Filaggrin isn’t a typical buzzword in skincare. It is not widely available (Although there are a few products that contain this amazing ingredient).
Filaggrin is a type of protein that plays a pivotal role in restoring the skin barrier function. It works along with other proteins to promote proper structural integrity of the skin barrier.
The skin barrier is incredibly important to maintain. It prevents dehydration and protects the skin from external stressors. Filaggrin is just one important component in aiding the skin’s defense mechanisms.
Let’s dive into why filaggrin is critical to the function of the skin barrier. In addition, I will explain how filaggrin can restore your skin barrier and calm acne by using products containing this ingredient.
What Does Filaggrin Do In the Skin?
Filaggrin is a type of protein that is present in epidermal cells.
It is encoded by the FLG gene in humans. This gene is tightly regulated and only expresses this protein when activated. This is to ensure that the skin barrier remains intact and functioning at all times.
It is mainly found in the stratum corneum and works closely with keratins.
Keratin is a type of protein that forms structural tubules. Keratins create a functional barrier in the stratum corneum.
When filaggrin is made, it is first known as profilaggrin, which is a large protein. Other proteins break down profilaggrin into smaller filaggrin molecules. These filaggrin proteins stick to keratin filaments and facilitate compaction of these filaments.
In this way, they become very strong and create a sturdy barrier in the stratum corneum.
Once this occurs, it functions to keep out environmental stressors and also prevents water loss from the skin. By doing so, this barrier protects the skin from dehydration and other skin conditions.
What Decreases Filaggrin In The Skin?
Degradation of filaggrin proteins can occur in the skin for a number of reasons.
Humidity in the environment has been shown to degrade filaggrin proteins.
In addition, any variation in the water content present in the stratum corneum can affect levels of filaggrin protein in the skin.
What Happens To Filaggrin Deficient Skin?
There are three main skin conditions that occur with filaggrin deficient skin.
These deficiencies can be caused by the changes in the environment as listed above, or from genetic mutations.
The first issue is ichthyosis vulgaris. This is a skin disease that is often characterized by very dry and flaky skin. Often, the palms and soles have many lines in them.
In these patients, the amount of filaggrin in the skin was significantly decreased. In addition, the molecules used to copy the FLG gene to make filaggrin were also significantly decreased in patients with ichthyosis vulgaris.
Ichthyosis vulgaris is the result of an excessive buildup of proteins that prevent the skin from shedding cells properly.
The second issue that has been associated with a decrease in filaggrin protein is eczema.
This skin condition is characterized by inflamed, itchy, and dry skin patches that can appear on the hands, face, and other parts of the body.
In European populations, the filaggrin protein had been shown to be decreased, which was caused by a loss of function of the FLG gene.
Another issue that may occur due to a deficiency of the filaggrin protein includes acne.
Acne is a chronic inflammatory condition that is heavily associated with a damaged skin barrier.
Poor barrier function can lead to loss of water, dehydration, and dry skin.
This makes the skin prone to infections from Propionibacterium acnes, which is the acne-causing bacteria.
In addition, dehydrated skin makes it difficult to fight off bacteria and keep the skin moisturized, which leads to frequent breakouts.
Can You Increase Filaggrin?
One way to increase filaggrin in the skin involves the topical application of certain skincare products containing filaggrin.
One study showed that a specific formulation containing both ceramides and filaggrin contributes to a significant improvement in atopic skin.
Atopic skin is characterized by very dry and inflamed skin, often associated with a disrupted skin barrier.
Daily use of this cream showed results after just 2 weeks of use. This suggests that filaggrin can effectively penetrate into the skin to improve overall skin health and barrier function.
Other products, such as Cetaphil’s Restoraderm Moisturizer, contains filaggrin breakdown products.
These products include sodium PCA and arginine.
Sodium PCA is a type of hydrating ingredient that can be found in a multitude of products. I wrote a great comparison post of sodium PCA vs hyaluronic acid in skincare.
Arginine has antioxidant properties that scavenges free radicals in the skin, protecting it from oxidative damage.
These filaggrin breakdown products improve hydration and skin barrier function and are ideal for people with atopic skin.
How Can Filaggrin Improve Acne?
Since acne is a chronic inflammatory condition, using filaggrin in skincare products can contribute to the overall health of the skin.
When the skin barrier is intact and functions optimally, this mitigates inflammation in the skin. Without inflammation, the overall look of the skin is brighter and more even.
Filaggrin also creates a sturdy skin barrier that prevents infections from acne-causing bacteria. Use of filaggrin-containing products or products containing the breakdown products of filaggrin aid in preventing water loss.
Transepidermal water loss is detrimental to the skin barrier.
The skin cells need large amount of water content to stay moisturized and shed properly. When the skin is dehydrated, it becomes weak and unable to fight breakouts.
An increase in filaggrin content in the skin decreases water loss and increases the chances of fighting breakouts.