Today, we will introduce you to ectoine, a versatile ingredient that has clinically proven, outstanding reparative and protective properties and is, in our opinion unfairly, very rarely mentioned.
Ectoine is an organic compound, an extremolite produced by numerous microorganisms and plants in order to be able to survive extreme conditions. In 1985, it was discovered in the Egyptian desert that in extreme conditions (high temperatures, drought, strong UV radiation, high salinity, osmotic stress) desert halophilic bacteria produce a natural protective component in the outer layer of the cell.
Ectoine can be found in nature in a large number of different bacteria, which produce it precisely for the reasons mentioned earlier. Of course, such an exceptional protective effect on the species that produce it has prompted numerous studies on the potential use of ectoine in humans.
Thus, it was discovered that ectoine can stabilize various enzymes under conditions of rapid temperature changes or prevent their degradation by other agents. In addition, it has an extremely protective effect on many different cell types, defending them even from various toxins.
Another advantage is the suppression of excessive immune reactions tested on several different immune cells, and it is from these studies that one of the most common applications of ectoine - the therapy of allergic rhinitis - emerged. In this case, ectoine moisturizes and soothes the irritated mucous membrane of the airways, but also reduces the swelling, without any side effects. For this reason, you can often find it in products like nose and eye drops.
- It has strong hydrating abilities
However, of all the good characteristics discovered so far and the possible application of ectoine, its role in protecting and preserving the normal function of the skin certainly is among the best. Since the discovery of ectoine and the recognition of its ability to bind water, it has been used as an ingredient in moisturizing products. It is safe to say that ectoine gained this role with full right, taking into account in vivo studies that have shown lesser transepidermal water loss upon application. Also, by comparing the stability of ectoine complexes and water molecules in relation to water and glycerol complexes and water molecules and macromolecules, it was proven that ectoine has a better and longer lasting moisturizing effect, thus deserves to be the star of the humectant group of ingredients.
- Restores and strengthens the skin
One of the possibly strongest features of ectoine is its ability to protect cells from damage by various surfactants present in cleansers, but also to help restore the barrier function of severely damaged skin. Therefore, it is not surprising that ectoine could be one of the more effective solutions in the fight against atopic dermatitis. Namely, in one randomized and double-blind study, conducted in several different clinical centers, the exceptional benefit of using ectoine in atopic dermatitis was proven. Thanks to its humectant and anti-inflammatory properties, ectoine has shown results comparable to the results of conventional forms of therapy in moderate to severe atopic dermatitis by restoring the skin barrier and relieving symptoms.
- Protects against damage caused by UVA radiation
It was mentioned earlier that ectoine serves the bacteria that produce it, among other things, to protect against radiation. In human cells, in vitro research has shown that ectoine protects against various harmful effects caused by UVA radiation, responsible for damage to the deeper layers of the skin and aging.
At the molecular level, viewed from the perspective of immune components, ectoine affects overexpression of the ICAM-1 gene. ICAM-1 are glycosylated proteins called "intercellular adhesion molecules" and are constantly present in low concentrations on the surface of endothelial cells and immune system cells. In the inflammatory process, simply put, their concentration is increased and is responsible for the interaction of cells that will initiate an inflammatory reaction by bringing the cells of the immune system to the place of inflammation. Frequent inflammatory processes can lead to a permanent change in damaged tissues, which can be prevented by application of ectoine. Also, due to the protective effect on the cells, they were less susceptible to that visible, physical damage. Certain results also indicate how ectoine can reduce the probability of mutations caused by UVA radiation, which causes wrinkles and impairs skin texture. Of course, it is clear that skin cancer also occurs at the gene level, so it is possible that ectoine could play a bigger role than this in its prevention.
With its multifunctionality, ectoine certainly justifies its presence in functional preparative cosmetics products, and it is obvious that its potentials are very likely not fully exploited. The most prominent benefits of ectoine application are visible in the reduction of skin damage by UVA radiation, the restoration of impaired skin function and soothing of the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
The maximum recommended concentration of ectoine in cosmetic products is 2%, and some Skintegra products also contain this concentration.
Infrared: This potent serum is enriched with ectoine, panthenol, niacinamide and botanical complex, making it ideal for regenerating sensitive and dehydrated skin.
Architect: A serum emulsion for skin that shows signs of aging and damage such as lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. It smoothes the skin, reduces wrinkles and evens out its tone.
Solar I: In addition to broad-spectrum protection, thanks to ectoine, this moisturizing fluid strengthens the skin's protective barrier and further contributes to protecting the skin from the negative effects of UVA rays.
- Bownik A, Stepniewska Z. Ectoine as a promising protective agent in humans and animals. Arh Hig Rada Toksikol 2016, 67, 260-265
- Graf R et al. The multifunctional role of ectoine as a natural cell protectant. Clinics in Dermatology. 2008, 26, 326–333
- Marini A et al. Ectoine-Containing Cream in the Treatment of Mild to Moderate Atopic Dermatitis: A Randomised, Comparator-Controlled, Intra-Individual Double-Blind, Multi-Center Trial. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2014, 27, 57–65
- Buenger J, Driller H. Ectoin: An Effective Natural Substance to Prevent UVA-Induced Premature Photoaging. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2004, 17, 232–237