Most of us associate pine trees with the smell of Christmas, but they could also be a powerful beauty-booster. Pycnogenol, an extract from pine tree bark, could help your skin produce more collagen to ward off fine lines and wrinkles.
Pycnogenol is extracted from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, Pinus pinaster. It’s packed with antioxidant compounds – around 40 at the last count.
The legend goes that pycnogenol’s health-boosting properties were discovered in 1534, when tea made from the pine tree’s bark and needles saved a shipwrecked crew from scurvy.
Collagen is the protein that ‘glues’ our connective tissues together, giving strength and structure to our skin, bones, joints and blood vessels. A steady supply of fresh collagen is needed to repair the damage caused by free radicals and everyday wear and tear.
We need vitamin C to make collagen, but if we’re not getting enough our skin can start break down, leading to wrinkles, while a severe vitamin C deficiency could cause blood vessels to collapse, tendons to weaken and cartilage to wither away. In other words, we could fall apart!
There is only a fairly modest amount of vitamin C in pycnogenol, but one theory is that flavonoids (plant compounds) in the pine bark extract can make even a little vitamin C go a long way.
In a 1998 study, pycnogenol was found to extend the lifespan of ascorbate radical (a form of vitamin C) from 20 to 80 minutes, making it more effective than any other compound tested.
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So what does all this mean for your skin? Collagen production declines as we age – cue fine lines and wrinkles.
But a study published in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology in 2012 revealed that women who took a pycnogenol supplement every day for 12 weeks saw their skin elasticity improve by 25%. They also experienced a boost in hyaluronic acid, which helps your skin hold on to moisture, and a lift in skin hydration.
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