Intercellular lipids – phospholipids, essential fatty acids


The term ‘lipid’ encompasses an extensive group of naturally-occurring molecules including fats, waxes and oils, and are not water-soluble. Phospholipids are a special type of lipid, making up a major component of cell membranes. They are naturally occurring in human skin, as well as ina soybeans, egg yolk, milk, fish and krill. Phospholipids consist of fatty acids, a glycerol unit and a phosphate group which are arranged into two layers, known as the phospholipid bilayer. Each phospholipid molecule has two ends. The interior end is the ‘tail’ of fatty acids and is hydrophobic or ‘water-hating’. The exterior end is the ‘head’ of glycerol and phosphate and is hydrophilic or ‘water-loving’. The head points towards the outside of the cell and comes into contact with substances applied to the skin. This is where substances are either accepted or rejected by the cell membrane. 

Hydrophobic molecules are easily accepted by the cell, whereas hydrophilic molecules cannot pass through without help, i.e. a suitable delivery system. This is because the inside of the cell hates water and hydrophilic molecules love water. In cellular membranes, the phospholipids which make up the bilayer create channels that enable the transit of various substances in and out of cells. This is what we call the skin barrier function. It aims to keep water in the skin for hydration and keep pathogens or foreign substances out, as well as various other molecules.

Topically-applied phospholipids are suitable for all skin types as they are Skin Identical. They can bind water and oil and provide powerful moisturising properties. They are crucial in restoring and improving the skin’s barrier function to protect from inflammation and external aggressors. Skincare formulations containing phospholipids have an affinity with the skin and are well-tolerated, making them gentle. They are known as a ‘second skin’ because when they are applied, they retain their structure on the skin. Phospholipids keep the skin hydrated, smooth, healthy and plump. They allow the skin to be in its healthiest, most hydrated state. They also assist the absorption of other ingredients into the skin as they influence the penetration of actives when formed into liposomes. Liposomes have a cell-like structure that enables the encapsulation of water-soluble actives which need to be delivered into deeper layers of skin.

Phospholipids have a gentle cleansing mechanism when combined with water, working to eliminate debris from the surface of the skin. This is particularly beneficial as many cleansers often strip the skin of its natural lipids which results in dryness and roughness. Natural phospholipids include Linoleic Acid, which plays an important role in the skin’s synthesis of ceramides and is crucial for keeping the skin’s barrier intact.

Phospholipids are natural antioxidants that can be extracted from animals and plants. They work to scavenge radicals and work synergistically with other antioxidants such as Vitamin E. The immune system can also recruit phospholipids to reduce lipid peroxidation, or the degradation of vital skin lipids. 

Each formulation within The Integrity Collection utilises intercellular lipids, like phospholipids, to replenish the skin’s natural lipid reserves, restore the skin’s integrity, provide nourishment, and enhance repair mechanisms for all skin types.

#4 The PreCleanse Balm replenishes the skin with intercellular lipids to fortify skin integrity.

#4 The Cleanser augments phospholipids to create a gentle cleansing mechanism when combined with water, helping to eliminate surface debris. Simultaneously the skin’s lipid reserves and repair mechanisms are enhanced.

#4 The Balm contains a complex of Skin Identical phospholipids and polymers to generate a biomimetic membrane to augment skin barrier function, increasing protection from external irritants and boosting moisture preservation.

#4 The Crème utilises a Ceramide Complex to help form channels in the phospholipid membranes of cells and participate in differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis signalling pathways. This replenishes the skin’s intercellular matrix to fortify barrier function and restore skin integrity.

Written In collaboration with Rationale.

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