Amino acids in skincare: arginine

What is arginine?

Arginine is an amino acid used in cosmetics and skin care products to help protect the skin from free radicals, increase the skin’s visible moisture levels, and possibly aid in collagen production.

In 1886, arginine was first isolated from lupine and pumpkin seedlings by the German chemist Ernst Schulze. It is an alpha amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. Arginine not only builds protein, but also releases nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels in the bloodstream, which can aid certain circulatory conditions. Arginine also plays an important role in cell division, wound healing, immune function, the release of hormones, and the production of growth hormone.

Arginine is found in animal products like meat, dairy products, and eggs, as well as in various plant sources like grains, beans, and nuts. Arginine is also available as an oral supplement. Most healthy people do not need to supplement with arginine as it is a component of all protein-containing foods and can also be synthesized by the body.

the breakdown


the good:It is believed that arginine protects the skin from free radicals, gives the skin the appearance of moisture, and can aid in collagen production.

not that good:The maximum concentration in which arginine should be used is 18%. Note that some products contain different concentrations of arginine.

For whom is that?All skin types except those identified as having an allergy.

Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients.

Keep an eye on:Make sure your products contain an effective concentration of arginine.

What are the benefits of arginine?

In cosmetics and skin care products, arginine can help protect the skin from free radicals, improve the appearance of hydration, and aid in collagen production.

Arginine has been shown to have antioxidant activity. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. Free radicals damage important cellular components like the cell membrane, DNA, and cellular proteins like collagen. Damaged collagen is a major factor that contributes to the appearance of aged skin. Therefore, by using topical antioxidants such as arginine, the skin can potentially benefit and be better protected from free radicals.

Another function of arginine in skin care products is to increase skin hydration by acting as a humectant. A humectant draws water from the environment into the skin and traps it in the skin. Studies also suggest that arginine may be involved in the synthesis of natural moisturizing factor (NMF) components of the skin such as ceramides, cholesterol, urea, and glycosaminoglycans. Together with the naturally occurring lipids in the skin, NMF components ensure that the skin surface remains intact, supple and hydrated.

One study investigated the effects of a topical 2.5% arginine hydrochloride ointment on transepidermal water loss or water loss from the surface layers of the skin. The results of this study showed that topical arginine increased urea levels and improved skin hydration. It’s important to remember that a study shows no causal link, but this is an interesting potential benefit of arginine.

Finally, arginine is widely used in antiaging skin care products as it can potentially aid in collagen production. Studies have shown that L-proline is produced when arginine is metabolized to urea and ornithine by the enzyme arginase-1. L-proline is an amino acid that is a substrate for collagen synthesis. Collagen improves skin firmness and reduces the signs of aging. Hence, this potential property of arginine can aid skin health and anti-aging benefits. In addition to these antiaging effects, arginine’s potential ability to aid collagen production can also help accelerate wound healing.

Is Arginine Safe?

The safety of arginine and the other alpha amino acids has been proven by the Panel of Experts for the Review of Cosmetic Ingredients (CIR), a group responsible for evaluating the safety of skin care and cosmetic ingredients. Its maximum concentration for use in a formulation is 18%. Due to the normal presence of arginine in the body and its use as a direct food additive used by the US Food and Drug AdministrationThe panel of experts focused its review on data on skin irritation and sensitization. Dermal data on products containing arginine indicated that the ingredient is not a dermal irritant or sensitizer. The panel of experts therefore concluded that arginine and the other alpha amino acids are safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products.

References:Burnett, C, 2013. “Safety Assessment of Alpha-Amino Acids in Cosmetics”, International Journal of Toxicology.

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