Immunomodulators in cosmetics

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 20.11.2021

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Usually, immunomodulators are substances that, in therapeutic doses, enhance or restore the functions of various parts of the immune system. Substances that suppress specific stages of the immune response are called immunosuppressors, and those that have a directed, "point" effect, affect the secretion of certain humoral factors or the function of certain cells - immunocorrectors. It must be admitted that so far no immunotropic drug has such a selective effect that it could be called an immunocorrector.

At present, in medicine, immunomodulators in combination with antibiotic therapy are used in the treatment of chronic sluggish inflammatory and infectious diseases. It is allowed to use immunomodulators as monotherapy to accelerate recovery after severe diseases, with a preventive purpose in the autumn-winter period, if there are frequent respiratory infections in the anamnesis. For the treatment of allergic and autoimmune diseases, as well as for transplantation of tissues and organs, immunosuppressors such as cytostatics or glucocorticoids are used.

The topic of using immunomodulators for the treatment of infectious diseases is very interesting, but back to the skin. How effective are immunomodulators in cosmetology? Can I use cosmetic products to increase the functional activity of the immune system of the skin? Strictly speaking, it is impossible. By definition, cosmetics are designed to decorate, cleanse and protect the skin, but they do not have the right to interfere with her physiology. However, recently there appeared a vast class of cosmetic products, so-called cosmeceutics, which are designed specifically for affecting the skin cells and which, accordingly, can affect its physiology. Therefore, before saying "yes" or "no" to immunomodulators in cosmetology, it is necessary to understand what in reality we can expect from them, what is the mechanism of their action and whether there is a risk in their use.

Immunity and barrier

Skin is such a perfect barrier that pathogens on its surface do not cause any harm to the body. Problems begin only when the barrier system of the skin is damaged, the pathogen penetrates through the stratum corneum, and the cells of the immune system are connected to its destruction. Destruction of the pathogen by the cells of the immune system is debugged somewhat worse than the work of the barrier system, and often leads to the development of pathological processes and tissue damage.

The skin can be compared with the state, which erected obstacles on the way of undesirable immigrants, threw better forces to strengthen borders, but could not provide a sufficiently effective system of fighting those who could still penetrate the country. Therefore, as soon as law enforcement agencies receive information about illegal emigrants, the first thing they do is send the team to find a breach in the defense and liquidate it. The functions of the patrol raising the alarm at the appearance of violators are performed in the skin of Langerhans cells, which are the most frequent target for cosmetic immunomodulatory action.

The vast majority of immuno-modulators used in cosmetics refers to macrophage activators (Langerhans cells are close relatives of tissue macrophages, since they also originate from monocytes). Although among immunomodulators there are a number of substances that affect lymphocytes, they are not used in cosmetology. Firstly, because almost all of them belong to medicinal products, and secondly, because there are few lymphocytes in the epidermis (mostly memory T-cells that store information about antigens that have already penetrated through the skin). Nevertheless, since all cells of the immune system are closely interrelated, the activation of macrophages can not but affect other cells - lymphocytes, neutrophils, basophils. The immune system is like a web, which all comes into motion no matter where the fly gets entangled.

Types of immunomodulators

  • Milk whey, melatonin and other immunomodulators

In addition to polysaccharides - macrophage activators, other immunomodulators are used in cosmetology. Most of them are substances whose immunomodulating activity was detected in experiments in vitro or in animals, but has not yet been tested in clinical trials. They are used in cosmetics, since either their harmlessness does not cause doubts, or they already have a long history of use as cosmetic ingredients and possess, besides immunomodulating, other useful properties. These substances include milk whey, bromelain, carnosine, melatonin and some others. Most of them accelerate the healing of wounds and have an anti-inflammatory effect.

  • Milk serum

Milk whey has been used in cosmetics since time immemorial, so its safety can be considered proven. Biological activity is mainly the low-molecular fraction of whey proteins, which contains amino acids, growth factors and immunoglobulins. It is shown that under in vitro conditions a low molecular weight fraction of whey proteins stimulates the division of human and animal lymphocyte culture, which indicates that it has an immunomodulatory effect. In milk whey contains amino acid glutamylcysteine, necessary for the synthesis of glutathione - one of the main enzyme antioxidants. Experiments show that glutamylcysteine improves the functioning of cells in the immune system, increasing the effectiveness of fighting infections. It is assumed that this is due to the fact that glutathione protects the cells of the immune system from oxidative stress.

  • Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. The speed of melatonin synthesis depends on the amount of light that gets on the retina of the eye during the day.

It is assumed that it plays an important role in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness, affects the mood (it is believed that inadequate melatonin production in the autumn-winter period leads to the development of seasonal depressions). In addition, this small lipophilic (fat-soluble) molecule shows pronounced antioxidant properties. Due to its lipophilicity and small size, melatonin easily penetrates into the cell membranes and lipid structures of the stratum corneum, protecting them from peroxidation. Recently, melatonin is of great interest to researchers as an endocrine immunomodulator, playing the role of the main link between the nervous and immune systems.

  • Carnosine

Carnosine is a dipeptide containing the amino acid histidine. It is found in many tissues and predominantly in the muscle. Carnosine has strong antioxidant properties, which attracted the attention of manufacturers of cosmetics and food additives. In addition, carnosine is a neurotransmitter (a transmitter of nerve impulses in the nervous system), affects the activity of a number of enzymes and binds heavy metal ions, reducing their toxic effect. Recently, immunomodulating and wound healing properties of carnosine have been actively studied.

  • Bromelain

Bromelain is an enzymatic fraction of the pineapple extract, which contains a number of proteinases - enzymes that dissolve proteins. As a consequence, it is used as a soft exfoliating agent in cosmetology (enzyme peeling). No less popular food additives based on bromelain. They have anti-inflammatory, fibrinolytic, antihypertensive action. Side effects with bromelain were not revealed. Bromelain is used in alternative medicine for the treatment of angina, bronchitis, sinusitis, thrombophlebitis, and also as a remedy for the absorption of drugs, such as antibiotics. Recently, it has been found that bromelain enhances the cytotoxic effect of monocytes against tumor cells, the production of interleukins IL-2p / IL-6, IL-8, TNF. With topical application, bromelain accelerates the cleansing of wounds and accelerates their healing.

  • Cell and tissue preparations

Near cosmetic companies as immunomodulators use tissue extracts and cellular preparations (extracts of thymus, embryonic tissues). They serve as sources of cytokines - regulatory molecules that affect the functions of the immune system (the method is based on the hypothesis that the skin will take what it needs from the set of biologically active substances it offers).

trusted-source[1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]

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