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Arginine for the skin: what are the benefits?

Naturally present in the human body, arginine is an amino acid with various therapeutic virtues. Primarily used as a dietary supplement, it can also be incorporated into cosmetic treatments to promote skin health. Discover in detail the benefits of arginine for the skin here.

Summary
Published April 2, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 5 min read
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An overview of arginine.

As anamino acid, arginine is one of the fundamental units that make up protein constituents. At the cellular level, it is involved in several biological processes, including wound healing, immunity, and cell division. Moreover, arginine is involved in the production of nitric oxide NO, a compound that plays a role in stabilizing blood pressure due to its vasodilating effect. However, although nitric oxide plays a crucial role in maintaining the body's activities, an excessive amount can be harmful to heart health. This is why supplementation with arginine is not recommended for people who have had a heart attack.

This amino acid was first isolated in 1886 from a plant, the yellow lupin, by the German chemist Ernst SCHULZE and his assistant Ernst STEIGER. Thearginine appears as a white powder and can be used to formulate cosmetic products, intended for skin and hair care. In fact, it is one of the most commonly used amino acids in the field of cosmetics.

What are the benefits of arginine for the skin?

  • Arginine to prevent skin sagging?

    Arginine, or L-arginine, is regularly incorporated into products aimed at preventing skin aging because it may have an effect on the suppleness and firmness of the skin. A study conducted on rats recently showed that the topical application of a glycerol solution containing 5, 10, or 15% arginine for fifteen days increased the elasticity of their skin. The most significant difference was observed following the application of the 15% arginine solution. Furthermore, in some mice, an increase in the number of collagen and elastin fibers was observed.

    The mechanism at work is still unclear and poorly understood. Indeed, it has been shown that arginine causes an increase in the activity of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme that induces the production of nitric oxide NO. However, this molecule stimulates theexpression and activation of MMP-1 and MMP-2 in fibroblasts, matrix metalloproteinases responsible for the degradation of extracellular matrix compounds. This mechanism thus contradicts the result of the previously cited study. The authors conclude by hypothesizing that a low dose of arginine can act on fibroblasts and stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin through a post-translational mechanism, without specifying which one.

    Conclusion : It thus appears challenging to determine the effect of arginine on skin aging.

  • Arginine to protect the skin from oxidative stress?

    Formed as a result of prolonged exposure to pollution, tobacco, but especially UV rays, the free radicals are harmful species that can oxidize lipids, proteins, and DNA within cells. They thus cause genetic mutations and, at the skin level, they can be sources of melanomas and carcinomas. Antioxidant molecules help neutralize the effects of free radicals and provide a protective effect for the skin and the body.

    It has been demonstrated that arginine possesses some antioxidant capabilities. A 14-day study conducted on rats revealed a boost in glutathione content, an endogenous antioxidant molecule, following daily administration of 50 mg/100g of body weight. The Nrf2 synthesis pathway, which plays a crucial protective role against oxidative stress, was also upregulated. These findings suggest that arginine availability is a critical factor in suppressing oxidative stress and enhancing the antioxidant response.

    Note : The studies conducted on the antioxidant activity of arginine have been done through oral intake. More research would be necessary to conclude that the use of this amino acid in topical application also has antioxidant effects.

  • Arginine to accelerate skin healing.

    The wound healing process involves numerous factors such as platelets, inflammatory cells, and epithelial cells. They all have one thing in common: they are capable of producing NO, either constitutively or in response to inflammatory cytokines. This plays a significant role in healing, from the inflammatory phase to skin remodeling and has cytostatic, chemotactic, and vasodilatory effects. It has also been shown that NO regulates the proliferation and differentiation of several types of cells and modulates angiogenesis, the process of blood vessel formation. By participating in the production of NO, arginine could contribute to proper skin healing.

    Note : It is important to exercise caution regarding the healing effect of arginine because, to date, this has not been demonstrated in clinical trials.

Sources

  • GAD M. Z. Anti-aging effects of l-arginine. Journal of Advanced Research (2010).

  • MESHRAM A. & SRIVASTAVA N. Diverse potential and pharmacological studies of arginine. Journal of Proteins and Proteomics (2015).

  • FATIMA BORIN M. & et al. The in vivo effect of L-arginine on skin elasticity in mice. Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences (2017).

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