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Everything about L-Carnitine and Its Benefits for the Skin

by Rishi Sharma |

If you are one who gives importance to following a successful skincare regime, you must be familiar with the word L-Carnitine, appearing on the labels of most of the supplements and cosmetic formulations that claim to boost metabolism and promote healthy and youthful skin. So what exactly is L-Carnitine, and how does it benefit your body? Read on to find out more….

A Brief History About the Compound L-Carnitine

The word “carnitine” is primarily derived from the Latin word “carnus”, meaning flesh. Carnitine is an umbrella term for various compounds, including L-Carnitine, acetyl-L-Carnitine, and propionyl-L- Carnitine. L-Carnitine, which is an amino acid, is basically biosynthesized within the human body by the liver and kidneys by using two amino acids, namely lysine and methionine.  L-Carnitine can also be procured from many food sources; however, the most prominent food source is that of animal products like meat, fish, poultry, and milk. Red meats like beef and lamb are often more abundant sources of L-Carnitine as this amino acid is basically isolated from meat.

Under normal circumstances, the L-Carnitine that is produced by the body is sufficient enough to meet most needs, thereby requiring less supplementation. However, on account of genetic or medical reasons, certain people cannot make enough Carnitine (for example pre-term infants, individuals with certain medical disorders or those on certain antibiotics, etc.) [1]

Vegans also may have less amount of L-Carnitine as they do not consume animal-derived food sources. Hence such people may require supplementation. Otherwise, the natural production of L-Carnitine by the human body is sufficient to meet most of our requirements.

The Carnitine so produced by the body is stored in various cells like the brain cells, skeletal muscles, cardiac muscles, etc., that use fatty acids as a source of dietary fuel. In men, Carnitine also gets stored in the sperm.

The Role of L-Carnitine

So what role does L-Carnitine play in the human body? Well, the compound plays a vital part in transporting the various long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondrial cells, thereby enabling the cells to breakdown the fat and derive energy from the stored fat reserves. In short, L-Carnitine helps to transform the body’s fat into energy. L-Carnitine is essential for muscle movement, proper functioning of the heart and brain, as well as various other body functions. L-Carnitine also plays a vital role in reducing the oxidative stress of the body. Hence, it is increasingly considered in many dermal applications. Further, as Carnitine plays a role in lipid metabolism, it is used in the treatment of acne. Carnitine applications also help with many other aspects of skincare such as regeneration of skin post damage, enhancing the formation of blood vessels, minimizing the secretion of sebum and thereby promoting a less oily skin, enhancing the skin tone, reducing cellulite and so on.

Let's take a look at the amazing benefits of Carnitine in skin care:

L-Carnitine and Skin Care

L-Carnitine, also known as carboxylic acid, is substantially used in many natural products that promote skincare given its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. L-Carnitine is supposed to have amazing features in the metabolism of body fat when consumed orally and interestingly, one of the first cosmetic applications of L-Carnitine was that of cellulite control and contouring creams.

In fact, a patent filed by a pharmaceutical company in California states "Although the exact mechanism of action of L-Carnitine in alleviating skin disorders is unknown, it is suspected to be related to the metabolism of the skin, which is highly lipid dependent." The company further stated that L-Carnitine could act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory product, although it is not so chemically. The company also added that L-Carnitine has the capacity to reduce minimize inflammation, swelling and puffiness, and hence it can be used in the treatment of skin issues like sunburns, varicella scarring and wrinkle formation.[2]

Skin Hydration

L-Carnitine is hygroscopic by nature, and hence even a small amount of this compound has pronounced hydrating effects on the skin, making it soft and supple and moisturized. In fact, studies have shown that a 2% use of L-Carnitine demonstrated an enhanced skin hydration level of 26.4% as against a mere 12.5% increase in hydration levels on skin treated with placebo. [3]

L-Carnitine offers moisturizing effects by enhancing the ability of the cell to hold on to the moisture produced in the skin. It paves the way for easy entry of moisture onto the skin and also ensures that the skin is able to retain the moisture content. This makes the skin produce less oil, which can be a significant relief for those suffering from oily skin. Given its pronounced moisturizing effects, L-Carnitine is mostly added to many moisturizing creams and lotions.

Skin Regeneration

Another essential aspect of L-Carnitine is its capacity to regenerate and provide energy to the skin. This property entails it to reduce the signs of aging. Various animal studies have proven its anti-aging benefits. L-Carnitine is an abundant form of amino acid. The body to build new cells uses amino acids. In this aspect, L-Carnitine helps to reduce irritants on the skin by delivering new cells to areas most required. Thus, the compound can rectify all forms of blemishes, scars and damage done to the skin due to free radicals, etc.

Reduces Sebum Secretion and Acne

Sebum is a type of oily and waxy substance that is produced by the sebaceous glands in our body. It helps to moisturize and protect the skin. However, people with oily skin tend to produce excess sebum, which when coupled with sweat and dead skin cells cause skin problems like acne and so on. Studies have shown that topically applied L-Carnitine has the capacity to reduce sebum secretion, providing significant relief to those suffering from oily skin and acne.[4] Various skincare formulations that use L-Carnitine help in treating mild to moderately severe acne.[5]

The Bottom Line

Since L-Carnitine is a natural substance produced by the body, it is considered very safe to be used in cosmetic applications. Though this compound is chemically synthesized for use in cosmetics, it is still much better to be used when compared to other ingredients that are produced artificially.

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