Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Arpita Singh (Beauty Expert)  on 03rd Nov 2020

Pycnogenol helps you achieve all your major skin goals

Pycnogenol helps to achieve all your major skin goals

Wrinkles start showing up after you hit your 40's or 50's. Well, this statement has lost all its relevance in the 21st century.

Being swamped with work throughout the week results in a bad lifestyle, careless food habits, and irregular sleep routines that completely throw your circadian rhythm off track. Also, pollution adds to this mess.

Especially the air pollution, which tears your skin apart. With technological advancements coming up every other day, pollution levels shoot up. They bring more damage to the ozone layers, enlarging the holes formed in them.

They are almost providing a freeway to the UV radiations of different wavelengths to reach your skin and harm it.

With all these things happening simultaneously, your skin runs a high risk of aging prematurely. It may end up growing weak. 

What's the solution?

Well, there are many out there. And you must be knowing most of the ingredients, often spoken about, to help you out in this situation.

But today, let's learn about a lesser-known skincare ingredient. Seriously, it is quite an underrated one. 

Say hello to Pycnogenol! 

Pycnogenol is the product's trademark name extracted from the barks of a French maritime pine tree (better known as Pinus Pinaster). It comprises several active compounds, which can be derived from other sources as well; some include - peanut skin, grape seed, witch hazel bark, etc.

It is a free-flowing powder in its natural state and is water-soluble. You will find several antioxidants in it, such as bioflavonoids, procyanidins, catechins, and phenolic acids.

It is backed up by loads of research and proven theories, and still, it rarely gets the limelight. 

One primary advantage of pycnogenol, your skin conveniently absorbs it. 

According to a (2004) study, pycnogenol was examined to conclude if the human skin could take it up. "It was applied to a viable patch of human skin, and the molecules penetrating the skin were identified. After 30 minutes of application, one of its essential components, phenolic acid, was already found. After 4 hours, catechin was present in the highest concentration, and even after 12 hours, many other components of it were measured in significant quantities."

Let's quickly go through some of its basic functions before we get down to its skin-related benefits:

It may help one recover from a severe brain injury or head trauma and reduce a person's risk of having heart problems. It even treats obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It plays a significant role in helping children manage their ADHD symptoms. 

How is pycnogenol beneficial for your skin? 

It is a multifunctional ingredient and has sufficient data to stand as one of the most useful ingredients in the skincare industry: 

1) Acts as an antioxidant. 

Antioxidants neutralize the excess free radicals that are roaming around in a frenzy and render them harmless. 

Note:

Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen species, which in search of an electron, can disrupt the cellular parts and even damage the DNA. They are mainly formed in the skin due to the prolonged exposure to UV radiation. Other metabolic processes give rise to them as well.

Pycnogenol is a potent antioxidant and "can also recycle the oxidized (already used) vitamin C so that it can be put for re-use. It makes more vitamin C available to act as a co-factor for the enzyme prolyl hydroxylase to initiate its activity and produce functional collagen and elastin. 

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2) Helps in the blocking of UV rays. 

The free radicals are forming in the skin trigger pro-inflammatory processes, which may lead to sunburn.
In a (2004) study, it was observed that after exposing the skin to UV rays for three consecutive days, the skin suffered severe sunburn. It got two times thicker. Pycnogenol lotions (0.05%) significantly reduced the skin's swelling and redness, the procyanidins (an active component in pycnogenol) absorbing the UV light.

When the pycnogenol lotions are applied after UV light exposure, it calls for the ingredient's anti-inflammatory property to get activated exclusively. 

3) Reduces the risk of skin cancer. 

According to the experiments conducted in 2004, it was found that pycnogenol lotion (0.2%) was applied to mice (experimental model) after each UV exposure prolonged the onset of tumors. Some mice treated with the same concentration never developed a tumor during the experiment. These studies assure that pycnogenol has a considerable photo-protective effect.

4) Fights pollution. 

The nano-sized particles from exhaust fumes from vehicles, tobacco smoke, ashes, dust particles, heavy metals, PAH (hazardous pollutants), etc. in the air cause damage to your skin.

Two major changes that your skin undergoes on coming in contact with the pollutants:

1) NRF2, a factor involved in the genetic processes, increasingly over-expresses itself, hamper the balance of free radicals in the body.

2) AHR, a hydrocarbon receptor that activates cellular immune responses against the environmental chemical stimuli, is produced excessively.

It has been observed that the topical use of pycnogenol 0.5%, 1%, or 2% can repress the overactivity of NRF2 and AHR.

It also inhibits the damage meted out to the cell membranes by the pollutants. 

5) Resists bacterial growth. 

It is anti-microbial and defends you against a broad range of microorganisms, including - gram-positive and harmful bacteria, yeast, etc.

It does not have bactericidal activity. However, formulations having 0.025% pycnogenol reduce the need for preservation in such products. 

6) Modulates the skin pigmentation. 

A 2008 study suggests that pycnogenol's antioxidant properties can suppress the compounds, which affects the formation of melanin in your skin. Thus, in the process, it strongly inhibits tyrosinase activity (the enzyme that catalyzes melanin production).

The exact mechanism through which pycnogenol can limit the excess synthesis of melanin is not known yet. 

7) Binds the collagen and elastin strong. 

It has a high affinity for the matrix proteins, namely collagen and elastin. When applied to the skin, a high amount of pycnogenol tightly binds to collagen and elastin. As a result, it protects them and improves the elasticity of the skin.

Experiments have shown that its oral supplements inhibit MMPs (enzymes, which influence the critical balance between collagen degradation and renewal). 

8) Maintains the skin firm and smooth.

Interesting fact:

A hyaluronic acid molecule can carry water up to 1000 times its actual weight.

  • It maintains the structure of the skin cell membranes and looks after the epidermal skin barrier. 
  • It regulates the extracellular matrix (the material that fills the space between the cells, keeping them in place). 
  • It works to improve the skin tone, density, and strength.
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9) Helps in wound healing. 

A (2003) pharmacological study investigating the skin's ability to heal wounds found that the topical application of pycnogenol gel (once a day) shortened the period of wound healing.

The concentration used was 1%, and gradually the doses were increased. It accelerated the process of healing, and the wounds recovered faster.

In two (2005, 2006) clinical trials, 30 diabetic patients applied the pycnogenol powder directly onto their ulcers.

84% of them experienced complete healing. Whereas, the other group receiving the standard treatment only had 61% with completely healed wounds.
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Furthermore, it reduces the size of scars and helps you to diminish them. 

10) Enhances the activity of sunscreens. 

According to 2004 in vitro tests, 2% pycnogenol in sunscreen lotions can boost the UVA and UVB sun protection 37% and 27%, respectively.

The protection or shield offered by the sunscreens against the UV rays is known to fade away during a day.

Pycnogenol slows down the breakdown of sunscreen compounds and enables them to last long, especially in UVA sun protection. 

Pycnogenol can treat several skin disorders. What exactly? 

1) Acne 

A clinical trial took place in 2006, in which 40 women suffering from adult acne applied a 0.5% pycnogenol lotion twice a day after washing the face. After one month of treatment, the results that came were, 

  • 50% of women experienced great improvement. 
  • 25%-30%, somewhat saw mild improvement. 
  • 5% did not have any effect on their acne

2) Psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and erythema. 

  • Pycnogenol calms the inflammation down, improves the symptoms of erythema.
    It increases/enhances your skin's moisture content (as it stimulates hyaluronic acid). 
  • The rate of exfoliation reduces
  • It repairs the skin barrier (in case of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis) and puts it back to its normal functioning. 

3) Rosacea and other inflammatory skin conditions. 

It settles the inflammation down to some extent and brings you some relief. 

4) Melasma 

Thirty women with visible symptoms of melasma underwent a clinical trial in 2002. Therein, they were asked to take oral supplements of pycnogenol, a total of 75 my per day.

No side effects, observed in any of the patients. In the end, pycnogenol was stated to be "therapeutically effective and safe in patients suffering from melasma. 

5) Photoaging 

Pycnogenol bars the early symptoms of aging and prevents them from showing on the surface.

Its ability to promote the formation of collagen and elastin keeps your skin healthy and young

How to use pycnogenol topically? 

It is available in different forms: day and night cream, eye cream, skin cleanser, moisturizing cream and lotions, masks, etc.

It can be used along with/in combination with other anti-aging skincare products.

Experts recommend using pycnogenol for fixed intervals of time or take breaks between two consecutive sessions of use.

Visit your dermatologist, and he/she will guide you as per your needs. Also, you will be informed about the optimum dosage.

Oral supplements of pycnogenol is another way to deal with the oxidative stress your skin faces. Be careful that you don't cross the safe limits of its daily intake. It is always the perfect/best idea to visit your dermatologist before you start with the process. 

Side effects, if any. 

It is suitable for all skin types. In the majority of cases, people have experienced no irritation or sensitivity of any kind.

Still, the possible side effects may include skin irritation, headache, nausea, mouth ulcers, gastrointestinal issues, etc.

Experts advise you to begin with the lowest possible dosage. Keep a regular check at how your skin reacts to the new ingredient. Over time, you can increase your applications. 

You should exercise a little caution. 

You should avoid pycnogenol or take a word from your doctor first if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Also, if you have undergone surgery recently (2-3 weeks before), consultation is highly recommended.

People suffering from a heart condition, having liver issues, or bleeding complications, strictly need to visit the doctor before taking any step.

Moreover, if you are taking medicines for diabetes, be a little careful. Also, do the same if you are procuring any aid or supplement that directly or indirectly affects blood circulation and clotting.

Chemotherapy drugs are critical, and if you are on them, discuss the skin issues with your doctor first. 

The Bottom Line 

It has been reported that, at a minimum, 60% of people suffer from several skin disorders at some point during their lifespan. So, it is an eminent responsibility on your part to ensure that your skin leads a healthy life.

"Pycnogenol is safe for the average crowd," or as most of the experts put it. You can easily incorporate it into your skincare routine, but obviously, a doctor's approval beforehand will make things all the better.
It not only recycles vitamin C, but it also regenerates vitamin E.

Altogether, it bolsters the internal antioxidant system of your body.
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Doctors always try to balance oral supplements and topical products, which will provide protection and strength from both within and without.