Pt 1: Why Chirality Matters to the Skin?
In last week’s blog post I touched on chirality and how following the science can mean the difference between a powerhouse formulation and one that is mediocre. What is chirality, why does it matter when it comes to skin care formulations, and where can it be found?
In this three-part blog post series, I will shed light on the science behind it and answer those questions.
What is Chirality?
The term chiral is generally used to describe a molecule or material that is non-superposable on its mirror image. Our hands, for instance, are chiral. The left is a non-superposable image of the right. This is evident when trying to use your left hand to shake someone’s right hand…it doesn’t quite fit. Achiral describes a material or object that is identical to its mirror image. Incidentally, the word chiral is derived from the Greek word “kheir,” meaning hand.
Most of the molecules produced in nature are chiral. Chirality is a fundamental property of carbon compounds. Carbon is absolutely essential to life – all organic materials must possess carbon atoms. Every carbon atom has four hands, each of which must be connected to another hand (i.e. another carbon (C), and/or an element like hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), or nitrogen (N)).
The Right and Left Hand
If at least two elements attached to any single carbon atom are identical or symmetrical, these organic materials are defined as “achiral.” However, if none of the elements attached to any single carbon atom are identical, they are “chiral.” Our skin is also chiral, therefore it responds best to chirally correct ingredients.
In our cells all the amino acids (L) are left-handed, no protein in the body will contain a right-handed amino acid. Sugars (D), however, are right-handed. You’ll notice many of the ingredients denote L- or D-forms. Most of the acids and amino acids – Malic, Lactic, Mandelic, Ascorbic, Arginine – use the L-isomers. While many of the skin strengtheners, protectors and hydrators – Tocopherol, Beta Glucosamine, Fructan – use the D-isomers.
For ingredients to be effective they must be isolated to work with the appropriate isomers in our skin, rather than inundate it with both forms, which can lead to unwanted side effects or few results. In the next post I’ll cover where chirality is found and where it comes from.
Question: How do you view the science of chirality?
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