Glycine

As an amino acid, glycine is necessary for the development of protein within the skin and other tissues of the body. Glycine improves moisture retention, increases collagen production, and promotes skin repair and regeneration. Apart from skin repair functions, glycine is used as a buffering agent and is hence a well-known ingredient of many dermatological products.2,4

What are the benefits of glycine

Glycine is an amino acid that functions as a building block in the production of many proteins. Glycine is the simplest amino acid consisting of just a single hydrogen atom. Glycine is vital in improving health and supports the growth and well-being of humans and animals.1,2

Severe lack of glycine in the body may lead to failure of immune response, low growth, abnormal nutrient metabolism, and undesirable effects on health.3

Glycine acts as a precursor for several vital metabolites such as creatine, glutathione, haem, purines, and porphyrins. Glycine is a non-essential amino acid, which means it can be synthesized within the human body and doesn’t need to be absorbed from food. However, like other amino acids, its production and preservation within the body tend to decrease with age.2

Glycine is an essential constituent of the structural proteins elastin and collagen. Glycine helps repair damaged tissue and promotes healing when used within a skincare product or other topical treatment.5

Adequate hydration of the skin’s outermost layer is necessary for healthy skin. Water-soluble substances called natural moisturizing factors (NMF) are responsible for maintaining the skin’s moisture balance and various skin functions. Natural moisturizing factors are composed of amino acids, sugars, and electrolytes that work to keep the skin’s surface intact, supple, and hydrated. Glycine is part of the “natural moisturizing factors.” Amino acids present in the “natural moisturizing factors” work together with aquaporins or the body’s water transport system to transport moisture throughout the skin. Hence, the use of amino acids like glycine in topical preparations may improve moisture retention and promote skin hydration. 5,6

Apart from providing skin hydration, when used within a skincare product or other topical treatment, glycine may help repair damaged tissue and promote skin healing.

Glycine supports the production of healthy collagen – glycine residues are necessary to maintain collagen’s triple helix structure. Glycine helps maintain skin firmness; it also promotes skin repair and regeneration. Glycine is the smallest amino acid, and thus when topically applied, can penetrate and repair the skin easily. The role of glycine to stimulate collagen synthesis and repair damaged skin has been shown in many studies. 7

When used in combination with two additional amino acids, leucine and proline, glycine can improve wrinkles and retard skin aging.8

Glycine improves the formulation stability

Glycine helps improve the stability of topical skin products. Glycine acts as a buffering agent and helps maintain the pH level of a formulation. pH refers to the level of acidity or alkalinity of a given solution or product. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is basic. ‘Natural’ skin surface pH is, on average, 4.7, i.e., below 5; if a skin product’s pH levels are far outside the skin’s normal pH range, the product can irritate the skin. Adding glycine to an acidic or alkaline solution will make it neutral, which is beneficial for sensitive skin types.4,9

  1. Amino acids. MedlinePlus.NIH. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm. Accessed on:03Dec2020.
  2. Razak MA, Begum PS, Viswanath B, et al. Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:1716701.
  3. Lewis RM, Godfrey KM, Jackson AA, Cameron IT, Hanson MA. Low serine hydroxymethyltransferase activity in the human placenta has important implications for fetal glycine supply. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005;90(3):1594-1598.
  4. Burnett CL, Heldreth B, Bergfeld WF, et al. Safety assessment of α-amino acids as used in cosmetics. Int J Toxicol. 2013;32(6 Suppl):41S-64S.
  5. Razak MA, Begum PS, Viswanath B, et al. Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:1716701.
  6. Maeno K. Direct Quantification of Natural Moisturizing Factors in Stratum Corneum using Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry with Inkjet-Printing Technique. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):17789. 
  7. de Paz-Lugo P, Lupiáñez JA, Meléndez-Hevia E. High glycine concentration increases collagen synthesis by articular chondrocytes in vitro: acute glycine deficiency could be an important cause of osteoarthritis. Amino Acids. 2018;50(10):1357-1365.
  8. Kawashima M, Yokose U, Hachiya A, et al. Improvement of crow’s feet lines by topical application of 1-carbamimidoyl-L-proline (CLP). Eur J Dermatol. 2013;23(2):195-201.
  9. Lambers H, Piessens S, Bloem A, et al. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2006;28(5):359-370.

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