Meet methylene blue, the new kid on the skincare block

The skincare industry never stands still for long so it should be no surprise that there is a new kid on the block, and it’s setting out to rival retinoids for its ability to affect skin cell behaviour without causing irritation.

I was becoming increasingly aware of the potential of methylene blue which is essentially a chemical antioxidant.

It’s commonly used as a dye as well as an antifungal cleaner for fish tanks, but its unique properties mean it’s also being used to treat a variety of health conditions, including a rare blood disorder.

A few months ago I was sent a little tester by a South African skincare company called OptoDerm of an anti-aging skin cream that contained methylene blue.

Intrigued I started to use it and was actually quite taken with what appeared to be its calming and balancing effects on my skin; it’s a very gentle but potentially quite powerful ingredient.

So I started to look at methylene blue options that were more readily available closer to home.

There are very few companies out there selling skincare with methylene blue in it – it’s really an emerging ingredient – but one US-based company called Bluelene specialises in it.

So I spoke to its founder, scientist, Dr Kan Cao, who stumbled across the skincare benefits of methylene blue through her work at the University of Maryland researching potential treatments for a rare genetic disease of accelerated aging called progeria.

In testing on skin cells from affected patients, alongside a control group of ‘normal’ skin cells, researchers observed positive results in both sets of samples.

Dr Cao said: “We saw that cell proliferation increased. So it delayed cellular senescence [deterioration]. It’s the same set of the cells, but they just live longer.

“And because our skin is constantly under UV radiation it has a lot of reactive oxygen species [free radicals].

“We can measure the reactive oxygen species in skin cells. And what we found is that after you treat it with methylene blue, this level reduced significantly.

“It reduced the cellular stress, because that’s a huge stress to cell health, and because of this the cells are happier so they produce more collagen and elastin. These are the healthy fibers that promote healthy skin structure.

“It can also can host water so it improves skin hydration and we know mitochondrial activity is improved so cells have more energy.

“We checked wound healing. Basically, you cut the skin tissue and then you look at the recovery. And we found that the sample cells treated with methylene blue recovered much faster.”

Dr Kao believes methylene blue is a credible alternative to retinoids, long considered the gold standard of anti-ageing skincare, because of its ability to boost cell numbers in our skin whilst also reducing oxidative stress and protecting the skin from UV damage.

Retinoids work by increasing our skin cell turnover (which is what can cause irritation in some users) but can make the skin more sensitive to the sun’s UV rays.

But retinoids are more of a known-quantity in skincare, used now for decades and loved by millions of consumers.

Only time will tell if methylene blue will break through as a widely recognize skincare solution.

I’ve been using the Daily Moisturizer AM after applying my vitamin C serum, and then using a small amount of the night cream before a peptide moisturizer in the evenings.

I alternate with a retinal every other night and I’m in a happy place with my skin right now so will likely continue to use methylene blue in some form in my skincare.

You can get 10% off Bluelene orders here using code THEHONESTCHANNEL

Watch my interview with Dr Kan Cao.

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