Smooth Move

MSM, best known for joint support, also enhances skin softness.

By Lisa James

January 2008

When you think of essential minerals, sulfur probably isn’t the first item that comes to mind. But organic forms of this bright-yellow element shine within every single cell and none more brightly than methyl-sulfonylmethane, commonly (and mercifully) abbreviated to MSM.

MSM helps form a vital connective tissue component and thus is best known as a joint supplement par excellence. But skin is made of the same basic stuff—a strong, protein-based substance called collagen—so it isn’t surprising that MSM provides cosmetic benefits as well.

Keeping Skin Flexible

Collagen, an intricate mesh of protein fibers that supports all the other skin cells, is what literally holds the skin together. These fibers are not only flexible but also extremely tough; pound for pound, collagen actually has a greater tensile strength than steel.

Collagen comes in different varieties, labeled type I through type XII. One reason a child’s skin is so soft and smooth is that it is loaded with type III collagen, the kind found in fast-growing tissue; in time this is replaced with the tougher type I. As the skin continues to age, though, the amount of collagen overall begins to decline. And it is this decrease, along with accumulating damage from sunlight and other sources, that prompts wrinkles, discoloration and other signs of skin aging to make their presence known.

The protein within collagen is loaded with sulfur, which helps explain why MSM has been reported to restore a softer look by so many people who use it. As one woman who lives in Nevada’s hot, dry climate says, “[MSM] definitely helps ward off wrinkling and keeps my skin youthful.” Users also report faster, thicker hair growth as well as harder, stronger nails. Some practitioners have even found that scleroderma, a condition marked by thick, hard skin, responds well to MSM.

Easing Achy Joints

Joints contain collagen too, and MSM’s role in delivering sulfur to these tissues is what made it a supplemental star in the first place. Among people aged 40 to 76 with arthritic knees, MSM “improved symptoms of pain and physical function,” according to the researchers (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 3/06). And MSM is even more effective when taken with other joint aids such as glucosamine and chondroitin. In one study, glucosamine and MSM reduced pain and swelling more quickly when taken together (Clinical Drug Investigation 6/04).

MSM also appears to help ease pain directly by inhibiting pain signals as they travel along nerves. This capacity—along with MSM’s ability to reduce spasms and inflammation, and promote blood flow—has led to its use in treating conditions such as back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia and tendinitis.

In addition to younger-looking skin, MSM users have reported another “side effect”: reductions in allergy miseries. Scientists discovered that MSM appears to block histamine, the chemical responsible for allergic reactions, from reaching susceptible tissues, such as the mucous membranes lining the nose. Early study results have been promising, with seasonal allergy sufferers reporting significant symptom relief and increased energy levels (Journal of Alternative and Comple­mentary Medicine 4/02).

Pain relief, fewer allergy attacks...and softer, smoother skin to boot. Let MSM provide your body with a healthy sulfur boost.

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