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Spermine -- An unfortunately named antioxidant

March 7, 2009 Reviewed by Claire 3 Comments
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="173" caption="Would you willingly pay for this to be splattered on your face?"]would you willingly pay for this to be splattered on your face?[/caption]

I recently came across an antioxidant that I've never heard of - but now that I have, I will surely never forget it: It's called spermine. And, yup, you've guessed it - it's normally found in seminal fluid.

Talk about adding a whole 'nother level to those frat-house quips of "Vitamin J facials." (If you don't get it. GOOD. Don't ask.)

Apparently spermine has made its way into skin care formulations; specifically, it's the keynote ingredient for the Norwegian skin care line Skin Science.

According to their website, spermine is "the only antioxidant that is capable of penetrating the horny layer of the skin (i.e. stratum corneum)" ... and once there is "20-30 times stronger than vitamin E and offers numerous benefits including delayed cell ageing and UV protection."

Hmmmm, well I guess sperm has been known for its superior penetrating capabilities...

Among its (purported) benefits:

» The skin's natural antioxidant
» Delays aging of cells
» Protects the skin against UV-induced damage
» Capable of penetrating the epidermis, unlike other antioxidants
» Cells are equipped with a natural absorption of Spermine
» Protects the skin's own moisturizer (hyaluronic acid) against oxidative decomposition
» Works preventatively against aging pigments in the skin
» Renders free radicals harmless
» Activated by UV radiation
» Repairs and soothes sun burnt skin
» Stimulates the production of collagen in dermis
» Protects the skin's other antioxidants against oxidative decomposition
» One of the most stabble antioxidants


Before I label this officially under Department of Daft I'm going to give Skin Science the opportunity of enlightening me with some hard science. A quick Google search has pulled up some anecdotal evidence, along with numerous technical papers that will take some time to verify.

What I have found is one study from 1995, Spermine may be an important epidermal antioxidant, which reads: "Polyamines such as spermine, an epidermal antioxidant, may also be protective against UV-irradiation-induced oxidative stress. It is hypothesized that it acts as a metal chelator."

Huh. I do remember hearing about some old home remedies about massaging semen into your scalp to promote hair growth. But until then, I don't think I'll experiment with this ingredient in my next DIY skin care formula.
  • April 9, 2009

    by Geir H. Kvalheim

    Hi Claire,
    I am glad you found this antioxidant and we know perfectly well it is easy to associate it with semen. Let me update you why it is called Spermine.

    In 1677 Antonii van Leewenhoek found a crystal in semen while wanting to discover the origin of life. Actually Spermine is in large concentrations in semen because it is meant to stabilize and protect the DNA of the sperm cells. This is crucial for the survival of the cells.

    Later several scientists have found large concetrations of Spermine in numerous body organs and especially high concentrations in the epidermis. Research show that this is a molecule, besides being a very strong antioxidant (e.g. 30 times stronger than vitamin E), with several other properties than a normal antioxidant. Production actually increases when we are exposed of UV rays, it is a damage sensing molecule actively uptaken by skin cells, and it is in addition to a free radical scavenger also a sugar radical scavenger. There are thousands of scientific published articles proving the effects of Spermine and we would be delighted to tell you more about our products. However, many ask us the same question you also address; why don't we change the name of Spermine?

    The answer is simply that we don't want to hide or disrespect a brilliant and innovative discovery because it may cause some bad assosiactions. We believe in true stories and true scientific documentation. We are not a part of the traditional skin care industry where it seems to be more important to create an innovative marketing made buzz word with no meaning and no real documentation. We know our strategy may cause some aversion among some consumers but we have also seen that our strategy also give us thousands of consumers with great results.

    For the record, we produce the molecule Spermine in a laboratory identical to the Spermine you already are producing in you skin.

    Kind regards,

    Geir H. Kvalheim
    Founder
    Skinscience
    www.skincience.no

  • March 11, 2009

    by claire

    Apparently spermine is also found in the rest of the body, and "the powers that be" are able to synthesize it. Still, can't they change the name? Makes me still think that it's basically derived from sperm. Yuck.

  • March 9, 2009

    by Niall

    Even if these seminal claims are true, I would want to be very reassured about how they, un, harvest and process this substance, so as not to transmit any STDs in the process. Or do the products come packaged in their own condoms?

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