If you’re a skin care buff, totally in the know about all the weird and wonderful ingredients commonly (or uncommonly) used in skin care products, then we salute you! Keeping up with the latest in skin care ingredients and products is no easy task - trust us, we know, we need to be up to date all the time!
Here at Sönd, we make skin care products that are based on natural products such as plant based oils and botanicals. Our hero ingredient is silica, which we use in the form of silica salts which are alkalising on the skin. Our products nourish, hydrate and support all skin types and conditions.
From oily skin to dry skin, and from acne prone skin to skin that’s extremely sensitive or experiences psoriasis. We’ve got you covered with our alkalising cleanser, moisturisers and brand new face mask. Even those of you out there with ‘normal’ skin, we’re made for you, too.
So we know we have to keep up with the latest miracle ingredients to make sure we’re providing the best skin care products that we can.
Part of that knowledge is knowing what skin care ingredients are kind to the skin (and the environment when they get washed down the drain into our waterways). And more importantly, knowing which ones are unkind to the skin and the environment.
So we regularly feature articles detailing specific ingredients, what they’re used for, what skin type they suit best and whether or not they’re going to do you (and us) any good.
This time, it’s the turn of an ingredient called betaine. What is it, how does it work, and crucially, does it work. We don’t include it in our skin care products, so we can be totally impartial on the topic…
What is betaine?
Betaine, also sometimes known as trimethylglycine, is a naturally occurring substance that’s derived from the sugar beet plant. It’s a substance that the body requires for certain biological functions. It’s also added to skin care products to help to hydrate the skin.
(But that’s not to say it’s always found in skin care products as a natural ingredient - there are now plenty of lab derived, synthetic versions of betaine around now.)
It was first discovered in the 19th century in sugar beet, but since then, it's been found in some other plants too. Wheat germ and spinach also contain betaine. But so do some aquatic animals, so if you’re vegetarian, vegan or looking for plant based skin care products, make sure you do your research into the brands you’re buying.
What does betaine do for the skin?
It’s probably better to first answer the question, what does betaine do for the body. We get the majority of the betaine our body needs from eating the plants that contain betaine. But the body can also manufacture it itself, by biologically combining the amino acid glycine and another nutrient called choline.
The body requires betaine to help assist the biological detox processes that occur in the liver and with normal cellular function. Most importantly, it helps the body break down the fats that we consume in our diets and helps to protect our brains, liver and kidneys.
In answer to what does betaine do for the skin - it acts as a type of compound called an osmolyte. An osmolyte helps to control a process called osmosis that happens in all of our cells - a process whereby water flows in and out of cells, depending on the concentration of salts and sugars in each cell.
If a cell undergoes osmosis, and loses water, it can result in a loss of cell volume and ultimately, its death. We wouldn’t notice the death of one cell. But collectively, in the skin cells, we’d notice our skin looking dry and flakey if they kept on losing water.
If an osmolyte such as betaine is present in the skin cells (or any other cells), the cells can attract more water and achieve a better cell water balance. This is especially good news for skin that’s become dehydrated or damaged by UV radiation caused by spending too long in direct sunlight without any protection.
This has the overall effect of making the skin more hydrated by preventing water loss from the skin. And as we know, hydrated skin appears healthier, more plump, has more glow and has a more youthful appearance due to the absence of fine lines and wrinkles.
Without getting too scientific, betaine also has the ability to improve ‘tight junctions’ between the skin cells. These tight junctions are made of proteins and help to regulate the flow of solutes and water between the cells.
Tight junctions also help to prevent toxins and other harmful substances flowing into the skin cells. These include environmental pollutants and common allergens which can dehydrate and age the skin, or cause irritation and inflammation. None of which are conducive to youthful looking skin!
The use of betaine in skin care products
Due to the fact that betaine helps to prevent water loss from the skin cells, and the entry of harmful agents into them, it's quite often present in skin care formulations. (It’s also a common ingredient in hair care products too, where it helps to give strength and hydration to the hair and makes it easier to comb through after washing.)
There is also evidence that betaine helps to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is linked to a worsening of certain skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne and rosacea.
So it could also help if you have stressed out, sensitive or simply ultra contrary skin. Just make sure you look for products with naturally derived, plant based sources of betaine, as they’re more likely to be from a skin care brand that’s kind to your skin.
Is betaine safe?
The Environmental Working Group (or EWG) class betaine as safe for use in skin care products formulated to be non irritating. It says there is no evidence that betaine is linked with cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity or allergies and immunotoxicity.
In the same manner, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (or CIR) Expert Panel have only assessed the safety of synthetically produced betaine and they say it's safe. They also say that naturally derived betaine is stable and non toxic and therefore safe.
Like anything, make your own well informed decisions when it comes to what you put on your skin, just the same as you would when it comes to what you put inside your body.
If you’re looking for completely natural skin care that works, then choose our products for simple, natural and effective skin care, whatever your skin type.