A new study has found that bioactive compounds in brown seaweed, local to South Australia, inhibited the breakdown of essential skin proteins and significantly increased collagen levels compared to commercially available anti-skin-aging agents. It paves the way for more effective natural health and skincare products.
At the biological level, aging results from an accumulation of molecular and cellular damage over time, leading to a gradual decrease in physical and mental ability and a growing risk of disease.
A main cause of skin aging is glycation, a natural chemical reaction between sugar molecules and collagen and elastin proteins in the skin. It’s a slow process that produces advanced glycation end products, unironically abbreviated to AGEs, that build up in the skin, resulting in stiffening and a loss of elasticity. The effect of glycation on collagen and elastin interferes with their skin repair mechanisms.
Anti-aging products produced by cosmetic companies often contain anti-AGEs agents but have questionable effectiveness and can produce undesirable side effects. Which is why researchers are turning to plants with a natural ability to prevent AGEs formation. New research by Flinders University in South Australia has found that locally sourced seaweed has anti-skin-aging properties.
“So far, anti-glycation agents haven’t been strong enough to have a major impact on anti-aging, so our discovery is really exciting as we can see the potential to develop stronger anti-glycation extracts from brown seaweed,” said Wei Zhang, the study’s corresponding author.
Brown seaweed, which is endemic to South Australia, has been found to be a rich source of bioactive antioxidants, but few studies have investigated its anti-glycation properties. The researchers compared the anti-skin-aging effects of three types of brown seaweed – Ecklonia radiata (ER), Cystophora moniliformis (CM), and Cystophora siliquosa (CS) – against two controls, aminoguanidine, a drug candidate for anti-glycation, and phloroglucinol, used in skin moisturizers.
The seaweeds were collected from the beach, washed to remove contaminants, and dried before being ground into powder. The powder was used to create extracts of the three seaweed types and tested on human skin (dermal) fibroblast cell lines. Dermal fibroblasts are the main cell type in the dermis, the skin’s middle layer composed of collagen, elastic tissue and other extracellular components. They’re responsible for generating connective tissue and allowing the skin to recover from injury.
The CM and CS extracts had lower toxicity in the fibroblast cells compared to the ER extract and the controls, suggesting these extracts could be used at higher concentrations. At a concentration of 500 µg/ml, which was found to be safe, the CM and CS extracts inhibited glycation activity by about 65% to 90% compared to aminoguanidine (15% to 40%) and phloroglucinol (15% to 20%) at 20 µg/ml.
Evaluating the stimulation of collagen and elastin levels, the researchers found that, at a safe concentration of up to 1,000 µg/ml, the CM and CS extracts increased collagen levels by 12- and 16-fold, respectively, compared to water. There was no significant increase in elastin.
The researchers examined the chemical composition of the seaweed extracts to determine what was driving these anti-skin-aging effects. Apart from having high polysaccharide content, they found that phlorotannins accounted for 17% to 23% of CM and CS and might be responsible for the benefits observed. Previous studies have proven that phlorotannins, compounds found in brown marine algae, have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-allergy, and anti-inflammatory properties.
“We found that extracts from South Australian brown seaweed have huge potential to be used to help slow the effects of aging on our skin,” Zhang said. “Seaweed is a great source of multiple bioactive ingredients with potential applications in natural health and skincare products.”
Based on their findings, the researchers envision incorporating brown seaweed into anti-aging skincare products and supplements.
“Our findings will help to fill knowledge gaps and sustainably develop brown seaweed advancement in topical and supplement skincare products,” said Zhang. “A patent has been filed, and the team is looking for investors and industry partners to collaborate for further commercialization.”
The study was published in the journal Algal Research.
Source: Flinders University