Pycnogenol keeps skin young

The supplement Pycnogenol rejuvenates the skin. Researchers at the German Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine came to this conclusion after performing a small study in which twenty women participated. According to the Germans, Pycnogenol activates genes that prompt skin cells to make collagen and hyaluronic acid.

Pycnogenol is a patented extract of bark from the pine tree Pinus pinaster. [] It consists for 70 percent of procyanidins. Procyanidins are also called proanthocyanidins or OPCs and they are oligomers of catechin and epicatechin. These compounds are also found in cherries, grapes, apples, berries and tea.

Pycnogenol is produced by the Swiss company Horphag Research. Horphag financed the Germany study, which was published in spring 2012 in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology and attracted attention in the popular press. The article below appeared in the Daily Mail of 27th January. [ 27 January 2012]

If you give Pycnogenol to diabetics with wounds it speeds up the healing process. [Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2006 Jul; 12(3): 318-23.] Diabetes delays wound healing, probably because the blood supply to skin cells is worse in diabetics. The same is the case for some cardiovascular diseases, and in these Pycnogenol also speeds up wound healing. [Angiology. 2005 Nov-Dec; 56(6): 699-705.] Animal studies have also shown that gel containing Pycnogenol helps the process of wound healing and also reduces the formation of scar tissue. [Phytother Res. 2004 Jul; 18(7): 579-81.] It looks as though Pycnogenol improves the blood supply to the skin cells.

The Germans were curious to know whether Pycnogenol also helps delay skin aging. In a 12-week long experiment the researchers gave 20 post-menopausal women aged 55-68 a capsule containing 25 mg Pycnogenol three times a day.

During those 12 weeks the women’s skin became more elastic, as the figure below shows. The second figure below shows the effect of Pycnogenol on the skin hydration. Left: entire population; right: only the women with a dry skin. As you can see, it looks as though Pycnogenol also improves skin hydration, but that this effect fades after six weeks.


In skin cells Pycnogenol boosted the activity of the genes HAS-1, COL 1A1 and COL 1A2. HAS-1 is involved in the production of hyaluronic acid; the other two genes are involved in the production of collagen. The effect on COL 1A1 and COL 1A2 was not statistically significant, but the researchers put that down to the small size of their experimental group.

“Our study indicates that Pycnogenol supplementation improves skin hydration and elasticity by inducing the de novo synthesis of hyaluronic acid”, the researchers conclude. “In addition, we provide some evidence that collagen de novo synthesis may be stimulated. The latter observation should prompt further studies to more closely evaluate the potential of Pycnogenol supplementation to counteract human skin aging.”

Pycnogenol® effects on skin elasticity and hydration coincide with increased gene expressions of collagen type I and hyaluronic acid synthase in women.


In recent years there has been an increasing interest in the use of nutritional supplements to benefit human skin. Molecular evidence substantiating such effects, however, is scarce. In the present study we investigated whether nutritional supplementation of women with the standardized pine bark extract Pycnogenol® will improve their cosmetic appearance and relate these effects to expression of corresponding molecular markers of their skin.

For this purpose 20 healthy postmenopausal women were supplemented with Pycnogenol for 12 weeks. Before, during and after supplementation, their skin condition was assessed (i) by employing non-invasive, biophysical methods including corneometry, cutometry, visioscan and ultrasound analyses and (ii) by taking biopsies and subsequent PCR for gene expression analyses related to extracellular matrix homeostasis.

Pycnogenol supplementation was well tolerated in all volunteers. Pycnogenol significantly improved hydration and elasticity of skin. These effects were most pronounced in women presenting with dry skin conditions prior to the start of supplementation. The skin-physiological improvement was accompanied by a significant increase in the mRNA expression of hyaluronic acid synthase-1 (HAS-1), an enzyme critically involved in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, and a noticeable increase in gene expression involved in collagen de novo synthesis.

This study provides skin-physiological and for the first time molecular evidence that Pycnogenol supplementation benefits human skin by increasing skin hydration and skin elasticity. These effects are most likely due to an increased synthesis of extracellular matrix molecules such as hyaluronic acid and possibly collagen. Pycnogenol supplementation may thus be useful to counteract the clinical signs of skin aging.

PMID: 22270036 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]