When it comes to great skincare ingredients, sometimes the best place to look might be right under your feet. Humic acids, found in soil, peat, and coal, are produced as a part of the natural decay process of organic material and may be a new frontier of biological skincare.
Humic substances are created when plant matter breaks down under the perfect conditions. It takes millennia of pressure, low oxygen and water conditions, but from the resulting nutrient-dense material, humic acids can be extracted. Once an aqueous solution is created from those humic substances and the pH level is tweaked just right, humic acids can be precipitated. These acids have long been recognized by farmers to be a fantastic growth aid for plants. A study from Ohio State University showed that humic acids increased plant growth and that it didn’t take much of the acid to see a big difference.
Those same organic cell-growth principles that are so beneficial to our green, leafy friends can work wonders on our skin, even in extreme cases. Patients suffering from chronic hand dermatitis and psoriasis palmaris reported rapid relief from itching, decreased inflammation and an early cessation of pustule formation after being treated with peat, one of the earthy substances in which humic acids are found. Studies of peat and humic acids could be especially valuable to those battling rosacea as well, in the suppression of flushing, and to recent recipients of chemical peels, to prevent viral reactivation.
From the same humic substances – like peat – that humic acids are pulled from, fulvic acid can also be extracted. It is the lowest molecular weight fraction of the humic acids and the most easily absorbed across the skin barrier. More research has been done on the benefits of fulvic acid in skincare and the results are exciting to anyone who has ever suffered with psoriasis, acne, eczema or a host of other skin issues. Fulvic acid shows anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, making it ideal for combating all sorts of skin conditions.
While there’s been more investigation into fulvic acid in skincare, humic acids are making their way into dietary supplements and nutritional products. The same way humic acids help plants meet their full potential, they can help keep humans healthy from the inside out. Animal studies have shown it to boost calcium production, promote a healthy weight, reduce stress and balance gut and digestive health. A 2005 study also linked humic acid consumption to reducing “performance-related problems” in horses. Plus, humic acids aid in nutrient absorption, which can boost the efficacy of any other supplements you’re taking. Pretty much a win-win.
Humic acids may not be pervasive in topical skincare products just yet, but the benefits to skin and hair health have already been observed regarding its trace minerals. Humic acids contain zinc and magnesium, both linked to increased collagen production that can lead to younger, firmer-looking skin. And the potential impact of these merits is only made greater when they can be applied to the skin itself.
Humic acids haven’t made it to the mainstream yet, but with such bountiful benefits, it seems like only a matter of time before they make the jump from peat and soil to supplements and skincare, with fulvic acid leading the charge.