological processes in the body, like breaking down food and repairing skin. Of all 20 types of amino acids, nine are considered essential because the body can’t make them on its own (so you must take them from foods), and eleven are nonessential, meaning the body produces them. Since amino acids are critical for the body to function, it makes sense to say they benefit the skin, too. And it’s all science-backed.
Essential amino acids
Amino acids skin benefits
This is how amino acids benefit your skin:
Promote skin repair
Foremost, the amino acids we have in the skin are needed for skin structure as they combine to form proteins essential for firmness and elasticity. Amino acids are vital nutrients in the skin that promote tissue repair, prevent transepidermal water loss, protect against sun damage and maintain an optimal pH. This translates into less dryness, fewer pimples, and less visible fine lines and wrinkles.
UV damage, sudden temperature changes, and conditions like atopic dermatitis can reduce the moisture in the skin and consequently the number of amino acids too. The amino acids that make up the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) of the skin include serine, alanine, and glycine, and it has been found that when these are applied to the skin, they sink in, increasing moisture and mitigating dryness.
When applied topically, amino acids penetrate deep into the skin, plumping and increasing moisture retention. For this reason, amino acids work synergistically with humectants to deliver hydration and retain moisture.
Acts like antioxidants
“Seven amino acids, including tryptophan, methionine, histidine, lysine, cysteine, arginine and tyrosine, called antioxidative amino acids, were greater in total antioxidative capacity than the other 13 amino acids.”
Since amino acids serve as building collagen, they are great at supporting collagen regeneration and production, leading to less visible wrinkles.
Reduce redness and irritation
Due to amino acids’ ability to increase moisture retention and support collagen production, they work fabulous at calming redness and easing irritation and inflammation.
Side effects of amino acids
No side effects of amino acids have been reported so far, as they are gentle to the skin and are part of the human body. However, it’s wise to do a patch test when adding a new product to your routine because everyone skin’s is different. As a rule of thumb, amino acids are suitable for all skin types, dry, dehydrated, and sensitized-included.
How to use amino acids
You can enjoy the benefits of amino acids in two ways: by taking them from foods or using topical products infused with them. The essential amino acids you can take from foods work to build proteins in the body, so more collagen and elastin. You find amino acids in protein-rich foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, and mushrooms, or quinoa, soybeans, lentils, and nuts in case you’re vegan.
Amino acids are also often used in skincare products and are amazing due to their versatility and how well they team up with most actives. The best amino acids in skincare are arginine, lysine, histidine, glycine, and leucine, and you can generally find them in moisturizers and eye creams that target anti-aging and skin repair.
- Michael J. Lopez; Shamim S. Mohiuddin, National Center for Biology Information, Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids, Last Update: March 18, 2022.
- Solano F. Metabolism and Functions of Amino Acids in the Skin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1265:187-199. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-45328-2_11. PMID: 32761577.
- Xu N, Chen G, Liu H. Antioxidative Categorization of Twenty Amino Acids Based on Experimental Evaluation. Molecules. 2017;22(12):2066. Published 2017 Nov 27. doi:10.3390/molecules22122066