If you are not a dermatologist or follower of skin care trends, it’s likely that you haven’t put thought into how innovations such as liposomal delivery systems are being incorporated into topical delivery of nutrients and drugs for that matter. Aware or not, this is a very active topic of research for the transdermal, or skin, delivery of substances.
Fats and skin health
Lipids, also known as oils or fats, are very nourishing and important for the health of the skin. The natural oils of the skin are protective to it – supporting hydration and protecting it from damage. Many people utilize natural fatty substances such as coconut or olive oil and avocado for the purpose of nourishing the skin, as they support the skin health providing antioxidants (avocado) or antimicrobials (coconut and olive oil) along with fats., Liposomal delivery systems inherently deliver lipids, in the form of phosphatidyl choline, which nourish the cells of the skin, particularly at the deeper layers of the skin where cells are still alive. The phosphatidyl choline which forms the outer shell of the liposome fuses with cellular membranes which are also comprised of phospholipids, the main one being phosphatidyl choline. As the phospholipid liposomes fuse with the cells of the skin, their contents are directly delivered intracellularly, while the phospholipids provided nourish and repair cellular membranes.
Transdermal delivery of nutrients
Fat-soluble compounds are able to enter the body through the skin, which we see in the topical delivery of medications such as hormones. Small liposomes have been shown to penetrate the layer of the skin known as the stratum corneum, which blocks liposomes of larger sizes (>105 – 120 nm) from delivering their contents into the deeper layers of the skin., Smaller liposomes of roughly 30 – 40 nm in diameter have been shown to rapidly pass through the stratum corneum, without breaking, and deliver their contents to the deeper layers of the skin. The penetration of liposomes 31 nm in size through the stratum corneum was shown to be 590% greater than liposomes larger than 105 nm.6 Enhanced skin penetration also occurs through other features of the skin like hair follicles and pores. When the healthy skin barrier is disrupted by skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or even a surface wound, topical compounds are able to transfer through it more readily.
The skin as an organ of detoxification
The skin serves as an organ of detoxification, and a substantial amount of toxins are excreted in our sweat and the oily/waxy matrix that from the sebaceous glands. In fact, the dermal excretion of some toxic metals has been shown to exceed urinary elimination. A variety of other toxic substances including bisphenol A and organochlorinated pesticides are also excreted through the skin, again, some at higher levels than in the urine., And perhaps not surprisingly, these toxins can also cause damage and irritation to the skin. Although topical use of products does not directly enhance the dermal elimination of toxins, other activities that promote sweating such as exercise and therapeutic saunas do.
Topical applications of liposomal-delivered nutrients and compounds
One setting in which liposomal delivery systems are an active topic of research is for skin aging. Some things which “age” the skin progressively are oxidative damage, which can be due to sun and other environmental exposures, and the reduced formation and gradual degradation of the collagen and elastin which give the skin the quality of turgor – the structural integrity that prevents issues such as wrinkles. Oxidative stress damages cellular membranes (lipids), proteins, and DNA, and contributes to dermatological diseases and some forms of skin cancer.,Knowledge of these factors sheds light on the importance of antioxidants for the skin, and why the liposomal delivery of antioxidants may be beneficial.
In addition to being an antioxidant, vitamin C is critical for the health of many tissues in the body including the skin, as it plays a role in collagen formation. Vitamin C has been shown to stimulate collagen synthesis, particularly that of Type I and Type III collagen., Phosphatidyl choline liposomes delivering ascorbic acid have been shown to deliver ascorbate to the dermis, the deeper layer of the skin, and to prevent oxidative damage and inflammation associated with exposure to UVA and UVB light. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is necessary for the function of mitochondria within the cells of the skin, and as an antioxidant also prevents sun damage. Because of this, CoQ10 also has been studied as a skin anti-aging and wrinkle-preventing substance. Again, liposomal delivery systems have been shown improve delivery of CoQ10 to the skin. These studies and others continue to spur ongoing research in additional applications for the cutting-edge technology of liposomal delivery systems. We can only anticipate more promising findings and advancement in skin-care related products with nanoscale liposomal technologies.
Dr. Carrie Decker is a certified Naturopathic Doctor, graduating with honors from the National College of Natural Medicine (now the National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Decker also has graduate degrees in biomedical and mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign respectfully. Dr. Decker sees patients at her office in Portland, OR, as well as remotely, with a focus on gastrointestinal disease, mood imbalances, eating disorders, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, and skin conditions. Dr. Decker also supports integrative medicine education as a writer and contributor to various resources.