MSM & The Healing Power Of Sulfur
When MSM is seen in an ingredient list as its more technical sounding name "methyl sulfonyl methane" (or as all one word, "methylsulfonylmethane"), this sulfur compound can look intimidating. It certainly sounds like a synthetic ingredient. However, MSM is as natural as a compound as it gets. Aside from water and salt it is one of the most abundant compounds found in not only the human body but in every cell of almost all living organisms. Yes, it is that important of a nutrient. For natural skincare products it is typically extracted from pine tree lignins, garlic, sunflower seeds, and/or lentils (though virtually all foods that humans eat contain some concentration of MSM).
MSM that is found in the normal human diet is typically derived from the environment's sulfur cycle, which is when ocean plankton release sulfur compounds into the atmosphere where UV light converts them into MSM and DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide, which is a precursor to MSM and so chemically similar it is often labeled as DMSO2). MSM and DMSO return to the surface when it rains, where plants absorb and concentrate it into their tissues (they crave this compound because it is composed of 34% elemental sulfur). These plants are then eaten by humans and animals. If it weren't for this cycle and the sulfur containing compounds that are derived from it there wouldn't be life as we know it on land today.
This natural sulfur compound is used by all the cells of the body, especially skin cells, and is so critically important to almost all aspects of cell health that it's shocking so many skincare companies are completely oblivious to its topical benefits. To begin with, it forms an elastic bond between protein amino acid chains and aids Vitamin C in building strong collagen fibers, which in turn tightens skin to reverse the appearance of sagging and wrinkles. It helps skin maintain this elasticity by producing more sulfur bonds that not only keep skin pliable but discourage the formation of glycation reactions (when proteins and sugars cross-link together) that are typical of aged skin.
MSM improves cell wall respiration; moving nutrients and oxygen into cells and waste toxins out, while enhancing overall skin circulation. This is thought to be one of the main reasons it is so effective at treating skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and ichtyosis. It is extremely effective at calming inflammation and "normalizing" cell function (so much so that it is sometimes referred to as Factor N, because of this normalizing effect).
Like DMSO, MSM is a skin penetration enhancer, meaning that it helps draw other active ingredients into the skin. Unlike DMSO, MSM will enhance skin permeability without drawing other ingredients into the bloodstream. DMSO is such an effective skin permeation enhancer that it can actually create a garlic-like taste in the mouth with repeated use from the compound getting into the bloodstream and traveling through the body, which is a main reason it's not appealing for use in most commercial products. It's chemical relative, MSM, on the other hand, is effective at low concentrations to help draw active ingredients into the skin without going so far that they enter into the blood. Because MSM is so effective at naturally enhancing formula penetration into the skin it makes it even more important that you are able to trust your skincare company to use natural, organic ingredients and proven novel compounds instead of synthetic, artificial chemicals that could pose systemic health risks with repeated use.