Photosomes are one of the latest innovations in skin care science and are continually appearing in new products designed to improve the look and feel of the skin. Because the ingredient is of natural origin, photosomes are now added to a variety of naturally based skin care lines, where they can take the place of synthetic or chemical ingredients that perform similar functions. Although "photosome" is the most common name for the ingredient, the substance can also be referred to as EC 18.104.22.168 or photophylase.
Rather than being one ingredient derived from nature, a photosome actually consists of two parts: an interior substance known as phylase and an exterior capsule called a liposome. Phylase is an enzyme that is derived from plankton, a class of organisms that are present in seawater and carried by the current. A wide variety of plankton types are found in the world's oceans, including invertebrate animals, bacteria and plants. Many plankton types produce phylase, and photosomes can make use of the enzyme found in virtually any variety of plankton. For those looking for vegan skin care formulations, this is important to note, as only bacteria or plant-based phylase is truly animal-free.
As plankton drifts in the current, the intense energy of the sun penetrates the water and often reaches their cells. Just as ultraviolet light has the potential to damage the cells of the human body, the intense energy can disrupt the natural processes of the cells in plankton, leading to death of the organisms. Often, it is the DNA of the cells that becomes damaged due to ultraviolet light, which hinders the ability of plankton to produce new healthy cells.
The phylase enzyme serves as a natural defense against ultraviolet light. When visible light reaches plankton, the enzyme activates and works to repair the damage to the cellular DNA that is caused by the intense radiation found in ultraviolet B light. By repairing the damage, phylase helps the cells to continue to function properly even when the plankton is exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
A clinical study conducted at the Laboratoire de Biogénotoxicologie et Mutagenèse Environnementale at the Université de la Méditerranée in Marseille, France, in 2005 found that phylase extracted from plankton also has the ability to protect and repair the DNA in human cells. During the study, keratinocytes, the cells responsible for producing some types of skin protein cells, were damaged using ultraviolet B light. Then, phylase was added to the cells and activated using visible white light. After just one hour, the cells treated with phylase showed an improvement in the amount of DNA damage.
The results of this study and others like it led to an interest in including phylase in skin care products; however, problems arose in early formulations. The trouble with these first phylase-containing products was that in order for the enzyme to benefit the skin, it needed to stay in place on its surface and be activated by light.
Unfortunately, the lotions, gels and creams that contained phylase became rapidly absorbed by the skin, limiting their effectiveness.
To help improve the efficacy of phylase-containing products, skin care companies began enclosing the enzyme inside of liposomes. A liposome is a tiny bubble or membrane comprised of two players of lipids. The membrane functions similarly to a human body cell in that it can selectively allow materials to pass through its surface. The liposome keeps the phylase on the surface of the skin and gradually releases the enzyme into the tissue, where it can work to repair DNA over an extended period of time.
Thanks to the addition of the liposome capsule, photosomes are an effective way of treating the skin to the healing effects of phylase. Photosomes are becoming a common ingredient in sunscreens, where they work to reverse previous sun damage while the active ingredients in the formulas protect the skin from new damage. In addition, photosomes are also found in anti-aging skin care products that are used during the day when users are likely to head outdoors, such as in moisturizers designed for application in the morning. With regular use, photosomes can make fine lines and wrinkles less noticeable and restore collagen-producing cells that have become damaged due to ultraviolet B energy.