A natural plant extract coming from the bark of the maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France. The extract contains potent antioxidant molecules, mainly procyanidins and phenolic acids. Horphag Research trademarked the name 'Pycnogenol', which refers to a standardized, high-active content version of the pine bark extract.
Pycnogenol is a very well researched ingredient with more than 370 published studies and review articles. Most of these are in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) or analyse Pycnogenol when taken orally. It's clear from them that Pycnogenol has a load of health benefits including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic magical properties (and a bunch of other things such as improving cognitive function, relieving premenstrual symptoms, or enhancing microcirculation).
Regarding Pycnogenol and the skin, we found a study from 2012 that examined its effect on the skin when taken as a supplement. After 12 weeks, Pycnogenol supplements resulted in increased skin hydration and elasticity. The researchers thought this was due to the increased synthesis of extracellular matrix molecules such as hyaluronic acid and perhaps collagen.
As for topical application, the studies are also promising. A 2003 research paper, conducted on mice, showed that topical Pycnogenol (used at 0.05-0.2%) has the potential to provide photoprotection for humans in a complementary role to sunscreens. Meanwhile, a 2004 study concluded, "pine bark extract is readily absorbed by human skin and can be used for topical application".
Overall, Pycnogenol, or Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract, as it will be listed on the product label, is a well-researched and potent antioxidant that is a welcome addition to any ingredient list.
- Rohdewald, P. "A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology." International journal of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics 40.4 (2002): 158-168.
- Marini, A., et al. "Pycnogenol® effects on skin elasticity and hydration coincide with increased gene expressions of collagen type I and hyaluronic acid synthase in women." Skin pharmacology and physiology 25.2 (2012): 86-92.
- Sarikaki, V., et al. "In vitro percutaneous absorption of pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) in human skin." Journal of Toxicology: Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology 23.3 (2005): 149-158.
- Sime, Suzann, and Vivienne E. Reeve. "Protection from Inflammation, Immunosuppression and Carcinogenesis Induced by UV Radiation in Mice by Topical Pycnogenol®." Photochemistry and photobiology 79.2 (2004): 193-198.