Phospholipids as the name imply is a lipid molecule composed of two basic components i.e. phosphate groups and lipid molecules. It is an essential component and the building blocks of the of cell membrane.
Each phospholipid molecule consists of a phosphate group, glycerol molecule and 2 fatty acid chains. When many molecules of phospholipids are assembled together they form a double layer structure of the cell membrane.
The 2 fatty acid chains in the structure serves as the tail in phospholipids structure whereas the phosphate group serve to be the head. This head and tail structure are attached to one another with the help of the glycerol molecule.
Since phospholipids are the essential component of cell membrane, they are arranged in a delicate fashion which is referred to as a “bilayer structure”.
In the molecule, the phosphate head is hydrophilic (hydro=water; philic= lover/loving) whereas, the fatty acid tail serve as a hydrophobic part (hydro=water; phobic= hater/hating).
In the bilayer structure, one layer is arranged is such a way that hydrophilic head is facing outside the cell and tail is facing towards the inside. Whereas, the second layer is arranged as head facing inside and the tail the outside. In this way, a bilayer structure is assembled with phosphate head on the outer side and the fatty acid chain on the inner side.
Function of phospholipids
Phospholipids are the reason that cell membrane is semipermeable i.e. only allows certain molecules to pass through the membrane while excluding other to enter the cell. Molecules that are lipid in nature or are soluble in lipids are only allowed to pass through the membrane while water and substances soluble in water are not allowed to enter or leave the cell. Oxygen, carbon dioxide etc. are allowed to easily pass in and out of the membrane whereas large molecules such as glucose are prevented from entering or leaving.
Phospholipids Role in the Skin
Phospholipids act as a barrier for the skin, keeps the skin hydrated and assists in repair of the skin. They tend to absorb the water and retain it inside the skin cells which make the skin moist and healthy and prevent it from being dry and stiff. It might also seal the product to be absorbed and sealed within the skin without being able to escape into the atmosphere. Addition of phospholipids in skin care product can assist in effective delivery of the product to the skin along with making the skin young, healthy and hydrated. It plays a very crucial role in returning the moisture back to the dry or irritated skin. They can enter into the deeper layers of the skin and help in transportation and stability of waterproof barrier of the skin. The phospholipids molecules tend to keep the skin healthy, helps in readily absorbing the substances into the skin and are well tolerated by the skin which makes them the best ingredient for cosmetic products. [1, 2]
In the skin types where less moisture is being retained, the use of phospholipids can be of a great help in preventing the skin from drying out. Not only have that, the skin tended to lose its stability and barrier functioning due to the presence of factors such as increasing age, genes, certain climatic conditions and osmotic pressure. In conditions like these, phospholipids act as a savior for our healthy skin.
- Fiume Z. Final report on the safety assessment of lecithin and hydrogenated lecithin. Int J Toxicol. 2001;20(Suppl 1):21–45.
- Ghyczy M, Vacata V. Concepts for topical formulations adjusted to the structure of the skin. Chim Oggi. 1999;17:12–20.