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Arginine, lysine, proline -names we are somewhat familiar with but can’t seem to remember from where. These are amino acids and they’ve made their way into our skincare products! But before you go ahead and start connecting the dots in your head, know that you can’t attribute the benefits of your skin’s amino acids to the ones that come in your skincare products. So hold on to your skin barrier and keep reading to learn how amino acids work in skincare, their benefits, and the best skincare products with amino acids.
What Are Amino Acids in Skincare?
Amino acids are small fragments that make up big molecules like proteins, which is why they are commonly defined as the building blocks of proteins.
In your skin, amino acids are part of your skin’s natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) and have various functions including keeping the skin hydrated and protected.
They are used in skincare to mimic the behavior of naturally occurring amino acids. Some of the common amino acids you’ll see in your skincare products are arginine, alanine, and glutamic acid. In general, they’re derived from natural sources through fermentation.
Benefits of Amino Acids in Skincare
The benefits of amino acids in skincare are threefold. First, they can have unique benefits. Second, they can have cumulative benefits when they’re combined. And third, they can form peptides. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of amino acids for your skin.
1. They hydrate.
Ever heard of natural moisturizing factors? It’s your skin’s hydration system. And about 50% of NMF is comprised of amino acids.
Amino acids work as humectants to attract water and bind it to the skin. That’s how topical amino acids help keep the skin hydrated.
For example, polyglutamic acid, which you might be more familiar with all thanks to The Inkey List, is a derivative of glutamic acid with excellent skin hydration and water-retaining benefits.
2. They improve skin barrier function.
Amino acids play an important role in maintaining healthy skin and a functioning skin barrier. When there’s an imbalance of natural moisturizing factors, the skin tends to look dry and flaky.
Topical amino acids replenish the skin and improve the skin barrier. They also help balance the skin’s pH level. Plus, hydrated skin looks plumper and reduces the visibility of lines and wrinkles.
3. They have antioxidant benefits.
Certain amino acids such as arginine, lysine, tryptophan, cysteine, methionine, tyrosine, and histidine have antioxidant benefits for the skin. So they can be considered anti-aging ingredients to repair damaged, aging skin.
4. They complement each other.
When amino acids are concerned, the more the merrier. Because certain pairings have certain benefits. For example, the combination of lysine and arginine can improve wound healing, and the combination of proline and leucine reduces wrinkles.
5. They improve skin elasticity.
The amino acid content in the skin decreases with age too. This shouldn’t be a surprise. We all know that major proteins like collagen and elastin decrease with age.
And as proteins are made up of amino acids, we can infer that their scarcity can affect your overall complexion. In that sense, replenishing your skin’s amino acids with topical skincare products can give you healthier-looking skin and improve skin elasticity.
6. They form peptides.
First of all, think of amino acids as legos in a big toy box. They work better when they’re combined because they complement each other.
In skin care, amino acids are used to form peptides, which have more significant effects on the skin such as collagen production.
To give you perspective, palmitoyl tripeptide-1, which makes up that famous signal peptide called Matrixyl 3000, is made up of three amino acids; glycine, histidine, and lycine.
Best Skincare Products with Amino Acids
Now, if you think your skin can benefit from these multi-taskers, below are moisturizers, serums, eye creams, and more skincare products brimming with amino acids.
1. The Ordinary Amino Acids + B5
Right off the bat, I can confidently say that this is the best amino acid face serum there is. As far as I know, this is the only skincare product with an explicit concentration of amino acids, which is 17%. The blend consists of anything from arginine and alanine to histidine.
And it also has 5% panthenol, aka vitamin B5. It’s a humectant that also hydrates and soothes the skin. So overall, this is an absolute gem for any skin type that needs proper hydration without a heavy feel. It’s oil-free and doesn’t put a dent in your wallet.
Key Benefits: Hydrates, supports the skin barrier
Skin Type: All skin types
Size: 1 oz/ 30 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, oil-free, silicone-free
2. Acure Resurfacing Amino Acid Serum
Similarly, this is another amino acid face serum. But don’t be fooled by the name. This will not resurface your skin or exfoliate it.
It’s a hydrating face serum made with a blend of amino acids, humectants, and aloe. The formula is oil-free, fragrance-free, weightless, and perfect for reviving dehydrated and tired-looking skin.
Key Benefits: Hydrates, soothes
Skin Type: All
Size: 1 oz/ 30 ml
3. Fresh Soy pH-Balanced Hydrating Face Wash
We mentioned that amino acids help repair the skin barrier. And they are amazing skincare ingredients that thrive in cleansers. Because they majorly hydrate the skin and support the skin barrier. In your face wash, they don’t strip the skin or cause tightness.
This cleanser, though not directly made with multiple amino acids, contains soy proteins. Soy proteins contain an abundance of different amino acids. The light, gel formula does not foam. So it’s incredibly gentle on the skin. I have rosacea and this is one of my favorite cleansers/makeup removers. It’s that gentle. Plus, it has aloe and cucumber to soothe the skin too.
Key Benefits: Cleanses without stripping
Skin Type: All, especially sensitive skin
Size: 5 oz/ 150 ml
4. EltaMD Skin Recovery Essence Toner
If you’re interested in amino acids because you have sensitive skin, redness, or irritation, EltaMD deserves your attention. Because they have their own study on a patented amino acid formula (AAC Complex) they use in their Skin Recovery System comprised of toner, serum, and moisturizer.
All of them contain 3 amino acids, taurine, arginine, and glycine. And they claim that the blend reduces irritation and redness but also speeds up skin repair. This toner from the line soothes the skin and hydrates it. It’s as lightweight and gentle as they come. It’s free of fragrance, alcohol, and oil.
Key Benefits: Hydrates, calms, reduces redness
Skin Type: Normal, combination, oily, acne-prone, sensitive
Size: 7.3 oz/ 215 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free, fragrance-free
5. Dermalogica Antioxidant Hydramist
And speaking of toners, this one offers the hydrating benefits of a toner as well as the nourishing benefits of a face mist. In addition to amino acids with antioxidant benefits, it has antioxidants like vitamins C, and E, and green tea.
So it’s perfect for dry aging skin, sun-damaged skin, or skin with discolorations. Because antioxidants help neutralize free radicals to reverse skin damage. Plus, the anti-aging face mist also has peptides in it!
Key Benefits: Anti-aging, protects skin from free radicals, hydrates
Skin Type: All skin types
Size: 5.1 oz/ 150 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free
6. Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Firming Moisturizer
This is the perfect example of amino acids utilized for different purposes in the same product. This is an anti-aging moisturizer. So this isn’t just to hydrate your skin. It’s made with a blend of skin-firming ingredients like signal peptides and growth factors to improve skin texture, and produce collagen.
It also contains a rich blend of amino acids in their small form. This is what makes the moisturizer so moisturizing! So if you’re looking for a gentle, effective skincare product with amino acids, this is a multi-purpose anti-aging moisturizer that’ll plump fine lines instantly and in time.
Key Benefits: Reduces lines and wrinkles, moisturizes, smoothes skin
Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination, oily
Size: 1.69 oz/ 50 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free, vegan, fragrance-free
7. Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Eye Cream
Hydration is most noticeable when you have visible fine lines. Because proper hydration instantly softens their appearance. And that satisfying feeling is even more satisfying when you have fine lines on your under-eyes. So if your eye area needs some urgent hydration, an amino-acid-infused eye cream can be the best thing that happened to your crow’s feet.
And this one combines a rich blend of humectants like amino acids with a rich blend of emollients like avocado oil. So the eye area retains water and stays softer and smoother for longer. It also packs ceramides to boost moisture and niacinamide to help with dark circles too.
Key Benefits: Moisturizes, minimizes wrinkles and dark circles
Skin Type: Normal, dry
Size: 0.5 oz/ 15 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free
8. Lancome Hydra Zen Glow Liquid Lightweight Moisturizer
This is my current daily moisturizer. And it’s quickly become one of my all-time favorites. This is a liquid moisturizer formulated with a mix of amino acids, and humectants like hyaluronic acid. It also has aloe to soothe and squalane for softer skin. It’s not oil-free, but it’s non-comedogenic.
So it’s suitable for all skin types including acne-prone skin. It’s scented though, in case that’s something you’re not very fond of. Either way, this is an amazing face cream made with several amino acids to give you day-long moisture and leave the skin looking radiant and glowing.
Key Benefits: Hydrates without clogging pores, illuminates the skin
Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination
Size: 1.7 oz/ 50 ml
9. The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
If you’re looking for an amino acid moisturizer but Lancome is out of your budget, this can be a reasonable alternative. This is also made with several amino acids and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and moisturize the skin.
So if you have dry skin, or dehydrated skin and are simply looking for something that does the bare minimum, the budget-friendly moisturizer will not disappoint. Unlike Lancome, this is in cream form, oil-free, and does not leave a noticeable finish on the skin.
Key Benefits: Hydrates, supports skin’s moisture barrier
Skin Type: Normal, dry, oily, combination, sensitive
Size: 3.3 oz/ 100 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free, vegan, oil-free, silicone-free
So this is how amino acids work and some of the best skincare products with amino acids. Amino acids are gentle on the skin and are not like other active ingredients. So you can use them together with pretty much anything and everything.
Remember, all those fancy benefits that come from combining amino acids to create more targeted skincare products change the narrative a little bit. So, if you are interested in those peptide serums and creams, see our round-up of the best peptide skincare products.