Squalene in skin may produce protective human-induced oxidation field

Published: 14-Jul-2023

A team of scientists has recently published that even the simple presence of people and ozone indoors can result in significant levels of OH radical production

Squalene is a highly sensitive molecule to oxidisation. This characteristic is related to the presence of six carbon double bonds (C=C), making squalene the most unsaturated lipid class.

In the human skin, squalene appears to act as a singlet oxygen quencher, protecting human skin surfaces from lipid peroxidation due to UV light exposure and other oxidative stressors. Squalene is known to be essential for reducing the oxidative damage caused by free radicals to the skin.

A team of scientists from the USA and Denmark, led by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany, has recently published that even the simple presence of people and ozone indoors can result in significant levels of OH radical production. They found that when persons were exposed to varying amounts of ozone inside of a climate-controlled, stainless-steel chamber, high concentrations of OH radicals were produced.

What is significant is that they discovered that ozone's reactions with the oils and lipids on our skin, particularly squalene, result in the creation of our own personal oxidation fields of protection. The key to establishing this human-induced oxidation field is 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one (6-MHO), which forms when ozone reacts with the skin-oil squalene and subsequently generates OH efficiently through gas-phase reaction with ozone.

This novel discovery was first published in the Science journal. The study involved three different groups of four individuals, each staying in a specialised room with a climate control system under controlled conditions for four different days. The air intake of the chamber received a dose of ozone that was not harmful to humans but was typical of higher indoor levels. The OH concentrations were measured in the presence and absence of ozone, both prior to and throughout the volunteers' stay.

In actual surroundings, even without human presence, ozone can also react with squalene in settled dust, skin flakes, and clothing that has been oil-soiled by skin. This reaction produces 6-MHO and affects the OH oxidation field.

“This is a remarkable discovery, but since it's the first of its kind, more needs to be looked at to support additional exploration into the potential effects on human health. Squalene may have beneficial extra characteristics since it not only supports healthy skin and hair but also has the potential to oxidise indoor chemical pollutants. It's not just for cosmetic purposes, it also influences the environment and human health in a good way”, said Dr. Ariati Aris, Scientific Affairs Specialist at PhytoGaia.

“Squalene and the oxidation of most polluting gases have a far stronger correlation than I ever expected. I am encouraged and eager to see additional squalene research regarding this possibility that applying squalene topically could potentially assist us in enhancing air quality. PhytoGaia offers a novel synergistic complex of natural plant squalene + tocotrienol complex (STGaiaTM) that was specifically developed for skin health / skin beauty”, said Bryan See, VP of PhytoGaia.

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