How Silk May Benefit Your Skin, According to Experts

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

According to urban myth, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria owned a bulletproof vest woven from silk. Unfortunately, he wasn't wearing it when he was fatally shot in 1914, thereby throwing the world into World War I. It has since been shown that this silk would have halted a bullet of the era. Silk may be marred by a few drops of salad dressing, but weak it is not.

This surprising resilience has not gone unnoticed by skin-care brands. "There are two proteins in silk with supposed benefits: sericin and fibroin," says Morgan Rabach, a clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York City. "Sericin forms a layer of protection over the skin and may help promote hydration. Fibroin may help repair skin cells and balance moisture levels." Tatcha's silk products weave together both proteins, while Silk Therapeutics' line includes fibroin for its purported ability to boost collagen. (Please note, dear readers, the use of supposed, may, and purported.)

Of course, that's a lot of worms. After studying silk proteins for over a decade, skin-care brand Eighteen B's chief science officer Lindsay Wray, a biomedical engineer, realized synthetic versions could be more effective at maintaining collagen function and supporting a healthy skin barrier. Natural silks’ benefits get watered down during a process known as hydrolysis, which degrades its proteins.

But big picture: "The science is not substantial enough to back silk alone as a wrinkle reducer like retinol," says New York City dermatologist Dendy Engelman. "However, there are studies pointing toward silk’s ability to improve penetration for actives that can help with wound healing." Hyaluronic acid (a star skin healer) is indeed in Eighteen B's products. For now, expect silk to hydrate, protect, and stop a bullet. Unlined skin may be another story.

Tatcha The Silk Peony Melting Eye Cream

In addition to Tatcha's signature "liquid silk" — also known as hydrolyzed silk — this melty, moisturizing eye cream also includes the brand's Hadasei-3 complex of fermented Japanese superfoods like rice and mozuku, as well as Japanese white peony extract to fortify the skin's barrier and lock in hydration. It blurs the look of lines and plays beautifully with any makeup you might add on top.

Silk Therapeutics Refresh Facial Cleanser

Silk — specifically in the form of soluble fibroin — is included in this noticeably hydrating cleanser to help smooth skin as it's cleansed. It gets a hand from balancing olive oil, hydrating glycerin, and a bevy of nourishing fatty acids so skin never feels stripped once the cleanser is rinsed away.

Eighteen B Firm + Replenish Serum

Eighteen B says its silk protein, which it calls B-Silk, replenishes skin's all- important barrier. That lets it hold in the moisture and hydration provided by the lightweight formula's ceramides, squalane, and amino acids, all without a smothering feeling.

Dermalogica Active Moist

Ideal for anyone who prefers a light lotion over a rich cream for their daily moisturizer, Dermalogica Active Moist combines botanical extracts with silk amino acids to give skin a smooth, hydrated feel without pore-clogging oils.

Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment

Silk may be touted as a skin smoother, but it's the glycolic acid in this exfoliating liquid that does most of the retexturizing work. The silk protein is included as a means of binding moisture and giving skin a firmer look and feel.

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum

This serum is a whopping 75 percent hyaluronic acid, but that still leaves a little room for water-soluble silk proteins. PTR promises they they'll give skin a soft, smooth feel — the icing atop a very hydrated cake.

Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Fortifying Neck Emulsion

Made specifically for the skin under the chin and jawline, this emulsion teams up a silk peptide with antioxidant ferulic acid and smoothing retinol to help encourage more firmness and contour in and often-ignored area.

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