Fulvic acid and its close relative humic acid are gaining a lot of buzz in the skincare community these days. And between their moisturizing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-aging properties, it’s no surprise why. The science surrounding the skincare benefits of fulvic and humic acid is mounting, but to someone newly introduced to these ingredients, their origin can be difficult to wrap your head around.

We know fulvic and humic acids come from humic substances and make their way into skincare products to cure what ails us, but how they get from soil, peat and coal is more complicated than just putting dirt in lotion. The process of extracting these skin-saving ingredients is complex and intricate – and in and of itself interesting.

From Humic Substances…

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From the beginning, fulvic and humic acids are shrouded in mystery. There are several theories that dry to hash out the creation of humic substances, the major organic constituents of soil, peat and coal. Basically, humic substances are formed when dead plant matter degrades. After the initial degradation, humic substances are very resistant to further decomposition. The exact pathway generating the properties of humic substances is largely dependent on their source, but regardless of the pathway they come from, all humic substances remain remarkably similar.

Once humic substances are formed, they can be divided into three categories: humic acids, fulvic acids and humin. Humins are solids that are insoluble in water and they’re not of much use in skincare. But the remaining two components, humic acids and fulvic acids, can be extracted from their humic home and used to benefit your skin.

To Fulvic And Humic Acids…

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Fulvic acids have low molecular weights which make them excellent at moving into your cells and bringing with them all of their beneficial qualities. But before they are appropriate for your face, they have to be separated from the solids. There are a number of ways to extract the good stuff from the rest. One method, developed by the International Humic Substance Society, uses an absorbent resin to purify the extracted acids.

The method is complicated, but to simplify, it all starts with sifting. Once the soil is sifted, the pH is adjusted and it’s shaken, not stirred, with a solution. The supernatant liquid from which fulvic acid can be extracted is siphoned off. The remaining solids are again pH adjusted with a solution and shaken to produce another supernatant from which higher molecular weight humic acids can be taken. What follows is a series of centrifuge spinning sessions, separating solids and distilling solutions that can make one’s head spin as fast as the centrifuge. The solutions that are produced as a result of all that hard work are passed through a column of absorbent resin freeze dried to recover the fulvic and humic acids.  

To Your Skincare…

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It takes years of decomposition and some very skilled chemists to get humic and fulvic acids into your skincare, but the end result is worth the effort. Because humic acid is so new to the game, there hasn’t been a great deal of scientific study put into it yet. What we do know is that it contains zinc and magnesium, both of which are linked to collagen production that can lead to younger, firmer-looking skin.

Fulvic acid, the other skin-benefitting extract of humic substances, has gained a bit more ground in the scientific community, especially as it applies to healing and protecting dry skin. Topical fulvic acid treatments can help heal eczema. A study on topical, carbohydrate-derived fulvic acid treatments published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology concluded that patients who received the treatment showed significant improvements in their eczema symptoms. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well, like those observed in a study published in Drug Development Research. The study used fulvic acid treatments on rats and determined that they were safe and effective in treating inflammation and even healing wounds.

When skin begins to wrinkle as reactive oxygen species in cells become overactive, fulvic acid’s rich antioxidant properties can start fighting back. This compensates for your skin’s naturally declining antioxidant response, slowing down the visible signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines and age spots.