Trying to get to grips with atomic structures and ionic compounds in science wasn't always all that thrilling. Yet poring over the ingredient lists on skincare products is practically a hobby for us beauty editors. We all love hearing about the latest skincare ingredients that deliver big results (and then rushing to the nearest shop to find them). This is the kind of science we get excited about. So for strictly educational purposes, it's our duty to share something that might have had your eyes glazing over in year 11. But trust us—with these serious skin claims, you'll want to know all about it.
We're talking about amino acids. Yes, they're essential throughout the body, but they can also work to benefit your skin. To steer you in the right direction, we spoke with consultant dermatologist Justine Kluk, MBChB, FRCP, to get the full scoop on which acids are the most beneficial.
What are amino acids?
First up, why should we be paying attention to these amino acids? We know skincare ingredients come and go in waves of popularity, but these ones are keepers.
"Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins and have a role in virtually all the biological processes that occur in our bodies," Kluk explains. "The sequence in which they combine together determines which particular protein they will form and how they will function."
Amino acids are vital components in making our bodies work, so it stands to reason that they'll also be able to work their magic on our skin. But don't take our word for it…
How do amino acids benefit skin?
As we know, science gets way more interesting when it has some benefits for us. Amino acids for skin "promote cellular repair, hydrate the skin and provide antioxidant protection," says Kluk.
Did you know that we already have amino acids in the top layers of our skin that work to keep it hydrated by pushing moisture through? When skin is lacking in moisture, we know the impact it can have (hello, dryness, rough textures and pesky lines). That said, we're all for the boost of hydration that amino acids offer.
What are the best amino acids for skin?
Sold? Well, before you start rushing out to look for products, here are the all-important details of what you should be keeping an eye out for.
"There are 20 known amino acids," Kluk says, "some of which we make in our own bodies and others which we can't make on our own but get from our diet. All of these are important for good skin health."
So there are two camps of amino acids: the essential ones (which we get from food like fish, chickpeas, milk or supplements) and the non-essential ones (which our bodies make for us). When you're looking for them in skincare, some of the acids that work well are arginine, lysine, histidine, glycine and leucine.
How can I add amino acids to my skincare routine?
We know there's a lot going on in your bathroom shelves, so luckily, amino acids don't require an entirely new step in your routine. They're just an added extra that will make your products work harder.
"Amino acids can combine together to form protein fragments known as peptides," Kluk explains, "which have been studied and proven to increase skin firmness and texture and to reduce wrinkles when applied topically to the skin."
While you can get some of the benefits from your diet or through supplements, it's clear that using amino acids in your skincare gives that extra boost.
"If you would like to introduce these into your skincare routine," Kluk adds, "a moisturiser or eye cream would be a good place to start."
Trust us—your skin is going to thank you for the scientific knowledge you've just acquired. To get you started, we've found six amino acid products for you to try.
This is the ultimate love letter to amino acids, as this moisturiser is practically overflowing with them. It also contains other hydrating stars that are naturally present in the skin. This one's a hero product for when your skin is lacking moisture and doesn't want to play nice.
Glycine is an amino acid that's great for elasticity and smoothing fine lines. It can be found in soy, but there are only so many soybeans you can eat. Thankfully, this gentle cleanser has bottled all of that glycine goodness so you can get the benefits straight on your skin.
This is the mighty little serum that could (it really can do everything). Joining the amino acids in the formula are exfoliating AHAs and vitamin C that give your skin a post-facial complexion every single day.
Packed with collagen amino acids to quench your skin's thirst, this nourishing treat from Dr Dennis Gross will also tighten skin. You can use this as a moisturiser, but if your skin needs something heavier, you can apply your usual moisturiser after this.
Adorable panda packaging aside, this amino acid–rich mask will leave your skin so plumped up that you'll be finding excuses to use it every day.
This eye cream not only boasts a variety of puff-reducing amino acids and magically plumping hyaluronic acid, but it also contains retinol 8 for serious wrinkle-smoothing. It will also significantly reduce your concealer habit.
You'll definitely get on board with amino acids once you try out these plumping products.