It also helps brighten skin caused by hyperpigmentation, according to Beth Bialko, global curriculum developer and master instructor at Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute. Soybean oil, which is rich in fatty acids and vitamin E, works as an emollient and also moisturizes and soothes, says Katlin Stewart, marketing coordinator at CBI Laboratories, and lecithin, which is a by-product obtained while extracting soybean oil from soybeans, helps to repair and heal skin. “Lecithin helps to emulsify lotions giving them a silkier texture, and it also protects skin,” says Nadia Fathallah, category manager at American International Industries. “Because the molecular size of soybean oil is smaller than that of other emollients, it is able to penetrate the epidermis to stimulate collagen and elastin production.” Other types of soy found in skincare include soy protein, which contains essential amino acids that help increase collagen, and hydrolyzed soy flour, which is used for skin conditioning. However, Kitchen believes that the greater skin benefit from soy comes from its micronutrients, including isoflavones, peptides, and many vitamins and minerals. “Soy isoflavones provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support, help maintain even skintone and skin integrity, and shield melanocytes from UV-induced melanomas,” says Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Clinical Enterprises.
Kitchen adds that soy peptides have been shown to stimulate moisture retention, increase elasticity, and generate a lifting effect to the skin. Additionally, evidence shows soy peptides boost collagen synthesis, increase production of glycosaminoglycans, and help reduce inflammation. Soy has the ability to moisturize dry skin while minimizing oil in other areas. That makes soy-based treatments especially beneficial for combination skin, says Natalie Pergar. It is also a gentle, well-tolerated, and calming ingredient, which is why it is often found in peels, masks, exfoliators, and moisturizers. “It has an anti-inflammatory effect, and the essential fatty acids create a protective barrier for skin that is reactive,” says Fathallah. “Treatments targeting sensitive, dry, or dehydrated skin will benefit from the use of soy-based products.”
Though soy offers many benefits, there are some that believe it should be avoided. While most concerns or negative effects associated with soy are consumption-based, it is recommended that any client with a soy allergy avoid products and treatments that contain it. According to Kitchen, soy isoflavones are typically not found in soybean oil or lecithin extracts but can be part of soy protein extracts. Although isoflavones have shown several important benefits to the skin, they are also potent phytoestrogens, which have been a cause of concern for some. “Phytoestrogens have been a highly debated topic in skincare, because they can mimic human estrogen and therefore can affect hormonal levels,” he says. “For many, the impact of phytoestrogens can be very beneficial to one’s skin, however, for those wanting to avoid phytoestrogens at all costs in their skincare treatments, soy protein should be added to their avoid list.”Yet, the International Journal of Toxicology indicates that there is no research showing soy extract or soy oil has estrogenic effects when applied to skin, as it can when taken orally, says Shannon McLinden, founder and CEO of FarmHouse Fresh, which utilizes glycine soja (soybean) oil in its Front Porch Shea Butter Hand Cream, Agave Nectar Body Oil, and Sweet Cream Body Milk. “We use glycine soja oil in many of our products,” says McLinden. “It is derived from wild soybeans, is non-fragrant, and is a great emollient with a high natural moisturizing factor and strong antioxidant properties to help fight free-radical damage.” However, soy is often listed as an ingredient to avoid by doctors advising their pregnant patients, as it may accelerate dark splotches on facial skin that often develop during pregnancy.While Ada Polla, CEO of Alchimie Forever, does not deny that soy is beneficial for the skin because it is rich in phytoestrogens, molecules that naturally stimulate the skin’s collagen production to improve the firmness and plumpness of the skin, she does have an issue with the sourcing of the ingredient. Soy is generally a genetically modified organism (GMO) product, and it is challenging to find a soy supplier that provides the ingredient without GMO, she says. “The Food and Drug Administration has concluded there is no evidence that bioengineered food or plant ingredients are less safe than those produced through conventional methods,” says Polla. “All research and studies show no side effects to using genetically modified beauty products for the moment. However, we have to ask a few questions, such as how long does it take for the body to show damage from using genetically modified ingredients and does it impact our skin cells long-term.”Because of this sourcing issue and the possible allergic reactions associated with soy, Alchimie Forever does not use the ingredient in any of its cosmetic products. Instead, the company uses red clover extract. “Like soy, this ingredient is rich in phytoestrogens, which stimulates collagen production and helps with fine lines and wrinkles,” says Polla. “However, the allergy profile is much lower.”

Science behind Soy

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