What is Galactoarabinan
With the introduction of our new Daily Acid Toner, we started using an entirely new ingredient: Galactoarabinan – a biopolymer consisting of galactose and arabinose. It is worth noting that within the food and supplement industry this ingredient is known by its synonym, Arabinogalactan, where it’s more commonly used as an ingredient, complete with extensive clinical studies. Other less common synonyms include arabogalactan and galactoarabinin. In cosmetics, it’s just known as Galactoarabinan, which we’ll call ‘GA’ moving forward. To properly explain what it does within a skincare formula, let’s explore a little more background information first.
Arabinogalactans have actually been a part of the human diet for thousands of years, we just never knew it until recently (as in the past 30 years). GA is tucked away within the primary and secondary cell walls of plant cells – search and you can find GA all throughout the plant kingdom! Belonging to a major group of carbohydrates known as hemicelluloses (non-starch polysaccharides), GA has been detected in seeds, leaves, roots, fruit and sap. The most common commercial source of GA are larch trees, a conifer from the genus Larixfound scattered throughout the world in Europe, Siberia, Asia and North America. Larch wood has applications across several different industries, including timber for construction along with the aforementioned food and supplement industry. Larch grows abundantly, but sustainability should always be a consideration. For example, Larch is available from responsible suppliers that carry the Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC).
Whilst GA has a great array of skincare and formulation benefits (which we will dive into in a moment), it’s fitting to tip our hat to an amazing clinical study conducted by Dion, Carine et al, published in 2016 in the science journal, Nutrition and Metabolism. The scientists performed a placebo-controlled, double-blind and randomised trial over a period of 12 weeks, and concluded that Arabinogalactan remember, that’s GA when in food) significantly increased the body’s immune potential to defend against common human pathogens. In the instance of the common cold, GA decreased the incidence of episodes by 23%! Dietary sources of arabinogalactans include leek seed, carrot, radish, pear, maize, wheat and tomato. Sources of GA also include herbs such as Echinacea species, Baptisia tinctoriaplant, and Curcuma longa or Turmeric, which is found as an ingredient in our Active Infusion Oil, Active Enzyme Exfoliator, Advanced Hydration Mask, Complete Moisture Cleanse, Hydrating Accelerator, and Vital Balm Cream.
Over to skincare formulation where GA is a bit of an underdog – not commonly used, yet potent in performance. As a cosmetic ingredient, it has many functions within a formula but it’s considered a “film former” according to its CAS classification. In full transparency, we must share that due to patenting laws around GA, most of what we know about this ingredient in skin care comes from its manufacturer who used 3rd party laboratories to validate claims.
As a high molecular polysaccharide, GA is a biopolymer proven to support the efficacy of alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s), which is exactly why it was chosen for the Daily Acid Toner: providing gentle exfoliation with little potential for irritation. GA is also effective at reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL), or skin surface vapor loss. To expand, TEWL is an important biomarker of skin barrier health; an optimally functioning barrier will be more effective in retaining moisture. Analyzing TEWL is also a way to assess the potential for skin irritation. To make this simple: by reducing TEWL, the potential for irritation is also lowered. So GA not only supports the exfoliating function of AHA’s but also lowers the chance of skin irritation by reducing TEWL. Finally, GA helps to improve fine lines and wrinkles, along with overall ‘plumpness’ of the skin due to increased moisture retention.
Dayan, Nava. Skin Aging Handbook: an Integrated Approach to Biochemistry and Product Development / Edited by Nava Dayan. Norwich, NY: William Andrew, 2008.
Dion, Carine et al. “Does larch arabinogalactan enhance immune function? A review of mechanistic and clinical trials.” Nutrition & metabolismvol. 13 28. 12 Apr. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12986-016-0086-x
D’ADAMO, PETER, N. “Larch Arabinogalactan is a Novel Immune Modulator”. J. Naturopath. Med. 1996, (4);32-39
CIR. Safety Assessment of Polysaccharide Gums as Used in Cosmetics. https://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/polysaccharide%20gums.pdf
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Larch”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Jan. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/plant/larch. Accessed 30 March 2021.