Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cosmeceuticals: Beta glucan

Beta glucan is a soluble fibre derived from the cell walls of plants like oat, barley, and reishi mushrooms or from yeast. Beta glucan is claimed to be anti-inflammatory, a promoter of collagen, a treatment for fine lines and wrinkles, and a great wound and care care helper.

It's thought that beta glucan works to stimulate and activate macrophages in our skin as well as promoting the protective qualities of our keratinocytes, which will help with wound healing. (Click here for more information on the biology and chemistry of your skin!) And beta glucan can sooth and calm skin through reinforcement of these macrophages, which reduce irritation of our skin. Including beta glucan in our products can also reduce irritation of those products, especially surfactants.

Can beta glucan do all these great things? There are so many studies about wound healing and reduction of irritation that my suggestion is to look them up if you want to see said studies because it would take up the length of this post and more. This is one claim that has been confirmed a number of times by really great, large studies.

What about the claims about collagen promotion and treatment for fine lines and wrinkles? Beta glucan is a very large molecule, and normally it wouldn't be thought to penetrate skin, but one study (that has been quoted everywhere it seems) on non-living human skin showed that it could penetrate our skin. They used a 0.5% solution of beta glucan and found by using a tracking chemical that it did penetrate our skin, but not through the cells. It penetrates through the intercellular matrix of lipids between the skin cells (if you think of our cells as bricks, the intercellular matrix of lipids would be the mortar between the bricks).

This same company conducted a study on the claims that beta glucan can help with fine lines and wrinkles. They used a gel with 0.1% beta glucan on 27 subjects over 8 weeks. They reported a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, but the effects went away if the subjects stopped using the gel. (If you'd like to know more about why this ingredient might work for this purpose, click on the study link and read the conclusions. Too much to write here.) This is a small study from 2005, and I haven't been able to find another study replicating the results, so take this information with a grain of salt.

So we have confirmation that beta glucan is a good anti-inflammatory and wound healer, and information that could lead us to believe that it might be effective as a fine line and wrinkle reducer. I've found beta glucan in a few places, and you'll have to check with your supplier to get an idea of what usage rates are suggested and in what phase you should include this. It should be soluble in water. The beta glucan you find at your suppliers might be yeast, oat, barley, or mushroom based, so make sure you ask if it's important to you.

Always ask your supplier about their cosmeceuticals because they can differ from supplier to supplier. For instance, the Herbarie's version, called SymGlucan, calls for a usage rate of 2% to 10% whereas Bulk Actives carries both yeast - powder - and oat - possibly a liquid - with a suggested rate of 1% for the oat version to be put into the heated water phase.

As a note, you'll also find beta glucan in my favourite hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed oat protein, which is also good for reducing irritation on your skin and in your surfactant based products and for reducing inflammation.

Join me tomorrow for more fun with cosmeceuticals!


Anonymous said...

Thank you Susan for addressing this.

Warm regards,


Anonymous said...

Hi Susan! I'm on the fence as to which ingredient I should purchase. Beta Glucan sounds pretty good, but if hydrolyzed Oat protein has beta glucan in it and has multiple uses, wouldn't it be more advantageous to use the protein?

Thank God you're here!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Aesthete. I'm not sure if I'd spend the money for beta glucan just yet. I'm not seeing enough studies that show they do something more than hydrolyzed oat protein can do. If you see anything, let me know as I'd love to read more!