Beta-Glucan: What it is – and why you need it in your skincare routine
Beta-glucan describes a group of polysaccharides that naturally occur in the cell walls of bacteria, cereals and fungi. The exact role that beta-glucan plays in medical, health and skincare was not discovered until the 20th Century.
In the 1940s, beta-glucan was first used in a drug called Zymosan to help stimulate and reinforce the immune system. But, in its original form, it created almost as many side effects as the issues it sought to resolve. Fast forward to the 1960s and additional research showed that a compound of beta-glucan – Beta-1, 3-D Glucan, to be precise – had no known toxicity or side effects, and could safely activate immune cells to help improve the body’s natural defences.
By 1975, work was being done on beta-glucans role in reducing the size of various cancers within the body, and by the 1980s it was conclusively demonstrated that beta-glucan could help to act as a key to ‘turn on’ the scavenger cleaning powers of macrophages – white blood cells that are produced in the bone marrow – which actively ‘eat’ and remove pathogens, antigens and cellular debris. In addition, beta-glucan also stimulates the bone marrow into producing more defensive, immune-supporting substances.
It was also around this time that beta-glucan was shown to have a role as a radiation and free-radical protectant and anti-oxidant when it was discovered that it could significantly reduce damage and accelerate healing from radiation treatment in cancer patients. Not only that, but it was also proven that it could help to reduce the number of bacteria within the body. It was concluded that beta-glucan, a mere cell wall from grains such as oats, yeast and barley, was, for medical use, something of a defensive superpower.
Science in Skincare
This was the point where skin scientists too, sat up and took notice. One of those scientists was Dr. Giancarlo Folchitto, Scientific Director of Naturalia Sintesi, who leads the Naturalia Medical division, whose mission is to fuse scientific evidence and pharmaceutical knowledge to create better skincare solutions. Naturalia Sintesi, established in 1976, was by that time taking great steps forward in the realm of using pharmaceutical and biotechnical knowledge to create results-driven skincare products, for both the face and the body.
Dr Folchitto immediately recognised the potential beta-glucans could have in skincare and began his own research into possible links between the immune system and skin ageing. He already understood that there was a connection between the amount of activity shown by Langerhans cells (which act as the skins’ – very own immune system) in the epidermis of the skin and the signs of ageing that became visible as their activity decreased. This is because these cells, along with macrophages, are responsible for how much collagen and elastin is produced, which keeps our skin firm and supple.
Dr. Folchitto began to research the role that beta-glucan supplements played in stimulating a response inside the body, and if they could be replicated in topical form to help reduce signs of ageing, accelerate skin repair, and protect the epidermis against bacterial and fungal infections. His research, published in 1995 – ‘A Biological Stop to Cutaneous Ageing,’ was much lauded by the scientific community – so much so that it earned him the prestigious Atomo d’Oro (Golden Atom) award. The study demonstrated that beta-glucans could not only help accelerate healing and protect the skin from environmental damage by stimulating macrophages and Langerhans cells but, with repeated use, could also help to strengthen those responses.
His research concluded that, when applied, beta-glucan could help to protect the body’s largest organ, the skin, against sun damage, heal wounds in the skin more rapidly, and treat skin infections. When applied to the skin, beta-glucan helps to stimulate EGF (epidermal growth factor) which helps new collagen and elastin to form. This, in turn, increases blood supply to the skin, which helps to nourish and hydrate the skin, whilst also helping to increase cellular turnover and remove bacteria.
The research carried out by Naturalia Medical focused in particular on the 1,3 and 1,6-beta-glucan, a sugar with many virtuous biotechnological properties obtained from brewer’s yeast.
When applied to the skin, beta-glucans can:
- Reduce fine lines and wrinkles
- Help to protect against hyperpigmentation and sun damage
- Clear the skin of bacteria, reducing spots and helping to treat acne
- Increase collagen and elastin, leading to smoother, more supple skin
- Penetrate the skin with hydrating molecules, keeping it soft and supple
- Accelerate the healing of wounds and skin trauma
- Reduce redness and skin irritation
- Provide a protective barrier, reducing pollution and oxidative stress on the skin
This led to Naturalia Sintesi integrating beta-glucan into a number of their skincare products such as their MCL-100, Anti-aging Complex, Body Lifting Cream and Second Life Replenishing Cream or other Second Life products (in professional and home-care lines), DD Cream Idra Age, DD Cream Idra Bright and Detox Mineral pack. Seeing great results, they focused their product development on devising new products that contained enough beta-glucan to make a real difference to the skin of Italian people, where the products are available in hundreds of high-quality beauty clinics located throughout the country. Beta-glucans have the added advantage that they are suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin. Beta-glucans are a key ingredient in Naturalia Sintesi’s anti-ageing and lifting product lines.
Just as many things go full circle, beta-glucan is today being touted as the hottest new thing in skincare, (reported to be ‘even hotter than hyaluronic acid’) and is especially popular in Korean skincare ranges, thanks to its ability to target so many skin concerns and, due to it being up to 20% more hydrating than hyaluronic acid.
The truth is, it’s a wonder ingredient that the Italians have known about for ages – going all the way back to Roman times, in fact, when oatmeal (which is naturally high in beta-glucans) was used in Roman baths to soothe the skin. But, since the true potential of beta-glucans and the potential they have in skincare has been realised, once again, it was the Italians leading the way, thanks to Dr. Folchitto and Naturalia Sintesi, who helped pave the way for this hero skincare ingredient.
Today, thanks to Naturalia Sintesi’s recent expansion into the UK, it’s not just Italian people who can enjoy the benefits of science-backed skincare that delivers phenomenal, proven results. Naturalia Sintesi is already available at a select number of London clinics, with plans for at least 100 top salons across England, Scotland and Wales to be part of the Italian skincare revolution before the end of the year. Why not sign up to our newsletter, or follow us on social media to be the first to know about our latest in-clinic launches near you?