Although AHAs have been used for years, it has been a mystery why their mechanism of action is that effective in enhancing the skin. Now researchers of the University of California, Davis and Peking University say they may have figured out how AHAs work.
In a series of experiments, the researchers discovered that AHAs are that effective because they create an “ion overload” in keratinocytes, the predominant cell type in the outer layer of skin.
The research team studied the transient receptor potential vanilloid 3 (TRPV3) ion channel, which is located in the cell membrane of keratinocytes.
The researchers explored how AHAs enter into keratinocytes and generates free protons, creating acidic conditions within the cell.
These acidic conditions strongly activate the TRPV3 ion channel, opening it and allowing calcium ions to flow into the cell. Because more protons also enter through the open TRPV3 channel, the process feeds on itself. The resulting calcium ion overload in the cell leads to its death and skin exfoliation.
“Our experiments are the first to show that the TRPV3 ion channel is likely to be the target of the most effective skin enhancer in the cosmetics industry,” says researcher Jie Zheng in the press release.
The discovery could lead to better chemical peels and wrinkle-reducers.
Photo via Glamour
Cao X, Yang F, Zheng J, & Wang K (2012). Intracellular Proton-mediated Activation of TRPV3 Channels Accounts for the Exfoliation Effect of α-Hydroxyl Acids on Keratinocytes. The Journal of biological chemistry, 287 (31), 25905-16 PMID: 22679014