A novel moisturising ceramide extract for a healthy and reinforced skin barrier

Published: 17-Jun-2022

Consumers of all genders and ages are becoming increasingly concerned about the healthy ageing of their skin and more aware of products that offer beauty from within benefits, reports Dr David Daguet, Scientific Director at Vidya Europe

They are also looking for “cosmetic” products that can be quickly and easily consumed on the go, such as foods supplements. Of course, ingredients that are clinically validated will be highly sought after and the trend of people turning to more natural products that contain top-quality constituents continues.

Following the COVID epidemic and the enforced wearing of face masks, a vibrant and healthy looking appearance has taken on even more importance. Many of us recognise that inside-out self-care enables us to look and feel our best, show that we’ve maintained our well-being during the lockdowns and successfully overcome the coronavirus hurdle.

And, with summer coming and a heat wave forecast (another sign of global warming), skin that is particularly sensitive to heat and/or dry air and dust may suffer from a variety of issues, including dry spots, rashes and oiliness.

As a first line of defence, consuming fresh foods, vegetables, fruit and drinking enough water, is advised, as is applying creams with an innovative skin-protecting beauty from within (BFW) ingredient to reinforce the skin barrier. SkinCera is a konjac extract that contains glycosylceramides, a specific grade of natural ceramides.

Konjac has been known in Japan for more than 1500 years; it was first initially to make cakes with a jelly like mouthfeel (konnyaku) and make noodles (shirataki). It’s also used to produce cosmetic sponges to clean and gently exfoliate sensitive skin.

Based on the very long traditional history of konjac in the Gunma province of Japan, Vidya Herbs developed SkinCera, which offers skin health benefits for conditions such as dryness, itching, oiliness, hydration, roughness, hyperpigmentation and fine lines/wrinkles.

Obtained using a gentle extraction process, SkinCera is a good source of orally administer gluten-free ceramides, providing its benefits at a dose of only 100 mg per day.

Our skin is our biggest organ and protects us every day from external stressors. Its other and very important role is to be an effective barrier against water loss. The permeability properties of our skin as a barrier are linked to the stratum corneum and its lipid composition.

The lipid fraction of human stratum corneum comprises 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol and 15% free fatty acids. Ceramides contribute to a complex structure that plays an important role in the cohesion between the various intercellular lipid membranes and water retention.

Because of ageing, weather, factors such as air conditioning, UV, heat and cold, skin conditions including wrinkles, loss of elasticity, age spots, dryness and redness, to name a few, are common issues. These effects directly relate to decreasing levels of skin lipids.

A novel moisturising ceramide extract for a healthy and reinforced skin barrier

Other conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, are also linked to the loss of ceramides in the stratum corneum. For these complaints, phytoceramides such as SkinCera may offer a solution.

Even though the topical application of ceramides may help with moisture regulation, the oral consumption of glycosylceramides represents a more efficient and complementary way to prevent skin water loss. Animal studies show that dietary glycosylceramides are metabolised in the small intestine and found in portal blood after hydrolysis by ceramidases in the gastrointestinal tract.

However, a large proportion of ingested sphingolipids are excreted in the faeces. Further animal studies suggest that, after oral intake, ceramides are metabolised and absorbed.

In mice, for example, orally administered ceramides are metabolised, absorbed and distributed to many tissues, including the skin; from the dermis to the epidermis, they are transferred in an unchanged structural form and further generate glucosylceramides and ceramides by in vivo biosynthesis.

In humans, it’s possible that the orally ingested dietary ceramides may activate the ceramide synthesis in the skin and improve its barrier function — instead of being directly reused by reaching the skin. In comparison with synthetic ceramides used in cosmetic topical formulations, plant-derived ceramides are chemically identical to those found in human skin.

Effects on specific skin enzymes and moisture

SkinCera impacts the activity of three enzymes that regulate specific skin functions: tyrosinase, elastase and collagenase. After molecular docking studies were done to evaluate potential interactions between SkinCera glucosylceramides and these three enzymes, in vitro experiments were conducted.

These studies demonstrated that SkinCera can, dose-dependently, inhibit these three enzymes. Tyrosinase is an oxidase that is involved in melanin synthesis following the appearance of age spots. Elastase and collagenase are enzymes involved in the extracellular matrix. Elastase affects skin elasticity whereas collagenase is involved with mechanical resistance.

The main indicator of an elastase/collagenase imbalance are wrinkles and decrease in firmness. A complementary in vitro experiment (8 h at 35 °C and 40% humidity) demonstrated that SkinCera also improves a product’s moisture ratio by 92%.

Clinically demonstrated efficiency

To evaluate the efficacy of this innovative ingredient, a single-blind placebo-controlled prospective study was done. Fifty healthy volunteers consumed 50 mg of SkinCera twice a day for 6-weeks (with a follow-up period of 3 weeks). A total of eight skin parameters were assessed and the subjects were evaluated by dermatologists during scheduled visits.

The skin parameters were dryness, whiteheads/blackheads, hyperpigmentation, redness, lesions, itching, oiliness and roughness. An overall score was also determined by the dermatologist at the end of the study to characterise the skin health status of each subject. The results showed that

  • dryness significantly improved: 32% of the subjects totally recovered
  • age spots or hyperpigmentation was significantly improved: 32% of the subjects totally recovered and 8% improved
  • redness significantly improved: 50% of the subjects showed improvement
  • itching significantly improved: 50% of the subjects totally recovered
  • oiliness significantly improved: 32% of the subjects totally recovered.

The overall mean diagnosis score, assessed by the dermatologists, decreased significantly after 6 weeks of treatment. SkinCera did not show any side-effects and was well tolerated.

This clinical trial was done to study the effects/benefits of supplementation with a small quantity of konjac glycosylceramides on overall skin health in healthy human volunteers. Six weeks of ingesting SkinCera at 100 mg/day significantly improved skin parameters such as dryness, hyperpigmentation, itching and oiliness compared with the placebo group.

Interestingly, these beneficial effects were evident after just 3 weeks of supplementation and continued throughout the entire study (including the follow-up period).

Because SkinCera also has potential as a complementary oral treatment to reinforce the skin barrier and reduce transepidermal water loss, its efficacy in a topical application has also been studied. Healthy women (34) experienced significant improvements in hydration, roughness, wrinkles and age spots after 12 weeks of oral ingestion.

Whether it’s by oral ingestion or by topical application, SkinCera has demonstrated its ability to reinforce the skin barrier function and slow down the visible signs of ageing. And, because SkinCera acts on extracellular matrix collagens, the role of vitamin C — which is essential for collagen synthesis — should be kept in mind (available from Vidya Herbs as an amla [Phyllanthus emblica] extract).

Because consumers have come to understand that supplementing with oral nutricosmetics, along with their topical regimens, provides synergistic benefits, SkinCera represents a new kind of nutricosmetic ingredient.

Both orally and topically efficacious, it could serve as the foundation of a wide range of oral/topical programmes. And, because SkinCera is a powdered ingredient, it can be used in numerous formulations and different galenic forms.

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