I was flipping through the December issue of Allure Magazine  the other day when I came across an interesting ingredient profiled in the article, "Best Face Forever." It's name? Alpha Lipoic Acid.

"This antioxidant protects skin cells from the environmental damage that leads to wrinkles, and helps reduce the lines already there.

"Used for years as a dietary supplement, ALA is a fatty acid found naturally in skin cells and a potent antioxidant that has been associated in studies with both inhibiting skin tumors and improving the texture of skin. It works, like other antioxidants, by protecting cells from environmental and sun damage. But unlike its peers, it’s one of the few antioxidants that is both fat- and water-soluable, meaning it can work inside the cell and in the cell membrane. In one study published by the British Journal of Dermatology, 33 middle-aged women were treated twice daily for 12 weeks—half the face with a 5% ALA cream, the other half with a control cream. Skin quality improved significantly—by about 50%--in terms of smoothness and wrinkle reduction."

My own independent research supports Allure's reporting. In fact, in another study, ALA also significantly improved the appearance of certain types of scars. Apparently, this "universal antioxidant" helps fight both future skin damage and repair damage done in the past by diminishing fine lines, giving skin a healthy glow, and boosting the levels and efficacy of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E.

Here's what I learned:

Alpha lipoic acid has two important characteristics. Firstly, as a fundamental co-enzyme in several energy-producing reactions on a cellular level. And secondly, as a small but powerful antioxidant accessible to all parts of the body.

What's more, ALA can also help boost the level of intercellular glutathione, another antioxidant important for the immune system. Not only that, but... it helps fight inflammation and water retention by inhibiting the production of the pro-inflammatory chemical cytokine; destroys damaged collagen by activating transcription factor AP-1; has a chelating effect to remove hard water and other chemicals; and, helps prevent the cross-linking of sugar and collagen (a process called glycation), which can lead to stiffness, wrinkles and other signs of aging skin.

Products with ALA:

NV Perricone uses ALA as the cornerstone in many of his formulations and it is a signature ingredient of La Vie Celeste; Prana Reflect Antioxidant Skin Cream SPF45;

Studies:

The Cosmetic Treatment of Wrinkles

Antioxidants and Vitamins in Cosmetics

Dihydrolipoic acid inhibits skin tumor promotion through anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation.

Stability study of lipoic acid in the presence of vitamins A and E in o/w emulsions for cosmetic application

Randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind study on the clinical efficacy of a cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid related to photoageing of facial skin.