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Pt 2: Why Chirality Matters to the Skin?

In the previous post I covered what chirality is and how chirally correct ingredients interact with the skin. In this post I’ll review where chirality comes from and how it originated.

As I mentioned in the last post, chirality is used to describe a molecule or material that is non-superposable on its mirror image, but this science has roots dating back to the early 1800s. It began with an observation in optical activity (the idea of polarized light and optical isomers), and the science quickly gained notoriety in chemistry and pharmaceuticals. Of course, it has also been evident throughout nature from the beginning of time.

A Brief History

Tartaric acid actually played a role in the discovery of chemical chirality when researchers discovered its ability to rotate polarized light, which enabled various molecules to be isolated. Naturally occurring tartaric acid is chiral (L-Tartaric Acid). In the late 1840s French chemist Louis Pasteur discovered, however, a method for manually sorting the molecules and became the first to produce a pure sample of levotartaric acid (D-Tartaric Acid).

Chiral molecules are designated D or L based on the spatial configuration of its atoms. In biochemistry, naturally occurring amino acids are nearly all (L), while naturally occurring carbohydrates/sugars are nearly all (D).

Chirality Surrounds Us

Chiral molecules are everywhere – most of the molecules produced in nature are chiral. Our DNA, hormones, enzymes and the structural components of tissue, blood, hair and skin are all chiral. Naturally occurring amino acids (L) – the building blocks of proteins – and sugars (D) are chiral. Some evidence shows amino acids to be the first organic molecules produced on Earth.

Of the 20 amino acids important in human biology, all but one (glycine), are chiral. Amino acids are of course central to natural skin care. They regulate melanin production, promote cellular turnover and collagen synthesis, accelerate wound healing, and increase skin elasticity.

Our skin, which is in fact chiral, is the largest organ so it makes sense to use chiral formulations on it if we want to see results. So far the practice of chirality in cosmeceuticals has been relegated to only those formulators on the cutting edge.

Chirality is an important aspect of ingredient efficacy. Using ingredients with specific chiral orientation appropriately target cells, are more effective and produce a more results-oriented response. In the next post I’ll cover how chirality works in skin care formulas and why it makes a difference.

Question: Do you talk about chirality with your clients? If so, what has been their response?

Important Note: We’re looking for your success stories to feature in our blog. Have you had a particularly successful marketing campaign, been featured in the media, or received any awards? Share your story with us! Just email beth.cochran@rhondaallison.com.

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