Amino acids in skin care are becoming increasingly popular as more and more research studies and clinical trials find evidence of their diverse benefits for the skin. Before blindly jumping into any new skin care craze, though, it can be helpful to first understand what these ingredients are, where and how they might naturally occur, and how their topical application can help the health and appearance of your skin. Read on to learn more about the difference between essential and nonessential amino acids and how these molecules are synthesized or transformed within the human body.
Essential vs. Nonessential Amino Acids
When discussing how amino acids are made and how we can obtain them, it’s necessary to make the distinction between essential and nonessential amino acids. Only non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by the human body. The nine essential amino acids need to be obtained from external sources like diet, supplements, and topical products. For this reason, it is important to either eat complete proteins–meaning that they contain all nine of the essential amino acids–or a variety of different proteins in order to obtain all of the vital nutrients that your body and skin need.
Biosynthesis of Nonessential Amino Acids
To be synthesized by the human body, nonessential amino acids typically require a relatively simple process that sometimes includes only one or two steps. The internal, biochemical process by which each nonessential amino acid is synthesized, however, varies depending on the specific amino acid. Alanine, for example, is produced in a single step from pyruvate, which is a key intermediate of a variety of metabolic pathways . A metabolic pathway simply refers to the series of chemical reactions within cells. The following example shows how a metabolic pathway uses more than one step to create a nonessential amino acid. In this reaction, the amino acid glutamate is used to ultimately produce proline or arginine. Glutamate is the “precursor” to the other amino acids because it is required at the beginning of the cycle in order for this reaction to proceed. First, glutamate reacts with ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to form acyl phosphate, an intermediate molecule in the reaction. This intermediate aids in the formation of glutamic γ-semialdehyde, which can be further reduced to proline. Alternatively, glutamic γ-semialdehyde can be transaminated to ornithine before being reduced to arginine .
Essential Amino Acid Pathways
Although it may sound like a complicated process, the biosynthesis of non-essential amino acids is relatively straightforward and simple. Essential amino acids, on the other hand, require a large number of steps, sometimes up to 16, in order to be biosynthesized by the human body. However, the required enzymes and intermediaries for some of these reactions are no longer abundant or even existent in our bodies, which is why we need to obtain these amino acids from outside sources .
Amino Acid Deficiencies
Just as amino acids require various chemical reactions to occur in order to be synthesized, amino acids are themselves a requirement for proteins to be formed. Thus, without enough of either nonessential or essential amino acids, your body and skin may experience adverse effects. Some skin experts believe that a deficiency in amino acids–lysine, in particular–may contribute to the symptoms of rosacea, a common skin condition characterized by red flushing of the skin and sometimes pimple-like blisters . Amino acid deficiencies may also show up on the skin as dermatitis, impaired wound healing, and even changes in the shape or color of the nails . On the other hand, adding amino acids to your diet and topical skin care routine via expertly formulated products like those by AminoGenesis can help to improve the health and appearance of your skin, as skin is comprised of two key proteins: collagen and elastin. Because amino acids play a necessary role in the production of these proteins within the skin, they are quickly becoming some of the most talked-about ingredients in skin care, as they can improve a wide variety of skin concerns, including:
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Discoloration and sun damage
- Dry, flaky skin
- Minor cuts and scrapes
- Razor burn
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