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Ingredient spotlight: Phytosterols

September 18, 2017 Reviewed by Marta 1 Comment

Phytosterols came on my radar in big way when I was testing the new eye cream from MitoQ, Eye Renew ($130 in the shop). This high performer so impressed me that I wanted to know more about one of the ingredients, phytosterols. You see it wasn’t obvious to me as to why it would be in my eye cream. Phytosterols are the plant-equivalent of cholesterol, so what gives?

Phytosterols are plant-derived compounds that are structurally very similar to cholesterol. Since we can’t synthesize phytosterols we rely on getting them from food or topically. There are over 200 different phytosterols, and the highest concentrations are found in vegetable oils, beans and nuts. Medically, physterols are valued because they help lower cholesterol (by competing with cholesterol in our gut) and early research suggests that they may prevent certain types of cancer.

Clearly useful, but I was interested in the direct benefits of phytosterols for the skin. If found that there is a link between phytosterols and collagen. In fact, this study is quoted all over the place even though it was based on ten people and the study combined phytosterols with ceramides. Anyway it demonstrated that they inhibited the decline of collagen – the conclusion being that the topical application of phytosterols (at least with ceramides) can delay the decline of collagen fibers.

I began to think that this not very convincing piece of research was all there was. But after a bit of digging I found another study in Japan that used sterols extracted from aloe and demonstrated that production of collagen and hyaluronic acid increased by approximately two-fold and 1.5-fold

It also seems that not all phytosterols are equal (as I mentioned above, there are over 200). Some do a better job than others at boosting collagen, but the overall conclusion was that phytosterols protected cells from invasion and migration. (Source). Elsewhere I read that one type of sterol, stigmasterol, is known to have skin lightening properties.

Research has also shown that phytosterols are anti-inflammatory (although the mechanism by which it does this seemed to be poorly understood at the time).

So it does seem that we might be on to something with phytosterols and anti-aging skincare. But that’s not all. Phytosterols may help with hair loss. They may do this by

inhibiting the formation of 5-alpha reductase (source), which plays a key role in transforming testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), one of the causes of hair loss.



  • September 22, 2017

    by Riyaz Ahmed

    Dear Marta! Love your post! I totally agree with you. I really thank you; for putting so much effort and time into this post and make it with a tons of great info !!

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