Since its initial discovery by chemist Ernest Schulze over a century ago, arginine—or L-Arginine, the form of arginine found in nature—has become quite popular in the healthcare industry. This versatile amino acid plays an important role in creating proteins in your body, leading to a number of skin-related benefits, from hydrating your skin to addressing the signs of aging.
Here, we’ll take a look at the skin benefits of arginine, and explore how you can use this amino acid in your skincare routine.
Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid that helps your body conduct various important functions. Since it’s semi-essential, your body usually produces enough arginine on its own, but in some cases you might run low and need to give yourself a boost by changing up your diet.
Internally, arginine can help reduce your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system. This powerful protein building-block may even be used to reduce the risk of infection in situations where your immunity is compromised, such as when you’re getting surgery.¹
Aside from the internal physiological benefits, it provides external skin benefits as well.
Arginine can increase antioxidant activity, stimulate collagen production, enhance hydration, and protect your skin barrier. Let’s take a look at the science behind it!
Arginine has demonstrated the ability to induce antioxidant activity in your body.² Why’s that important? Simple. Antioxidants fight free radicals, which are highly reactive chemicals that can cause damage to your skin.
Free radicals can be made inside your body, or you may be exposed to them externally through pollutants.³ They can potentially harm your skin because they’re notorious for damaging important cellular components such as cell membranes and proteins like collagen.⁴ Damaged collagen in your skin can lead to skin discoloration and wrinkles.⁵ Collagen degradation also contributes to the appearance of photoaged skin.⁶
Arginine not only helps protect collagen from free radicals, but it may also increase collagen synthesis, helping you maintain your skin elasticity. One research study found that collagen synthesis was significantly enhanced in elderly volunteers who took an oral supplementation containing arginine, among other ingredients.⁷
Aside from enhancing antioxidant activity and collagen production, arginine can also help you battle dry skin. When arginine is mixed with moisturizers or humectants, it can provide an additional skin barrier to prevent dryness.⁸
One study found that using arginine topically helped improve the clinical symptoms of dry skin in patients.⁹ So, if you’re suffering from dry skin and you’re looking for a hydrating ingredient, arginine may be a good choice.
Hydrated skin also helps strengthen your skin barrier. Your skin barrier naturally protects your skin from external threats such as chemicals and helps prevent water loss by locking in moisture.¹⁰ Dry skin can weaken your skin barrier and make it easier for irritants to make their way inside.¹¹
Arginine protects your skin barrier by enhancing hydration. One study showed that when arginine was combined with a 5% urea-based formulation, it enhanced skin hydration and decreased skin dryness in type 2 diabetics.¹² Another study showed that taking the combined supplementation of arginine, leucine, and glutamine decreased water loss through the skin and also improved skin barrier function, texture, and elasticity.¹³
Using the right skincare products can help keep your skin moisturized and protected. If you have dry skin, Curology’s Rich Moisturizer may be right for you. It’s powered by six moisturizing ingredients that enhance hydration and help restore your skin barrier, without clogging your pores.
Free radicals are chemicals that can cause skin damage and break down collagen, leading to wrinkling.¹⁴ Antioxidants can slow down the appearance of the early signs of aging by fighting these free radicals.¹⁵ Arginine has been identified as a free radical scavenger that acts as an antioxidant.¹⁶ That said, more research is needed to explore the topical benefits of arginine as it relates to improving signs of aging.
According to the FDA, arginine is generally recognized as safe when used in accordance with good manufacturing or feeding practices.¹⁷ If you’re thinking about taking oral supplements, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider first to ensure it’s safe for you based on your current health condition and medical history.
According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, arginine is safe to use in concentrations up to 18%, so as long as the concentration of arginine is 18% or lower, it should be safe to use.¹⁸
For oral supplements, make sure to speak with your medical provider for advice specific to your personal circumstances.
You can consume arginine orally through supplements and the right diet, or you can use creams that contain this amino acid and apply them topically.
Foods that are high in protein naturally contain arginine, including:¹⁹
Nuts and legumes
Meats (such as red meat, chicken, turkey, salmon, and haddock)
The food you eat can affect your skin significantly, both in positive and negative ways. Make sure you understand your body and know what foods can cause an allergic reaction before introducing anything new to your diet.
If you’re thinking about applying arginine topically, you may consider the following products:
The Ordinary Amino Acids Formulated with a blend of amino acids including arginine and vitamin B5, this serum hydrates, repairs, and strengthens your skin's natural barrier, leaving all skin types looking healthy and radiant. It also claims to boost overall skin health and to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Doctor Babor AHA 10 + 10 Peeling Gel This potent peeling gel is formulated with a potent blend of alpha hydroxy acids. This gel exfoliates and resurfaces your skin, leaving it smoother, brighter, and more even-toned. It contains arginine and can be used 1-2 times per week.
Using the right skincare products with powerful ingredients can make all the difference in how your skin looks and feels. At Curology, all our routine essentials are dermatologist-designed and non-pore-clogging.
Here at Curology, we believe in using scientifically backed ingredients to help you meet your skincare goals. Our licensed dermatology providers work with you to create personalized prescription products, like Future-ProofRx. This formula may contain powerful ingredients such as niacinamide and tretinoin to help meet your skin goals.
Our providers can also help you create a full skincare routine and answer any questions you might have along the way. Sign up and start your 30-day trial* today.
Arginine is generally safe for all skin types when used at a concentration of up to 18%.²⁰
Research shows that arginine plays a role in collagen protection and production.²¹
Arginine is an amino acid that helps your body carry out many important functions. Your body usually makes enough arginine on its own. However, you can get additional arginine by consuming certain foods such as grains and meat.
McRae, M.P. Therapeutic Benefits of L-Arginine: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. (2016, September 10).
Liang, M., et al. l-Arginine induces antioxidant response to prevent oxidative stress via stimulation of glutathione synthesis and activation of Nrf2 pathway. Food and Chemical Toxicology. (May 2018).
Phaniendra, A., et al. Free Radicals: Properties, Sources, Targets, and Their Implication in Various Diseases. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. (January 2015).
National Cancer Institute. Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention. (2017, February 6).
Silva, S.A.M.E., et al. An overview about oxidation in clinical practice of skin aging. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. (May-June 2017).
Zhang, S., and Duan, E. Fighting against Skin Aging. Cell Transplantation. (2018, April 25).
Williams, J.Z., et al. Effect of a Specialized Amino Acid Mixture on Human Collagen Deposition. Annals of Surgery. (September 2002).
Giam, Y.C., et al. A review on the role of moisturizers for atopic dermatitis. Asia Pacific Allergy. (2016, April 28).
Nenoff, P., et al. Topically applied arginine hydrochloride. Effect on urea content of stratum corneum and skin hydration in atopic eczema and skin aging. Hautarzt. (January 2004).
Kanwar, A. Skin barrier function. Indian Journal of Medical Research. (January 2018).
Del Rosso, J., et al. Understanding the Epidermal Barrier in Healthy and Compromised Skin: Clinically Relevant Information for the Dermatology Practitioner: Proceedings of an Expert Panel Roundtable Meeting. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (2016, April 1).
Piquero-Casals, J., et al. Urea in Dermatology: A Review of its Emollient, Moisturizing, Keratolytic, Skin Barrier Enhancing and Antimicrobial Properties. Dermatology and Therapy. (2021, October 1).
Takaoka, M., et al. Effect of amino-acid intake on physical conditions and skin state: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. (2019, May 24).
Pai, V.V., et al. Antioxidants in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. (2014, Apr 5).
Silva, S.A.M.E., et al. An overview about oxidation in clinical practice of skin aging. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. Ibid.
Tripathi, P. and Misra, M.K. Therapeutic role of L-arginine on free radical scavenging system in ischemic heart diseases. Indian J Biochem Biophys. (December 2009).
Food and Drug Administration. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. (2023, Jan 17).
Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Safety Assessment of α-Amino Acids as Used in Cosmetics. (2012, October 5).
Mirmiran, P., et al. The Association of Dietary L-Arginine Intake and Serum Nitric Oxide Metabolites in Adults: A Population-Based Study. Nutrients. (2016, May 20).
Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Safety Assessment of α-Amino Acids as Used in Cosmetics. Ibid.
Williams, J.Z., et al. Effect of a Specialized Amino Acid Mixture on Human Collagen Deposition. Annals of Surgery. Ibid.
Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.
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Here at Curology, we currently focus on the diagnosis and treatment of acne, rosacea, and anti-aging concerns. We do not treat many of the conditions mentioned in this article. This article is for information purposes.
Laura Phelan, NP-C