Ever notice allantoin cropping up in many Asian beauty products, even in personal care products, hair care, and sun care products again and again? It seems it’s added to all skincare products from sheet masks, exfoliators to moisturisers and it doesn’t even get the spotlight so that everyone knows about it and what it does (unlike with retinol, glycolic acid, and niacinamide).
Due to its many benefits but mainly because it does wonders for sensitive skin, allantoin’s a valued ingredient for the Asian beauty industry.
Allantoin’s a natural chemical compound produced by many organisms, that is, animals, plants, and bacteria. It can be extracted from plants like chamomile, wheat sprouts, sugar beet, tobacco seeds, and comfrey. It’s also found in snail slime (that’s why you often see snail slime sheet masks), or it can be synthesised chemically. For use in the beauty industry, it’s generally created in a lab and is the result of uric acid oxidation. Sounds ickier than it really is – but you’re not putting wee on your face. When it’s made in a lab, allantoin’s a white odorless powder.
Allantoin’s a common and versatile skincare ingredient, similar to glycerine or vitamin E. Going as far back as ancient Egypt and China, it was extracted from comfrey to help heal minor skin injuries and swelling. Allantoin also goes by its scientific name of aluminum dihydroxy allantoin.
So, What Does It Do?
Allantoin is a versatile ingredient bringing about many good effects. The bulk of them is due to it stimulating cell turnover and skin regeneration. This means regular use will increase the rate of skin cell growth leading to renewed skin that looks fresher and healthier.
Moisturises and hydrates
Even though it’s acting differently chemically and physically than most other moisturisers, allantoin’s an excellent moisturiser. It’s emollient and keeps skin moisturised helping to counteract dryness and roughness. It also keeps the skin hydrated in which increases the water content of the skin’s extracellular matrix. Put simply, allantoin helps make skin softer, more resilient, and more supple.
Remember how allantoin increases cell proliferation? So it encourages dead skin cells to shed as it acts as a is a keratolytic agent. It softens the keratin — a fibrous protein found in the skin and hair — that holds the top layers of the skin together. At the same time, it stimulates fibroblasts growth and thus collagen and elastin production, resulting in improved skin structure and texture.
It has a lot in common when compared to an exfoliator like salicylic acid, but it has more benefits in that it also helps your skin retain moisture.
Allantoin is often included in K-beauty skincare lines for sensitive skin. It soothes and protects the skin by binding to and forming complexes with irritant and sensitising agents. Once so bound, these don’t have the opportunity to cause sensitisation or irritation. The second factor is that allantoin supports skin regeneration. Allantoin is gentle enough so that it can be applied also the sensitive skin.
Allantoin is often is in acne-scarring and skin resurfacing treatments, since it boosts cell turnover rate, to help repair and regenerate the skin. As such, it will contribute to other ingredients to stimulate cell proliferation and at the same reduce irritation and moisturise the skin.
Almost certainly, at some point or other, when talking about anti-ageing it’s about preventing collagen loss or if possible encourage elastin and collagen production. Allantoin facilitates elastin and collagen synthesis in that it stimulates fibroblasts. Collagen is the protein that prevents our skin from sagging and elastin gives it the ability to stretch and bounce back.
Studies have shown that a calorie-restricted diet can slow down the ageing process in animals. Researchers found that allantoin seems to have the same effect – but what does it mean for our skin? Even if this is still open to debate, the aforementioned effects do more good than harm, especially if you want to calm angry and irritated skin.
Allantoin itself doesn’t reflect or absorb UV rays, but it’s still often included in sunscreens. The reasons are that allantoin is a free radical scavenger and as it’s soothing, it can help reduce irritation to ingredients often used in SPF.
Allantoin In Your Products
Allantoin is a well-researched ingredient that has been used for decades in a range of beauty products and personal care like toothpaste. In skincare products, you can generally find it in moisturisers, cleansers, toners, exfoliators, and serums that are water-based. The reason is that allantoin’s water-based. This means it’s water in soluble but doesn’t mix well with oil-based products.
It’s typically found in concentrations up to 2%, so don’t worry if you find allantoin all the way down in the ingredients list. Allantoin is known to be effective at concentrations as low as 0.5%.
Did you enjoy reading about allantoin, an ingredient that has flown pretty much under the radar? Do you have another ingredient you came across and want some led shed upon it? Leave it in the comments.