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Heparan Sulfate To Repair a Damaged Skin Barrier

An up and coming skincare ingredient has yet to be utilized by more than one company – Heparan sulfate. This ingredient is relatively new and promises a variety of beneficial effects on the skin. Using heparan sulfate to repair a damaged skin barrier is the goal for one US-based startup company known as Senté. Its innovative product formulation includes heparan sulfate. 

Damaged Skin Barrier Characteristics

Damaged Skin Barrier Characteristics

A damaged skin barrier can be difficult to treat as it is often characterized by multiple skin conditions.

Most notably, a damaged skin barrier presents itself as dryness, flaking, irritation, itchy skin, and inflammation. You may also experience fine lines that are actually not wrinkles – They are dehydration lines.

You can develop a damaged skin barrier from many things. These include using a face wash with harsh surfactants, skipping your moisturizer or sunscreen, exposing the skin to harsh pollutants, cold and snowy weather can also dry out the skin, and lastly, overusing active ingredients in your skincare routine can also contribute to a damaged skin barrier.

With these characteristics, the main solution for healing a damaged skin barrier involves treating your skin gently and using moisturizing ingredients on it. 

What Is Heparan Sulfate?

Heparan sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan.

These are naturally occurring complexes that contribute to the structure of the skin’s barrier. They play an important role in strengthening the skin.

According to the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, glycosaminoglycans play a significant role in regulating cell production and inflammatory processes in the skin.

The biological activity of these substances may also play a role in skin aging.

They are highly expressed in the skin and can be leveraged in skincare formulations to provide benefits to the skin.

Heparan sulfate is a type of glycosaminoglycan that plays a role in regulating growth factors in the skin. It involves a sulfated polysaccharide substance that is also heavily expressed on the surface of the skin. Companies have looked into using this in skincare formulations to reap its benefits. 

Heparan Sulfate In Skincare: The Research

Hydrates the Skin

As per the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, heparan sulfate is known to play a key role in cell growth, cell movement, formation of collagen, and other key skincare events.

Interestingly, it also plays a role in the adhesion of cells during wound healing. This can be extremely beneficial to those suffering from acne or other inflammatory skin conditions in which wound repair would be a necessary process to heal.

Specifically, low weight molecular heparan sulfate has been shown to effectively penetrate the epidermis and even the dermis (a deeper layer of skin) within just 24 hours.

During an 8-week long study, 15 patients used heparan sulfate on their skin. They applied this topically.

Significant improvements in hydration and skin barrier function were noted. This may even be a solution to photodamaged skin. 


In the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, they looked at the role of heparan sulfate in skin repair of aging skin.

As mentioned previously, it is important that heparan sulfate is in its low molecular weight form in order to penetrate the skin.

Upon reviewing the literature on topically applied heparan sulfate, the conclusion was that it can reduce the appearance of wrinkles as well as discoloration in the skin in just a few weeks time.

It may also play a role in improving photodamaged skin and reducing signs of inflammation and skin aging.


The Journal of Pathology explored the role between heparan sulfate and wound healing in the skin.

It was described that this substance not only plays a role in modulating factors involved in wound healing, but also directly impacts the inflammation and cell growth associated with wound healing and repair.

Its structural properties prevent tissue compression by absorbing water in the spaces between collagen and elastin. 

Effective Eye Treatment

The eye area is known as the periorbital area. Many have concerns of wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, general dullness, and fine lines.

Another study by the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology looked into the effects of a topical eye treatment containing heparan sulfate.

They found that application of this eye cream caused a reduction in dark circles and hyperpigmentation. It also improved the appearance of fine wrinkles and increased skin hydration. 

Heparan Sulfate in Skincare

Currently, there are not many companies that include heparan sulfate as a main ingredient in skincare formulations.

For one, this ingredient is naturally large and cannot penetrate the epidermis effectively. Therefore, it is important to use low molecular weight heparan sulfate to gain positive effects from topical application of this ingredient.

In addition, while there are studies on the efficacy of this ingredient, many of the studies have a small number of participants (less than 50) and may not be completely representative of the general population.

More studies with larger sample sets must be done to conclude the effects of heparan sulfate in skincare.

Moreover, some studies were conducted in the late 90s which leaves room for improvement and more studies to be done before making a decision about this ingredient.

Based on the little research that has been completed, it does seem to be a promising treatment to repair the skin barrier. With its wound healing properties and ability to improve overall skin appearance, it may be beneficial to improve dry skin conditions, flaking, and dehydration lines. 


Glycosaminoglycans: Sweet as Sugar Targets for Topical Skin Anti-Aging – PMC (

The Potential Role of Topically Applied Heparan Sulfate in the Treatment of Photodamage – PubMed (

Low molecular weight heparan sulfate containing facial skin care for reducing inflammation and restoring aged-skin homeostasis – PubMed (

Heparan sulphate proteoglycan and wound healing in skin – PubMed (

Global periorbital skin rejuvenation by a topical eye cream containing low molecular weight heparan sulfate (LMW-HS) and a blend of naturally derived extracts – PubMed (



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