Natural Ingredients

Skingredient: Alpha Lipoic Acid – the Master Antioxidant?

Alpha lipoic acid has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions

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Quick Summary

  • Alpha lipoic acid is produced naturally in humans animals and vegetables such as spinach, red meat, and bens, it functions as an important coenzyme involved with energy production in our cells.
  • Alpha lipoic acid is a fatty acid that is used in various cosmetics and skin care products targeted for anti-aging due to its powerful antioxidant activity. It is also commercially available as an oral supplement marketed to protect against oxidative stress, to support cellular energy production and to improve diabetic nerve pain.
  • Potential side effects include a risk for skin redness, tingling, pain or itching immediately following the application of skin care formulations with an alpha lipoic content over 5%. It can also cause nausea and skin rashes when used as an oral supplement.  There has been one report of liver toxicity when taken orally.

What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Alpha lipoic acid, also called “thioctic acid” or “ALA”, is a fatty acid that is used in various cosmetics and skin care products. In addition, alpha lipoic acid is commercially available as an oral supplement, marketed to protect against oxidative stress, support cellular energy production, and to improve diabetic nerve pain.

Alpha lipoic acid is produced naturally in humans and animals and is also found in vegetables such as spinach, red meat, and beans.  It functions as an important coenzyme involved with energy production in our cells. 

Chemical structure of alpha lipoic acid

Credit: PubChem

 

What Does Alpha Lipoic Acid Do?

Alpha lipoic acid is popular in skin care formulations targeted for anti-aging, due to its powerful antioxidant activity. Not only does alpha lipoic acid act as an antioxidant itself, but also helps the body to regenerate other antioxidants in the body, including vitamin C and vitamin E.[1,2]   


Table 1.  Alpha Lipoic Acid Properties and Benefits

Property

Evidence

Antioxidant

Fights free radical damage to help slow signs of aging, such as fine lines and dark spots.[3,4]

Smoothing Agent

A clinical study has shown that alpha lipoic acid may decrease skin roughness.[5]

 

Anti-Inflammatory

 

Alpha lipoic acid has been shown in cell studies[6] to decrease inflammation, but more research is needed to know if it suppresses inflammation when applied to the skin.

 

 

Potential Side Effects of Alpha Lipoic Acid?

  • In skin care formulations with alpha lipoic acid over 5%, there is a risk for skin redness, tingling, pain, or itching immediately following application.[7]
  • As an oral supplement, alpha lipoic acid can cause nausea and skin rashes.
  • There has been one report of liver toxicity when taken orally.[8]

 

A Versatile Antioxidant

As an antioxidant, ALA is capable of neutralizing many of the damaging free radicals, including singlet oxygen,[9] a molecule created by ultraviolet type A radiation. ALA also has anti-inflammatory functions[10] and can reduce the inflammatory signals that are released by skin cells. A molecule that is close in structure to ALA is dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA), which also acts as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.[11] 

* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.

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References

  1. Packer L, Suzuki YJ. Vitamin E and alpha-lipoate: role in antioxidant recycling and activation of the NF-kappa B transcription factor. Mol Aspects Med.1993;14(3):229-239; PMID: 8264337 Link to research.
  2. R. Rosenberg H, Culik R. Effect of alpha-lipoic acid on vitamin C and E deficiencies. Vol 801959.
  3. El-Komy M, Shalaby S, Hegazy R, et al. Assessment of cubosomal alpha lipoic acid gel efficacy for the aging face: a single-blinded, placebo-controlled, right-left comparative clinical study. J Cosmet Dermatol.2017;16(3):358-363; PMID: 27873449 Link to research.
  4. Sherif S, Bendas ER, Badawy S. The clinical efficacy of cosmeceutical application of liquid crystalline nanostructured dispersions of alpha lipoic acid as anti-wrinkle. Eur J Pharm Biopharm.2014;86(2):251-259; PMID: 24056055 Link to research.
  5. Beitner H. Randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind study on the clinical efficacy of a cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid related to photoageing of facial skin. Br J Dermatol.2003;149(4):841-849; PMID: 14616378 Link to research.
  6. Suzuki YJ, Aggarwal BB, Packer L. Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent inhibitor of NF-kappa B activation in human T cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun.1992;189(3):1709-1715; PMID: 1482376 Link to research.
  7. dl-Thioctic acid. PubChem Chemistry Database 2017; Link to research. Accessed December 31, 2017.
  8. Ridruejo E, Castiglioni T, Silva MO. Thioctic acid-induced acute cholestatic hepatitis. Ann Pharmacother.2011;45(7-8):e43; PMID: 21672886 Link to research.
  9. Matsugo S, Bito T, Konishi T. Photochemical stability of lipoic acid and its impact on skin ageing. Free Radic Res.2011;45(8):918-924; PMID: 21651453 Link to research.
  10. Fasano E, Serini S, Mondella N, et al. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of selected natural compounds contained in a dietary supplement on two human immortalized keratinocyte lines. Biomed Res Int.2014;2014:327452; PMID: 25197638 Link to research.
  11. Ho YS, Lai CS, Liu HI, et al. Dihydrolipoic acid inhibits skin tumor promotion through anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation. Biochem Pharmacol.2007;73(11):1786-1795; PMID: 17403519 Link to research.