Phytosphingosine is a member of a family of active lipids found in the surface layers of the skin that play an important role in cutaneous anti-microbial defence, whilst in addition displaying important anti-inflammatory functions.
A recent study by scientists at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, has suggested that synthetically created phytosphingosine can be topically applied and appears to boost the skins natural defence properties.
The ingredient is being commercialized by Germany-based Degussa, who also funded the current study, and a small number of treatments containing the ingredient have been introduced into the market with mass release expected in the near future.
Possible applications of the ingredient would include over-the-counter creams and lotions, thus tapping into the already sizeable acne treatment category within the skin care market.
The majority of current acne treatments combine long term courses of antibiotics with topical 'peel' applications that often cause severe irritation and discomfort of the skin.
Therefore the hypoallergenic nature of this new treatment along with the combination of anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of Phytosphingosine is likely to make it an extremely attractive alternative to its current counterparts.
In addition, as the long term use of phytosphingosine has no side effects, it could be incorporated into preventative skin care ranges that aim to boost the skin's natural defence systems before specific microbial and inflammatory problems develop.
The recent study tested the efficacy of a combination treatment of phytosphingosine and benzoyl peroxide, a commonly used ingredient in acne treatments, against the application of benzoyl peroxide alone.
Over a period of 60 days 30 acne sufferers (15 male and 15 female) with an average age of 20 years and moderate inflamed acne, were randomly allocated to one of the two treatment groups.
The study claims that after 60 days the combination treatment reduced comedones (blackheads) and pustules by 72 per cent and 60 per cent respectively, whereas treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide alone led to reductions of 22 and 32 per cent.
A further study tested the efficacy of Phytosphingosine versus a placebo treatment using 10 volunteers over a similar two month period, concluding that Phytosphingosine was significantly better than the placebo treatment in controlling the development of new comedones, whilst notably reducing the number of pustules.
Furthermore the study suggests uses for Phytosphingosine may not be confined to acne treatments as its anti-inflammatory -microbial properties could be useful for multiple skin problems including atopic dermatitis.
Source: International Journal of Cosmetic Science
2007, volume 29, pages181 - 190
"Anti-microbial and -inflammatory activity and efficacy of phytosphingosine: an in vitro and in vivo study addressing acne vulgaris."
T. Pavicic, U. Wollenweber, M. Farwick and H.C. Korting