Pine bark extract may protect skin from seasonal changes, environmental stress: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Pycnogenol is a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids extracted from the bark of the maritime pine.   Image © Pack-Shot / Getty Images
Pycnogenol is a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids extracted from the bark of the maritime pine. Image © Pack-Shot / Getty Images

Related tags Pine bark extract skin health Beauty from within skin hydration skin elasticity

Oral supplementation with a standardized extract from French pine bark may help the skin retain moisture, elasticity and barrier function, says a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study with Han Chinese working outdoors in Beijing.

Data published in Skin Pharmacology Physiology​ indicated that, despite exposure to environmental stresses, participants receiving the Pycnogenol had better skin hydration and lower transepidermal water loss, compared to the placebo group.

In addition, the pine bark extract supplement was associated with improvements in measures of skin elasticity.

“This study provides clear evidence that oral supplementation with Pycnogenol is beneficial to the skin in Han Chinese subjects working outdoors in an urban environment,” ​wrote researchers from Beijing Technology and Business University, Beijing EWISH Testing Technology Co., Ltd., IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (Germany), and the Air Force General Hospital in Beijing.

“We therefore propose that oral intake of Pycnogenol might represent one strategy, which can be used to benefit the human skin in individuals living in an urban environment.”

A raft of health benefits

Scientific research for Pycnogenol began in the mid-1960s. The ingredient is a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids extracted from the bark of the maritime pine. It is included in hundreds of dietary supplements, cosmetic products and functional foods and beverages worldwide.

The ingredient has been the subject of scores of clinical studies suggesting benefits covering everything from cardiovascular, joint, cognitive and eye health to sports nutrition, relief of hay fever, PMS, tinnitus, hemorrhoidal pain and menopause symptoms.

Horphag Research – the company behind Pycnogenol – received the American Botanical Council’s Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award at the 8th Annual American Botanical Celebration in 2013.

Study details

Seventy-six participants (57 women) with an average age of 41 were recruited to participate in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study. All of the volunteers were classed as workers who spent long hours outdoors in Beijing and were exposed to urban air pollution and environmental stress as well as seasonal changes in temperature and humidity from April to November. April to July is classed as the rainy season, while July to November is classed as the dryer fall.

Volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either 100 mg/day of Pycnogenol or placebo for 12 weeks. This was followed by a one-week washout period (no intervention) before the participants were crossed over to the other group for a further 12 weeks.

Results showed that Pycnogenol supplementation in during the wet season was associated with a 7% improvement in skin elasticity, compared to only 0.1% in the placebo group. A 7% improvement in skin firmness was also reported in the pine bark group, compared to a 0.3% decrease in the placebo group.

Data from the during the dry season showed that participants in the Pycnogenol group had 14% lower transepidermal water loss (TEWL), indicating a significant improvement of skin barrier function, compared to a 4.5% increase in TEWL in the placebo group.

Moreover, decreases in skin moisture were lower in the Pycnogenol group, with a 3.3% decrease reported, compared with 14% in the placebo group. Improvements of 13% were reported for skin elasticity  and skin firmness in the pine bark group, compared to increases on 0.7% and 0.3% in the placebo group, respectively.

Commenting on the study’ findings, Dr Fred Pescatore, a natural health physician and author, said: “Pycnogenol has a deep catalog of research for skin health, and this study builds upon decades of existing science to show that oral supplementation with Pycnogenol can make a significant difference in skin health and appearance, even in strenuous environmental conditions.”

Source: Skin Pharmacology Physiology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1159/000514323
“Oral Pycnogenol Intake Benefits the Skin in Urban Chinese Outdoor Workers: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind, and Crossover Intervention Study”
Authors: H. Zhao et al.

Related topics Research Botanicals Skin health

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