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Kinetin (N6-furfuryladenine) is a plant-derived growth factor that regulates everything from cell differentiation to retardation in fruit ripening. However, does it have any significant value when it comes to skin care? Unfortunately, the answer is unclear.
Kinetin has several anti-aging attributes that have been demonstrated in-vitro:
Human Fibroblasts: When introduced to autosomal human fibroblasts, kinetin has been shown to affect various signs of senescence, such as growth rats, cell size, and cytoskeletal organization (1). It was noted that some of these signs began to reappear after the removal of kinetin, which suggests that continued use of kinetin is necessary to maintain any results. It was also noted that younger cells are better able to maintain any positive results, indicating that starting kinetin at a younger age may be more beneficial.
Consider this: The study could not elucidate the exact mechanism by which kinetin affects such changes. In addition, because no studies on percutaneous absorption have been done, kinetin may never even reach human fibroblasts when applied topically, which would render this study irrelevant.
Antioxidant Potential: Many studies suggest that kinetin has powerful antioxidant abilities. It has been shown to mimic the superoxide dismutase and catalase enzymes, especially the variants present in plants (2). Kinetin has also been shown to quench reactive oxygen species (ROS) by mediation of the Fenton reaction (3). Furthermore, it can inhibit the lipid peroxidation of unsaturated fatty acids and resulting DNA damage (4). Finally, kinetin has displayed the ability to inhibit the glycation of proteins, which consequently will reduce the amount of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) (5).
Consider this: With so many positive attributes, it’s a wonder why kinetin isn’t praised and featured more prominently. This may be because, in addition to a lack of any permeation studies present in the scientific literature as mentioned above, most of the studies were done on plants.
Not to mention that kinetin has been shown to be largely inferior to more traditional antioxidant treatments. For example, this study (6) remarked that even in combination with ubiquinone and its synthetic relative (idebenone), kinetin’s ability to prevent DNA damage (measured by the amount of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs)) and irritation (measured by erythema), were severely less potent that those seen after application of a vitamin C, E, and ferulic acid combination (most likely the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum).
While it’s important to note (as the article does) that 3 of the 7 authors are directly or indirectly affiliated with the Skinceuticals brand, the full article appears to be well-designed, logical, and unbiased nevertheless.
So are there any in-vivo studies on kinetin?
Fortunately, there are! One open-label (Kinerase) clinical study demonstrated that after 24 weeks of twice-daily application of 0.01%, 0.05%, or 0.10% of kinetin, there were slight to moderate improvements in barrier function (measured by changes in transepidermal water loss (TEWL)) compared to the control groups. That’s good and all, but what about all the other in-vitro effects mentioned above? It seems odd that Kinerase (one of the main proponents of kinetin use) would exclude them… There’s some food for thought!
Another study investigated any possible synergistic effects between niacinamide and kinetin on Asian skin types (7). It demonstrated that after 12 weeks, combination use was more effective than treatment with either ingredient alone, when it came to reducing hyperpigmentation, TEWL, and erythema.
So, is kinetin good? Well it’s certainly not bad. As a relatively novel ingredient, more studies need to be done in order to discover the mechanisms by which kinetin achieved its in-vivo results, and to see if any of the in-vitro demonstrated attributes can be practically achieved via additional permeation/absorption studies. I wouldn’t personally recommend anything with kinetin, as there are so many other cheaper, more effective, and more researched ingredients that CAN do all the things that kinetin MIGHT do, and more! But if you’re curious to see what kinetin can do for you, look for the niacinamide + kinetin combination when shopping. As of now, that combo has the most scientific evidence supporting it.
Have you even heard of kinetin before this post? Where you even curious about it? Let us known down below or on my blog!
About the author: John Su is an established skin care expert and aspiring dermatologist. He also runs a blog, The Triple Helix Liaison, dedicated to providing unbiased, meaningful, and insightful information about skin care. For his full bio, please visit our About page.