ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Use of silicon for skin and hair care: An approach of chemical forms available and efficacy

Authors:
  • MEDCIN Instituto da Pele

Abstract

Silicon is the second most abundant element on Earth, and the third most abundant trace element in human body. It is present in water, plant and animal sources. On the skin, it is suggested that silicon is important for optimal collagen synthesis and activation of hydroxylating enzymes, improving skin strength and elasticity. Regarding hair benefits, it was suggested that a higher silicon content in the hair results in a lower rate of hair loss and increased brightness. For these beneficial effects, there is growing interest in scientific studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of using dietary supplements containing silicon. Its use aims at increasing blood levels of this element and improving the skin and its annexes appearance. There are different forms of silicon supplements available and the most important consideration to be made in order to select the best option is related to safety and bioavailability. Silicon supplements are widely used, though there is wide variation in silicon bioavailability, ranging from values below 1% up to values close to 50%, depending on the chemical form. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the scientific literature related to the different chemical forms of silicon supplements available and the limitations and recent progress in this field. According to reported studies, among the different chemical forms available, the orthosilicic acid (OSA) presents the higher bioavailability, whereas the others forms have absorption inversely proportional to the degree of polymerization. However, clinical studies evaluating safety and efficacy are still lacking.
331
An Bras Dermatol. 2016;91(3):331-5.
review
Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical
forms available and efficacy*
LidianeAdvinculadeAraújo1 FlaviaAddor2
Patrícia Maria Berardo Gonçalves Maia Campos1
s
Received on 27.08.2014
ApprovedbytheAdvisoryBoardandacceptedforpublicationon21.11.2014
* StudyperformedatFaculdadedeCiênciasFarmacêuticasdeRibeirãoPreto,ofUniversidadedeSãoPaulo(USP)–RibeirãoPreto(SP),Brazil.
Financial Support: None.
 ConictofInterest:None.
1 UniversidadedeSãoPaulo(USP)–RibeirãoPreto(SP),Brazil.
2 Privateclinic–SãoPulo(SP),Brazil.
 ©2016byAnaisBrasileirosdeDermatologia
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/abd1806-4841.20163986
Abstract:SiliconisthesecondmostabundantelementonEarth,andthethirdmostabundanttraceelementin
humanbody.Itispresentinwater,plantandanimalsources.Ontheskin,itissuggestedthatsiliconisimportant
foroptimalcollagensynthesisandactivationofhydroxylatingenzymes,improvingskinstrengthandelasticity.
Regardinghairbenets,itwassuggestedthatahighersiliconcontentinthehairresultsinalowerrateofhair
lossandincreasedbrightness.Forthesebenecialeffects,thereisgrowinginterestinscienticstudiesevaluating
theefcacyandsafetyofusingdietarysupplementscontainingsilicon.Itsuseaimsatincreasingbloodlevelsof
this element and improving the skin and its annexes appearance. There are different forms of silicon supplements
available and the most important consideration to be made in order to select the best option is related to safety
andbioavailability.Siliconsupplementsarewidelyused,thoughthereiswidevariationinsiliconbioavailability,
rangingfromvaluesbelow1%uptovaluescloseto50%,dependingonthechemicalform.Therefore,theaimof
thisstudywastoevaluatethescienticliteraturerelatedtothedifferentchemicalformsofsiliconsupplements
availableandthelimitationsandrecentprogressinthiseld.Accordingtoreportedstudies,amongthedifferent
chemicalformsavailable,theorthosilicicacid(OSA)presentsthehigherbioavailability,whereastheothersforms
haveabsorptioninverselyproportionaltothedegreeofpolymerization.However,clinicalstudiesevaluating
safetyandefcacyarestilllacking.
Keywords: Biological availability; Collagen; Dietary supplements; Hair; Silicon; Silicon compounds; Skin aging
INTRODUCTION
Silicon is the second most abundant element on
earth,exceededonlybyoxygen.Also,itisthethird
most abundant trace element in the human body.1,2 It
is present in the water and in plant and animal sourc-
es.Ontheskin,itissuggestedthatsiliconisimportant
for optimal synthesis of collagen and for activating
thehydroxylationenzymes, improvingskinstrength
and elasticity. It was shown that physiological con-
centrationsoforthosilicicacid(OSA)stimulatebro-
blasts to secrete collagen type I.3-5Inthecaseofhair,
it is suggested that higher silicon content in the hair
berresultsinalowerrateofhairlossandincreased
brightness. Nails are also affected by the presence of
silicon,sincethisisthepredominantmineralintheir
composition.4,5 For these benecial effects, there is
growing interest in scientic studies to examine the
efcacyandsafetyoftheuseofdietarysupplements
containingsilicon,whichaimstoincreaseserumlevels
of this element and hence lead to improvements in the
skin and its annexes. There are different forms of sili-
con supplements available and to select the most suit-
ableoption,themost importantconsiderationstobe
made are regarding safety and bioavailability. In some
countries,thesesupplementsarealreadywidelyused,
although there is great variation in silicon bioavail-
ability,rangingfromlessthan1%uptovaluescloseto
50%,dependingonthechemicalform.6,7
However, it is observed that there is still no
consensus among researchers about the statement
that silicon is an essential element for man or about
therealbenetsobtainedfromtheuseofsupplements
containingsilicon.Thus,it isextremelyimportantto
critically evaluate the information published so far
regardingefcacy,safetyandbioavailabilityofsilicon
used in complementary supplements to the diet. That
was the aim of this study.
An Bras Dermatol. 2016;91(3):331-5.
SKIN AGING PROCESS
The aging process occurs by two main mecha-
nisms: intrinsic and extrinsic. The intrinsic aging is un-
avoidableandresultsinatrophy,broblastsreduction
andthinningofbloodvessels.Thecollagenbersare
particularlyaffectedinthisprocess,whichresultsfrom
the accumulation of irreversible degenerative changes
associated with aging.4,8,9 The extrinsic aging primar-
ily results from damage caused by ultraviolet radia-
tion. Other factors related to this type of aging include
smoking, pollution and inadequate nutrition. These
typesofinjuryleadtoincreaseddegradationofcolla-
genandelastin.Also,areductioninthenumberofex-
tracellularmatrixproteinsandadecreaseinbroblasts
are described,8,9 in addition to a reduction of silicon
levels and hyaluronic acid in the connective tissues.10
Collagenandbersformedbyitareresponsible
forthebiomechanicalpropertiesoftheskin,allowing
it to act as an organ of protection from external trau-
ma. They present as essential components of structur-
al integrity of the connective tissue and are present in
largequantities intheskin,bonesandjoints.9,11A re-
duction in the amount of collagen in the skin of about
1%peryearafter21yearsofageisdescribed,resulting
inthicknessreductionandelasticityloss,whichisdi-
rectly related to the wrinkles depth.11,12
Changes occurring after menopause are even
morestriking,includinglossofabout30%ofskincol-
lageninthe rst 5 years and annual loss of 0.55% of
elastin.13,14 The biosynthesis process of collagen after the
thirdorfourthdecadeofliferemainsatalowlevel,in-
sufcienttoallowmatureskintorepairorreplacethe
collagen that has been lost as part of the degradation
processes associated with age.9 The decrease of collagen
that occurs after menopause especially correlates with
decreased bone mineral density associated with age.14
Bythestudyofskinagingprocess,it’spossible
toobservethatthedegradationofcollagenbershasa
remarkableroleinthiscontext.Basedonthis,theuse
ofmechanismsthatinuencethebiosynthesisofthis
protein is as a potential tool for improving and pre-
venting skin aging.
SILICON: A UBIQUITOUS ELEMENT
Considering the abundance of silicon in the hu-
manbody,itseemsunlikelythatitsdeciencyoccurs
in men and women.15
In1972,twostudiesbytwodifferentresearch
groups showed that silicon was an essential element
in chickens and mice.16,17 These experiments demon-
strated that nutritional deciencies of silicon led to
skeletal deformities such as abnormal skull and long
bonestructures,aswellasmalformedjointswithcar-
tilagepoorcontent.Thus,animportantroleofsilicon
inbonemineralizationwasdemonstrated.
Afterthat,severalstudiesshowedsiliconpartic-
ipationindifferentmechanisms,withpositiveresults
associated with higher concentrations of this element
inthebloodinpatientswithosteoporosis,atheroscle-
rosis,skinagingandfragilehairandnails.10,15 Howev-
er,therearenoconclusivedatatodeterminewhether
or not silicon is an essential nutrient for humans and
superioranimals,sinceitsdeciencyhasnotledtocell
cycleinterruptioninmammals,anditsfunctionalrole
remainstobeclearlydened.15,18-20 Most of the silicon
presentinthebloodislteredbythekidneys,suggest-
ingthatthismechanismrepresentthemajorrouteof
excretion and that levels of silicon in blood correlate
with the levels present in urine.21Forthisreason,var-
ious studies evaluate the serum concentration as well
as the one present in urine in order to study the bio-
availability of silicon and its derivatives.
Silicon occurs naturally in foods in the form of
siliconoxideandsilicates, whicharepresentin water
and in plant and animal sources and are found in high
concentrations especially in cereals.18,22 The main sourc-
es of silicon from the diet in the Western Hemisphere
arecereals(30%),followedbyfruit,beverageandvege-
table-derivedproductsingeneral.Together,thesefoods
provide about 75% of the total silicon ingested by man.23
However, there are studies that question the
bioavailabilityofsiliconfromsomesources,duetothe
low solubility of some compounds, especially those
that are polymerized.15,24 Thus, although signicant
quantitiesofsiliconarepresentinsomefoods,some-
times it is presented in an insoluble form and cannot
be directly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. The
siliconpresentinfoodissolubilizedintheacidenvi-
ronmentofstomach,becomingOSA[Si(OH)4],which
can then be absorbed. It is described in the literature
that the aging process is associated with an increase in
gastricpH,which decreasesthe conversion capacity
of this silicon found in foods in the bioavailable form.5
OSAisthemaintypederivedfromsiliconpresent
indrinkingwaterandotherliquids,includingbeer,and
it is considered the most readily available form of sili-
con to humans.19 It is stable when diluted (<10-4M)but
polymerizesinhigher concentrationsinapH closeto
neutral.AbsorptionstudiesindicatedthatonlyOSAis
availablewhileitspolymerizedformisnotabsorbed.25
Questions on the bioavailability of silicon from the min-
eral water are reported in the literature. In a study con-
ducted with rats that received supplementation with
OSAin thewatertheyingested,therewerenosignif-
icant differences in the concentration of silicon present
in bones in relation to baseline.1Inbeer,itdemonstrated
that about 80% of the total silicon found corresponds
toOSA.26However,therearediscussionsinvolvingthe
availabilityofOSA,whichcouldbeunstableinindus-
trialprocessessuchas,forexample,bottling.
332 Araújo LA, Addor F, Campos PMBGM
An Bras Dermatol. 2016;91(3):331-5.
Useofsiliconforskinandhaircare:anapproachofchemicalformsavailableandefcacy 333
Athighconcentrations,OSAneedstobestabi-
lizedsoitdoesn’tpolymerizeexcessively,resultingin
a reduced bioavailability.10Forthisreason,silicon-con-
tainingsupplementsattempt,bydifferentmethods,to
concentrateOSAandstabilizeit inawayto makeit
more bioavailable.
FOOD SUPPLEMENTS CONTAINING SILI-
CON
Different consumptions patterns of supple-
ments containing silicon are observed around the
world. As an example, the organic silicon – com-
monlythemonomethylsilanetriol(MMST)–ismore
consumedinFrance, whileinGermanythe colloidal
siliconaremorepresentand,inBelgium,choline-sta-
bilizedOSA(ch-OSA)ismorefrequent.6,7
TheMMSTisnotonlyorganic,butalsomono-
meric while other silicates show different degrees of
polymerization,whichshouldexplainthedifferentsil-
icon absorption values in experiments with rats and in
some preliminary studies in humans.25,27 Some studies
have shown that it is readily absorbed after digestion
and observed no adverse events with its use. Never-
theless,itisnoteworthythat,untilthecompletionof
theseworks,specicstudiestoevaluateitssafetywere
not conducted.28
Jugdaohsingh et al,in2013,conductedastudy
toassessthesafetyofusingthissupplement.Agroup
of22healthywomen,whowerenotmenopausal,re-
ceivedMMSToralsupplementationfor4weeks,with
the maximum recommended dose of 10.5 mg/Si/day.
The authors concluded that MMST intake is safe and
that it was absorbed. They also presented data to prove
that,afteringestion, thereisconversionof MMSRin
OSA,whichwouldjustifyitsabsorption.28
However,in responsetothepublishedarticle,
VandenBerghequestionedsomepointsof thestudy,
claiming that studies of longer duration in humans
and toxicological tests in vitro and in animals are need-
ed in order to prove the safety of using the supplement
containingMMST.AccordingtoVandenBerghe,these
studieswerenotpresentedin the article in question
and they are also scarce in the available literature on
the subject. The statement on MMST conversion in
OSAwasalsoquestioned.29
The authors of the original study published a
responsethat keptemphasizingthestudy’sndings.
They argued that they used rigorous methodology and
that,intheadoptedconditions, they could conclude
it was safe to use the supplement containing MMST.
Theauthors,however,agreedthat studieswithlarg-
er numbers of volunteers and greater length of time
would be needed for the continuation of research in-
volving this supplement.30
MMST has been used as a silicon source for a
long time around the world, especially in Europe.28
Thissupplement,unlikeothersavailable,doesnotcon-
tainnano-silicaparticles,onwhichconcernsregarding
the safety have been reported.31,32 However, the Eu-
ropean Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considers that
thereisnotenoughdatatojustifytheuseofMMSTas
silicon supplement.19
The greatest number of studies in the literature
evaluatesch-OSA.Thech-OSAhasbeenapprovedfor
humanconsumptionandisknowntobenon-toxic,in
addition to representing the most bioavailable form of
silicon.15,22
Inchemicalterms,ch-OSAisamixtureofOSA
and choline chloride. Given the lack of data about ad-
versereactionstosilicon,arecommendeddosehasnot
beenestablished.Nevertheless,accordingtotheAmer-
icanregulatoryagency,choline,siliconoxidesandvar-
ious silicates are classied as substances “generally
recognizedassafe”.18,19
Thestabilizationwithcholineisconsideredthe
mostadvancedtechnologyforOSAstabilization.Cho-
line has important characteristics that place it in the
positionofan idealstabilizerforOSA, inadditionto
promotingbenetsduetoitsowncharacteristics.33 In
highconcentrations,cholineavoids extensive polym-
erizationandaggregationofsiliconparticles,tokeepit
inanaqueoussuspension.33
Furthermore,aspreviously mentioned,choline
present in the compound may have a synergistic effect
withOSA, since it is well known its participation in
many basic biological processes.33 Choline is a precur-
sorofphospholipids,whichareessentialforthefor-
mationofcellmembranes,aswellasbeinginvolvedin
processessuchascellsignaling,lipidmetabolismand
protection against the collagen breakdown mediated
by homocysteine.34,35
In2009,EFSArequestedascienticopinion to
the Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources
Added to Food concerning ch-OSA safety. The only
objective was to evaluate ch-OSA as a silicon source
andalsoitsbioavailability.Thus,siliconsafetyitself,
in terms of daily amounts that can be consumed and
itsclassicationasanutrient,wasoutsidethescopeof
scienticopinionpublishedbythePanel.19
Based on different studies conducted in animals
and in humans, the Panel concluded that the silicon
present in ch-OSA is bioavailable and that its use in
supplements,intheproposeddoses,doesnotpresent
risksforsafety, providingthatthecholinemaximum
levelisnotexceeded(3.5g/day).
Studies were analyzed both in animals and in
humans so the conclusion on bioavailability and safe-
tywerepublishedbyEFSA.Astudyofcalvesthatre-
ceivedsupplementcontainingch-OSA or placebofor
23 weeks evaluated the evolution of serum silicon con-
334 Araújo LA, Addor F, Campos PMBGM
An Bras Dermatol. 2016;91(3):331-5.
centration. There was a 4.9% increase at this concen-
tration in the group of animals receiving silicon.36 In
anotherstudy, VandenBergheassessed the bioavail-
abilityofsiliconinoffspringof21pigs,whichreceived
ornot(control)supplementcontainingch-OSAduring
the gestation (16 weeks) and lactation (four weeks)
period. In the offspring of pigs that received supple-
ment containing silicon, signicantly higher silicon
concentrationswerefound(150%increase)thaninthe
offspring of the control group. The authors attributed
this result to the bioavailability of silicon in the sup-
plementcontainingch-OSAandalso tothematernal
transfer capability of absorbed silicon.37 The silicon ab-
sorptionfromsupplementcontainingch-OSAwasas-
sessed in a study of 14 healthy volunteers aged 22-34
years. Each volunteer received successive oral doses
ofsiliconfromdifferentsources.Asignicantincrease
in serum concentration of silica compared to baseline
wasobservedforch-OSA.6,19 This study demonstrated
that the bioavailability of silicon is to a great extent
dependent on the chemical form of the compound.
Inanotherstudy,conductedinordertoexamine
in vivo absorption of silicon by evaluating its serum
dosageanditsurinaryexcretion,differentpatternsof
absorption for the different sources used were found.
Thisstudyobtaineddifferentresults,dependingonthe
source,althoughithasevaluatedabsorptioninjusta
healthy volunteer. It was observed that a diet rich in sil-
icondoesnotresultinsufcientbioavailableamounts
ofthiselementthatwouldleadtoastatisticallysigni-
cantincreaseinitsurinaryexcretionandserumlevels,
when compared with the period in which the volunteer
wassubjectedtoanormaldiet.Asignicantincreasein
silicon urinary excretion was observed when the eval-
uated supplementation consisted of tablets containing
dry extract of horsetail. However, the silicon serum
levels remained constant. Only the biologically active
silicon present in solution at 2% silicon in a matrix of
cholineandglycerolwasabsorbed,whichreectedin
thesignicantincreaseofsiliconinbothserum levels
andinurineexcretion.Basedonthisstudy,theauthors
concludedthatsiliconabsorptionisstronglyinuenced
by its chemical form and matrix.
Sripanyakorn et al measured silicon uptake
from8differentsources.Inhealthyvolunteers,blood
andurinesampleswereanalyzedtoquantifythecon-
centration of silicon. The results conrmed that the
degreeofsilicon polymerizationisinverselypropor-
tional to intestinal absorption.7
SILICON AND ITS RELATION WITH SKIN,
HAIR AND NAILS
Regardingtheskin,itissuggested thatsiliconis
important for optimal synthesis of collagen and for ac-
tivating the hydroxylation enzymes, important in the
formationofcollagennetwork,improvingskinstrength
and elasticity. Silicon is also associated with the synthesis
of glycosaminoglycans. Concerning the hair, it is sug-
gested that strands with higher silicon content tend to
have lower falling rate and higher brightness. Nails are
alsoaffectedbythepresenceofsilicon,sincethiselement
is one of the predominant mineral in their composition.
The presence of soft and brittle nails can indicate system-
icdeciencyofsilicon.Byimprovingthequalityofnails,
there is an increased protection against nail infections.4,5
Inastudywith50healthyvolunteers,agedbe-
tween 40 and 65 years and with clear clinical signs of
facialphotoaging, the effect of the intake of supple-
mentscontainingch-OSAtotheskin,hairandnails
wereanalyzed.Thesupplementwasheldforaperiod
of20weeks,with2capsulescontaining10mgofch-
OSAtaken daily.Also, serumconcentrationsofvari-
ous components in the blood were evaluated in order
to verify safety of oral treatment. The silicon intake
under these experimental conditions was considered
safe,sincetherewerenoreportedadverseeventswith
this treatment. This study, according to the authors,
wasthe rstrandomized,double-blind,placebo-con-
trolled trial that showed positive results in the skin
microtopography and anisotropy after the intake of
supplementcontainingch-OSA.Attheendofthepe-
riodofusesupplementcontainingsilicon,therewasa
signicantimprovementintheskinsurfacecharacter-
istics and in its mechanical properties.
Alsointhisstudy,itwasobservedasignicant
improvement in the fragility of nails and hair in the
groupusingthech-OSA.Theplacebodidnotleadto
signicantdifferencesinratingassignedbythevolun-
teersbytheself-assessmentquestionnairescompleted
before the start and after the end of the study.
Anotherrandomizedstudywith48volunteers
investigatedtheeffectofch-OSAonhair.Thevolun-
teers had thin hairs and were divided into 2 groups:
ch-OSA and placebo. The rst group received daily
dosesof10mgof silicon, for a periodof9months.4
Morphology and mechanical properties of hair were
evaluated at the beginning and at the end of the study.
Ingeneral,positiveresultswereobtainedintheevalu-
atedhairproperties,suchasstrandresistancetobreak-
ing,forexample.Furthermore,theareaofthestrand
frontsectionincreasedsignicantlyafter9monthsof
supplementationcontainingch-OSA,whereasthepla-
cebogroupexhibitednosignicantdifference.4
Thefactthatch-OSAhavepartiallypreventedthe
loss of hair tensile strength suggests that it has a struc-
turaleffecton hair bers.Accordingto the authors,an
interactionwithkeratinispossible,consideringthatOSA
is the chemical form of silicon prevalent in physiological
uidsandthatsilanolgroup,presentonOSA,isknown
to form complexes with amino acids and peptides.4,38,39
An Bras Dermatol. 2016;91(3):331-5.
Useofsiliconforskinandhaircare:anapproachofchemicalformsavailableandefcacy 335
CONCLUSION
The analysis of the scientic literature on the
use of supplements containing silicon shows great
therapeuticpotentialofthiselement,asitoperatesin
different conditions of human health and presents aes-
theticproperties.Amongthevarious chemicalforms
available,theanalysisofstudiesshowsthatOSAisthe
form that presents greater bioavailability; other forms
have absorption inversely proportional to the degree
of polymerization. We also observed that ch-OSA is
themostreferencedformintheliterature,suggesting
agreaterscienticsupportregardingitsuse.Howev-
er,therearefewstudiesevaluatingthesafety,efcacy
and bioavailability of the different existing chemical
formsofsiliconthatuseproperdesign,largenumber
of volunteers and long follow-up period.q
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Mailing address:
Patrícia Maria Berardo Gonçalves Maia Campos
Avenida do Café, S/N
Monte Alegre
14040-903 - Ribeirão Preto - SP - Brazil
Email: pmcampos@usp.br
How to cite this article:AraújoLA,AddorF,CamposPMBGM.UseofSiliconforskinandhaircare:anapproachof
chemicalformsavailableandefcacy.AnBrasDermatol.2016;91(3):331-5.
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... Silicon (Si) is the second most abundant element on Earth, present in water, plants and animals [134] and it has semi-metallic properties. In nature, it is not normally found in free form but is usually present as a chemical compound of silicon dioxide, a complex compound, or silicon silicate [135,136]. ...
... In nature, it is not normally found in free form but is usually present as a chemical compound of silicon dioxide, a complex compound, or silicon silicate [135,136]. The silicon present in food is solubilized in the acidic environment of the stomach, becoming easily absorbed orthosilicic acid (OSA) [134]. Si is mainly absorbed from the diet [135,137] (Table 1). ...
... Si is mainly absorbed from the diet [135,137] (Table 1). Another important source of silicon used in dietary supplements is horsetail (Equisetum arvense) [134]. ...
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... Additional studies have to be performed on the efficacy of SCSs using more clinically-relevant bone defect models prior to their clinical use for treating bone diseases/injuries such as osteoporotic fracture, diabetic bone metabolism and other traumatic injury. Silicon supplement has been reported to have a good safety profile in the literature [39]. The present results show that there was no significant difference in the plasma levels of inflammatory factors between the SCS-implanted group and the blank control group (p > 0.05 for all comparisons) (SI-4). ...
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