Did you know that certain 'sugars' or specific carbohydrates called GAGs, are a primary energy source for all life on earth including the major organic building blocks of human skin?
Obviously, these sugar-like substances are completely different from the sugary substances you consume. The molecules that contain carbohydrates can be quite complex. Polysaccharides (chain-like sugars) and a proper balance of these sugars is the critical ingredient in healthy skin structure.
Polysaccharides are responsible for the skin’s natural ability to hydrate and retain water. They are also critical for skin repair and skin renewal.
For example: Dry skin lacks water and is evidenced by lines and wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and can be tight and sensitive. It is caused by two main factors:
- Damage to the skin’s protective barrier which results in natural water loss or TEWL (trans-epidermal-water-loss).
- A lack of the concentration of the skin’s polysaccharides such as Hyaluronic Acid.
Damaged skin needs to be protected at the surface and allowed to heal from within. This kind of damage is called a compromised barrier. If your barrier is not intact or functioning properly, it causes a host of problems, and one of these, is dehydration.
One very well-known GAG is Hyaluronic acid.
HA is a chain-shaped molecule composed of repetitive sugar-like units, which hold about 1,000 times its molecular weight in water. Over the years hyaluronic acid has developed into an almost indispensable component in cosmetic preparations. And the good news continue to roll in...
Hyaluronic acid performs various functions in the human body, and is a major component of the extracellular matrix. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is the largest component of normal skin and gives the skin its unique properties of elasticity, tensile strength and compressibility. It is significant, among others, for the internal pressure of the vitreous body of the eye, the synovial fluid of the joints, cerebral/spinal fluid, and the cushioning function of the connective tissue.
Another feature of hyaluronic acid makes it an interesting component of anti-aging cosmetics that help with the hydration of the skin to smooth out wrinkles and maintain its elasticity. The extremely high water-retaining capacity of hyaluronic acid is an essential skin care factor for dry skin. Just as with collagen, the concentration of hyaluronic acid in the skin declines with age.
Topically applied, hyaluronic acid and its salts have a completely different mode of action compared to that in the interior of the skin. Hyaluronic acid bonds to the keratin of the skin via hydrogen bridges. That is why a light tension can be felt after the application of the substance and the evaporation of the water contained in it. An additional cushioning effect leads to a reduction of the wrinkle depth. Also a pleasant moisturizing film forms on the skin surface.
Similar to many other polysaccharides, hyaluronic acid is an excellent radical scavenger on the skin surface. Thus it also provides a slight protection against the UV radiation of the sun. This protection is not achieved by absorbing the sun radiation as with UV filters but by reaction of the radiation-induced oxygen radicals with the sugar structures which renders them harmless. In addition to it, the ubiquitous heavy metals, as e.g. iron, that participate in the radical formation, are neutralized through complexation.
Moisturizing or hydrating polysaccharides are derived from several natural sources. These botanical and edible biopolysaccharides are largely used to meet consumer demand for natural and sustainable cosmetic products. Polysaccharides are composed of multiple saccharides that form a large branched or unbranched chain. These polymers are constructed with simple sugar building blocks that are hydrated in an aqueous (water-based) environment and create gel structures referred to as hydrogels or hydrocolloids.
A polysaccharide (poly=many) is a large molecule made of many smaller monosaccharides (mono=one). Monosaccharides are simple sugars, like glucose. Special enzymes bind these small monomers together creating large sugar polymers, or polysaccharides. A polysaccharide is also called a glycan which form glycosaminoglycans.
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), also known as mucopolysaccharides, are beneficial polysaccharides that support and maintain skin structural proteins such as collagen and elastin.
Naturally occurring glycosaminoglycans include hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate, which function as water-binding molecules that can hold nearly 1000 times their own weight. This ability provides hydration for other skin components (i.e., collagen and elastin).
For this reason, the use of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in skin care are renowned for being excellent ingredients for increasing overall hydration. Lastly, science is proving that glycosaminoglycans may also provide anti-aging benefits.