Allantoin, the dry skin ingredient you may never heard of
If you have dry and itchy skin, chances are you’ve probably already tried a dozen products containing ingredients like petrolatum, lanolin, dimethicone and glycerin. Today, we’re going to talk about an overlooked emollient called allantoin, and why you should learn more about it if you haven’t already.
People get dry skin because of loss of water from the upper layer of the skin. Various skincare products have been designed to treat this, either by drawing water to the surface of the skin, as humectants do, or by trapping water at the surface of the skin by former a barrier at the top, like emollients do. Read on to find out how allantoin prevents your skin from drying out.
What is Allantoin?
Scientifically known as aluminium dihydroxy allantoinate, allantoin is a naturally-occurring substance found in animals, plants and even microbes. In our own bodies, Allantoin is produced from uric acid. Natural forms of allantoin are most commonly derived from a plants species native to Europe called comfrey, although it’s also found in other plants like chamomile, tobacco seed, wheat sprouts and sugar beet. In cosmetics and skincare, you’ll often find the lab-synthesized version of allantoin used instead; they’re chemically 100% identical and both are safe and effective for treating skin.
Benefits of allantoin
Allantoin is a gentle all-rounder. It’s got many soothing benefits, and can moisturize skin, improve skin healing, and has also been found in lab studies to have anti-oxidant, anti-wrinkle and exfoliating effects on the skin.
Allantoin acts as an emollient, forming a protective barrier across the surface of your skin to prevent water loss. It also softens keratin – a hard structural protein found in the top layer of your skin in a process known as keratolysis. What’s more, it can also exfoliate skin and remove dead skin cells that stop humectants from acting effectively. This aids with a process called desquamation, which is when you shed the outermost membrane or layer of dead skin from the inside out.
Because it’s so effective at preventing tran-epidermal water loss (TEWL), helping your skin look plump and youthful by retaining its natural moisture, you’ll commonly find it in creams and lotions, and also in sun screen and acne treatments.
Another property of allantoin is its ability to aid skin-healing. The comfrey plant itself has been used for centuries for healing minor wounds and cuts. Allantoin, being a more concentrated extract, is perfect for treating skin irritation and rashes, calming itches and soothing your skin. Besides, it also helps improve skin dullness by promoting cell proliferation. This process – called remodelling – basically encourages a more rapid shedding or your epidermal cells, allowing old, dull skin at the top to be replaced by shiny, healthy skin emerging from underneath. That’s the reason why you’ll also find allantoin in scar creams, where it’s used in conjunction with other ingredients like silicone to produce a more obvious result.
Some people have suggested that allantoin can provide some anti-aging benefits, too. It’s effective at stimulating collagen synthesis by encouraging fibroblasts, the skin cells that produce collagen, to work. This is important for the synthesis of the extracellular matrix – the gel like substance between skin cells that holds your skin together, and contributes to what people would describe as youthful, firm skin.
Allantoin is non-toxic and safe for the skin. Because allantoin is non-irritating and oh so gentle, it’s good for daily use, and also good for most skin types, including sensitive skin and those with a range of skin conditions. However, you might not want to combine it with other exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs, as that could prove to be a bit too much for the skin and cause irritation if the concentrations are too high.
How to use allantoin
Allantoin’s found in a range of different products and it’s advised to follow the product label to get the best out of it. In general, apply to skin only, and avoid sensitive areas like your eyes. Check that the product is safe for use in broken/chapped/cut/recently shaved skin before applying to those areas.
As someone with dry skin myself, there’s something really comforting about finding the right moisturizer to use on my face and body. Something that’s not too sticky, not too heavy, and doesn’t clog my pores but still delivers the promised salvation of moisturization. Over the years, I’ve begun to develop my own routine and even have an ingredient list I carry around with me so I can alternate between them. To those of you with dry skin – how do you manage it, and have you found any silver bullets? Share them in the comments section below, I’d love to find out more!
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