The Amino Approach

These tiny nutrients offer a big payoff when it comes to skin care.

The Amino Approach
Pin it Nadia Pandolfo

By now, there's a well-worn trail leading from the vitamin aisle to the beauty counter, blazed by vitamins A, C, and E; coenzyme Q10; alpha-lipoic acid; and a host of other antioxidants. The latest nutrients to hit that trail are amino acids, which are currently appearing in nearly every kind of anti-aging skin care.

Amino acids help each cell in the body do its vital maintenance and repair work. There are 28 different aminos; nine of them are classified as "essential," which means we must find them in outside sources. "A diet rich in leafy greens, fish, and other sources of protein takes care of our internal needs," explains New York City-based dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D., author of Your Future Face. "But the skin can also benefit from amino acids when they're applied topically."

On the skin's surface, amino acids "bond with skin cells to temporarily fill in lines, making the skin appear smoother," says Melissa Jochim, co-founder of the skin-care company Juice Beauty. At a deeper level, aminos "are able to help stimulate the production of collagen," adds Gross. Collagen is the skin-firming tissue that slowly breaks down with age and exposure to the environment (including the sun); by boosting collagen, aminos help create more resilient skin, plump up fine lines, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. The two amino ingredients to look for are pentapeptides (a chain of five amino acids) and genistein (a peptide derived from soy). "These are the only two that have been proven in clinical studies to help build collagen," notes Gross.

New technology and sophisticated formulas enable the aminos to do their work more effectively than ever before. "It used to be that you couldn't get peptides into the dermis because they're big relative to the openings in the skin," says Elizabeth Goldberg, M.D., a clinical instructor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "But peptides commercially available today are attached to a carrier molecule that brings them deeper into the dermis."