Where the Science of Chirality Originated and Why it Matters to Your Skin
Hopefully you caught the last post on the science of chirality, what it is and how it impacts the skin. If not, check it out…it may take you on a trip down memory lane to your high school science class. Chances are however, chirality wasn’t a part of the high school curriculum, so I will use this post as an opportunity to review where the science comes from and how it originated?
The science of chirality actually has roots dating back to the early 1800s, where it began with an observation in optical activity (think polarized light and optical isomers). The science quickly gained notoriety in chemistry and pharmaceuticals when chemists learned they could improve the efficacy of a formula by isolating specific molecules. Of course, chirality has also been seen in nature since the beginning of time.
A Brief History
You may recall from the last post, chiral molecules are designated D or L based on the configuration of its atoms. In biochemistry, naturally occurring amino acids are nearly all “L,” while naturally occurring carbohydrates/sugars are nearly all “D.”
Much of chirality’s history however, can be attributed to a French chemist and an acid formula called tartaric acid. The chemist was Louis Pasteur and in the 1840s he discovered how to manually sort the molecules in tartaric and he became the first to produce a pure sample of levotartaric acid (D-Tartaric Acid). Naturally occurring tartaric acid is chiral (L-Tartaric Acid).
Why does this matter?
Chirality Is Everywhere
Chiral molecules are everywhere – most of the molecules produced in
nature are chiral. Our DNA, hormones, enzymes and the structural
components of tissue, blood, hair and skin are all chiral. Naturally
occurring amino acids (L), which are the building blocks of proteins,
and sugars (D) are chiral. Some evidence shows amino acids to be the
first organic molecules produced on Earth.
Of the 20 amino acids important in human biology, all but one (glycine), are chiral. Amino acids are an essential part of skin care. They not only regulate our skin’s melanin production (sun protection), but also prompt the skin to repair and renew, accelerate wound healing, and increase skin elasticity.
Our skin – also chiral – is the largest organ so it makes sense that chiral formulations would be most compatible and actually produce results. Not all skin care manufacturers follow this science, but a sure sign is the “L” and “D” designations in the list of ingredients.
Using chiral ingredients will help ensure you are targeting the right cells to produce the results you want. In the next post I’ll delve further into why this makes a difference in skin care.