Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cosmeceuticals: GABA or gamma aminobutyric acid

GABA (aka gamma aminobutryic acid or 4-aminobutanoic acid) is a "multifunctional ceullar stimulant". It is claimed that it is anti-inflammatory ingredient. But these aren't why we want to use it in our facial products. The main claims about this cosmeceutical is that relaxes muscles when topically applied which will smooth and reduce the look of fine lines. Some have likened the effect to topical Botox.

There are no studies or evidence that it works as a muscle relaxer. In fact, the most commonly quoted comment you'll see is this one from Paula Begoun (even a supplier that sells this ingredient quoted her!):

"There is no substantiated research proving GABA works in this manner when applied topically, and if it did, it would be cause for alarm. If GABA worked as stated and you applied it to your entire face, what's to stop it from affecting the muscles around your mouth, jaw, or neck? If it really relaxed muscles upon application, consumers would see more skin sagging, not to mention problems controlling the (relaxed) muscles in your fingers (assuming they come in contact with the product)."

I hate to be the bearer of bad news because this would be an amazing inclusion in a product, but there's simply no evidence that GABA will offer muscle relaxing properties in a topical product (except for testimonials for products containing GABA, but those aren't evidence!). As someone who gets $748 worth of Botox injected into my head every two months to stop muscle spasm related headaches, I can tell you that if it worked, I would spend every last penny I had to buy GABA and I'd glisten from the coating I would apply to my shoulders, neck, and face (and damn the breakouts!).

GABA can be eaten and you can find in some drinks as a relaxant (there's a lovely blueberry flavoured water I like that contains it...I haven't noticed I feel more relaxed, but then again I'm a little manic on my worst days). There is no proof that the internal muscle relaxation we feel from our body's GABA or ingested GABA translates in a topical product.

Having said all of this, there is some evidence it works as an anti-inflammatory, so you could include it in your products for that reason. And anti-inflammatories are great for those of us with reddened or swollen skin, skin that has been exposed to the elements, or acne prone skin.

GABA is a zwitteronic ingredient, meaning it carries a different charge based on the pH of our product. This is thanks to that lovely amine group that carries a positive charge. It is water soluble, and the suggestion is to add a little warm water to allow it to dissolve before adding it to your cool down phase. I have not been able to find any information on usage rates in our products, so I'm afraid you'll have to speak to your supplier for what they suggest!

Join me tomorrow for more fun with cosmeceuticals as we learn more about resveratrol!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yep, never noticed a difference in my face muscles with this ingredient, but like you said, it does help inflammation with my acne prone skin. I found this link that states somewhere in it used in formulations at about 0.5-3%
there's so much info, I get lost and sometimes am not sure what I'm reading anymore. I personally have only used it at 1%. I'll try 3% next time. if i notice i change, I'll let you know. Thanks so much, Susan! I look forward to more post! No matter how much I read up on something, I learn something new from you all the time.