spintrap what is it

Spin trap is an anti-aging ingredient that typically turns up in only in sophisticated, high-end formulations. It is quite an amazing antioxidant that works by stabilizing free radicals that are spinning out of control. I first came across spin trap a few years ago in Your Best Face products, but I only had a superficial understanding of how it works. I decided it was high time to learn a little more. And what I found was something only a little short of extraordinary.

A good place to start is with “free radicals.” Although this sounds like a name for a rock band, free radicals are actually groups of atoms that attack cells. According to the free radical theory of aging (FRTA), organisms age because cells accumulate free radical damage over time. A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for a healthy body. If free radicals overwhelm the body's ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensues. Free radicals then adversely alter lipids, proteins and DNA, and they trigger a number of human diseases, including aging.

Typically, spin traps are used by lab researchers to detect and identify short-lived radicals. The spin trapping “reagent” reacts with the radical to stabilize it so that it can easily be analyzed. Although there are about 25 different types of spin trap, the most commonly used one is alpha phenyl-N-tert butyl nitrone. My mental image of a spin trap is a molecule with a lasso taking down a whirling radical.

But how did these free radical scavengers come to be seen as the next big thing in anti-aging cosmetics and, for that matter, hair growth? Well, it comes down to the fact that spin traps are intelligent.

You see, spin traps have a fundamentally different mechanism than other antioxidants. Most antioxidants destructively act on the free radicals by chemically reacting with them to convert the ROS (reactive oxygen species) into water. On the other hand, spin traps intercept them before any damage is done. And the intelligent part is that spin traps are the only antioxidants that differentiate between good oxygen molecules and damaging ones (ROS).

There have been studies on spin trap and anti-aging, although on rats and specific organs they suggest positive results. It also seems that spin traps modulate proinflammatory cytokines and hence are anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and age-reversing. Although spin trap is used in shampoo by DS Laboratories that purports to encourage hair growth, I haven’t found any research that supports this function.

In anti-aging cosmetic formulas, you’ll see it listed as phenyl butyl nitrone. It is still surprisingly rare. One of the reasons might be that as a raw ingredient it is relatively expensive. Your Best Face has made spin trap one of its signature ingredients, and you will find it just about the entire line, including its bestselling eye cream, Your Best Face Correct ($150 in the shop), the firming facial serum, Your Best Face Control ($160 in the shop) and the Private Reserve Antioxidant Oil ($75 in the shop).

Skinfinite added spin trap to its Peptide Repair Serum ($69 in the shop) along with a growth factor, apple stem cells and antioxidants in the form of ubiquinone. Arcona is another big fan of spin trap. Check it out in, for example, Arcona Instant Magic Reversal Serum ($105), which has the antioxidant milk thistle and skin brightening alpha arbutin. It is also a welcome inclusion in Arcona’s glycolic infused The Solution Pads ($45)


Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.