A systematic review of natural products for skin applications: Targeting inflammation, wound healing, and photo-aging

Phytomedicine. 2023 Jul:115:154824. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2023.154824. Epub 2023 Apr 18.


Background: Every day the skin is constantly exposed to several harmful factors that induce oxidative stress. When the cells are incapable to maintain the balance between antioxidant defenses and reactive oxygen species, the skin no longer can keep its integrity and homeostasis. Chronic inflammation, premature skin aging, tissue damage, and immunosuppression are possible consequences induced by sustained exposure to environmental and endogenous reactive oxygen species. Skin immune and non-immune cells together with the microbiome are essential to efficiently trigger skin immune responses to stress. For this reason, an ever-increasing demand for novel molecules capable of modulating immune functions in the skin has risen the level of their development, particularly in the field of natural product-derived molecules.

Purpose: In this review, we explore different classes of molecules that showed evidence in modulate skin immune responses, as well as their target receptors and signaling pathways. Moreover, we describe the role of polyphenols, polysaccharides, fatty acids, peptides, and probiotics as possible treatments for skin conditions, including wound healing, infection, inflammation, allergies, and premature skin aging.

Methods: Literature was searched, analyzed, and collected using databases, including PubMed, Science Direct, and Google Scholar. The search terms used included "Skin", "wound healing", "natural products", "skin microbiome", "immunomodulation", "anti-inflammatory", "antioxidant", "infection", "UV radiation", "polyphenols", "polysaccharides", "fatty acids", "plant oils", "peptides", "antimicrobial peptides", "probiotics", "atopic dermatitis", "psoriasis", "auto-immunity", "dry skin", "aging", etc., and several combinations of these keywords.

Results: Natural products offer different solutions as possible treatments for several skin conditions. Significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities were reported, followed by the ability to modulate immune functions in the skin. Several membrane-bound immune receptors in the skin recognize diverse types of natural-derived molecules, promoting different immune responses that can improve skin conditions.

Conclusion: Despite the increasing progress in drug discovery, several limiting factors need future clarification. Understanding the safety, biological activities, and precise mechanisms of action is a priority as well as the characterization of the active compounds responsible for that. This review provides directions for future studies in the development of new molecules with important pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical value.

Keywords: Antioxidants; Immunomodulation; Inflammation; Microbiome; Skin; Wound healing.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Biological Products* / chemistry
  • Biological Products* / pharmacology
  • Biological Products* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Polyphenols
  • Polysaccharides
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Skin Aging*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Biological Products
  • Antioxidants
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Polyphenols
  • Peptides
  • Polysaccharides