The skin is one the body’s most important organs and also the largest. It protects your body from pathogens, toxins, injury and other things which would certainly kill you if you didn’t have this barrier between what makes up your body and the outside world. Beta Glucan is one thing we can take internally or apply on our skin to prevent skin aging and enhance our immune system and skin’s healing capacity.
Did you have oatmeal today? If you did, then you have consumed a certain type of beta-glucan which has been shown to lower cholesterol, boost immunity and lower blood glucose. These beta glucans have also been found to have a number of positive and beneficial effects on the skin.
What are Beta Glucans?
Beta-glucans have been studied for decades because of their remarkable and beneficial effects on human health. Most people who get beta glucan are most likely to be getting it from oats. It is found in the cell-wall of cereals like oat and barley but can be found in other food sources in smaller amounts.
Beta-glucans can also be found in bacteria and fungi, but these have different properties than oat beta glucans.
They typically consist of glucose polymers with a backbone of 1-3 beta-glycosidic bonds and different variation of side chains: Oat beta glucans having (1-4)-d-glucopyranose units which are separated every 2-3 units be single beta glucan (1-3) glucose units.
Beta-glucans derived from yeast and fungi typically have a (1,3) β-backbone with a small number of (1,6) β-linked side chains.
Oat beta-glucans are more well known for their healthy-heart promoting effects by lowering glucose and cholesterol. Beta-glucans derived from yeast and fungi tend to be effective in modulating the immune system.
Each type of beta-glucan can have amazing and diverse physiological effects on the human body with some overlapping beneficial effects. Ideally, one would want to include both them in their diet and supplement regimen.
What benefits do beta glucans provide for skin health?
As already mentioned, beta glucans significantly improve the immune system and its response to pathogens. But not only does it help boost immunity to eradicate both fungal and bacterial infections of the skin, it can also modulate the immune system so that it doesn’t reactive to harmless things which may cause an allergic response.
By improving the skins innate capacity to deal with an onslaught of pathogens in an effective and timely manner, you also create a better environment within the skin for self-renewal and repair.
Stimulating immune cells like macrophages and other types of cells can help remodel the skin to prevent permanent scarring and degradation of the structure and moisture balance of the skin.
Beta glucans have also been found to boost collagen synthesis, which results in fewer signs of aging like fine lines and crows feet.
In summary, beta-glucan can improve the skin in a few ways
- Improve immunity and barrier function of the skin to keep out harmful pathogens
- Modulate the immune system so it does not overreact to harmless substances
- Improve clearance of toxins, debris and scar tissue to improve skin regeneration
- Accelerate the healing of infections and burns
- Protect and reverse some of the effects of sun damage
- Increase skins resistance against chemicals which may harm the skin
Now that you know the key benefits of beta-glucans on skin health, you might be interested in learning about some of the research which has been done over the years. So let’s take a look at some of the evidence behind these claims.
The evidence behind Beta Glucan
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to read some of the evidence behind these amazing claims before going out and rubbing some oats on your face or buying some kind of product which contain beta glucans.
Beta Glucan for skin aging
Oat beta glucan, due to its structure had been identified as a candidate to treat skin conditions, including fine lines and wrinkling.
So in 2005, a paper was published that that beta-glucan (0.5%) in a solution at a dose of 5mg per cm2 was able to penetrate into both the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (inner-layer) of the skin.
In the study, they looked at the effects of oat beta-glucan on signs of aging such as fine-line and wrinkles and looked to observe if there were any improvements of a short period of just 8 weeks. The study included 27 subjects.
Remarkably, even though treatment was short, there was a significant reduction in wrinkle depth, height and overall roughness of the skin. 
In another study, researchers looked at the effect of Saccharomyces cerevisiae extract (SCE) which is an ingredient used in some skin care formulations to improve skin texture and wrinkling.
Volunteers applied the cosmetic formulation to their skin and were asked if they had noticed any improvements. Skin patch testing was also performed.
Only patients receiving (SCE) noticed improvements in better skin texture, skin brightness, and skin microrelief. Meaning, the structure of the skin had improved, and thus SCE may useful in preventing fine lines and skin wrinkling. 
Beta Glucan for treating burns
We all cut cuts and bumps, and normally the skin heals pretty nicely. However, burns can be quite serious, and it’s important to manage them correctly for optimal healing and have a good cosmetic outcome.
Beta glucan, due to their immune system modulating effects may be useful in the treatment of burns according to one study performed in children.
In 1997, doctors used a beta glucan collagen treatment for partial thickness burns. There were different types of injury: scald (61%), flame (37%) and contact (2%).
The average age of the patient was just 5.5 years with an average surface area burn of 9.3%.
Beta-glucan helped to reduce significantly the need for changing of dressings and also improved the ability of patients to do therapy and return to their normal daily activities much sooner than would be normal without this type of dressing containing beta-glucan .
In animal studies, beta-glucans (ingested orally) has been shown to reduce tissue damage and burn-induced oxidative damage because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Combined with beta-glucans ability to dramatically increase macrophage activity in the injury site, this results in better healing with fewer cosmetic issues .
And finally, in the ‘Journal of Wound Care,’ a 2017 study looked at the effect of beta-glucan on patients who had ‘hard-to-heal’ wounds.
26 of the original 39 patients completed the 12-week study and showed significant improvements in wound closure. Seven of the 26 had their wounds fully heal, and 8 others had their wounds decrease by 50% in size.
One downside of the study is that there was no control group. So further research needs to be done to see if indeed beta glucan is more effective than standard protocol or placebo. 
Beta Glucan for photoprotection
Beta Glucan applied directly to the sun may help prevent DNA damage with sun exposure. Although the study was done in cell lines, we know that beta-glucan can effectively penetrate into the dermis and therefore is likely to be beneficial when applied topically.
The study showed that continuous application of beta-glucan from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and barley was able to reduce DNA damage by as much as 87.5%! 
Should you use it on your skin?
From looking at the evidence, it appears that more data is needed on the efficacy of beta-glucan on skin aging. We know far more about the healthful effects of consuming beta-glucan from our diet than we do for applying it topically to the skin.
Evidence does suggest that beta-glucan may improve skin moisture, fine lines, texture and other signs of aging in humans. It may also help improve skin healing, but since the clinical trials lacked controls, it’s too early to say for definite.
I personally take a beta glucan supplement and regularly eat oatmeal. I also use a product skin care product which contains Saccharomyces. For me, it’s too difficult to say whether or not these have had an additive effect on my skin, because there are too many products that I use.
That being said, it doesn’t appear that beta-glucan is harmful to the skin whether ingested orally or applied directly to the skin. All evidence so far points to a beneficial and anti-aging effect.