Q: What is 5-HTP?


When you look at our product range, you’re probably pretty comfortable with most of the ingredients listed on the box, but 5-HTP might just bring you some sudden pause. Or, maybe, you’re thinking why on earth is it in my moisturiser? 

Without 5-HTP in our bodies, we can’t produce serotonin. Probably the most common effect of serotonin we think of is mood. A deficiency of this neurotransmitter is linked with depression, anxiety and insomnia, which has led to 5-HTP becoming a key ingredient in some anti-depressants. It is also involved in your appetite, memory, learning, and vasoconstriction, to name a few. For non-prescription 5-HTP, you’ll find the same source keeps popping up… Griffonia Seeds.

The Griffonia plant, or Griffonia simplicifolia, is a shrub native to West and Central Africa which has had to adapt to particularly harsh conditions in order to survive, namely a defence mechanism to protect itself from extreme UV damage. In the seeds of the plant… is 5-HTP. Unfortunately, despite being labelled as a neuro-cosmetic, meaning a topical product which works on a neurological level, applying 5-HTP to your skin isn’t going to instantly improve your mood. Well, on a chemical level. The idea instead with adding neuro-cosmetics to products is that when you look good, you feel good. This can lead to us having some pretty positive associations with our favourite skincare products.

But you might be thinking, Q+A’s dedication to transparent skincare wouldn’t lead to them front-lining an ingredient which only apparently can make me happy! And you would be right, it just so happens that 5-HTP has a lot more in store for us than some wishful serotonin. The 5-HTP in the Griffonia plant is integral to UV protection, due to its ability to prevent the need for apoptosis.

A type of programmed cell death, apoptosis happens when cells in our body are either no longer needed, or undergo cell stress. This is quite a common occurrence, with the average adult losing between fifty and seventy billion cells each day to apoptosis. It’s all part of our natural bodily function, and is the reason we go from starting as a baby-shaped blob in the womb, to having separated fingers and toes when we’re born, or the process that removes a tadpole’s tail when it becomes a frog. For the most part, it’s a great thing. But it works best when UV damage doesn’t trigger the process, because we’re at risk of tumours when something goes askew and the cell isn’t broken down and disposed of. It’s better to keep cells healthy, and let them organise when the right time for death is.

5-HTP also protects melanocytes, which are antioxidants for UV damage and considered part of the immune system, as they produce the melanin. Without losing these important cells, you are keeping your skin strong against the problems caused by sun exposure, especially signs of ageing (although that’s not an excuse to forget sunscreen!).

The other great thing about this Griffonia seed extract, is the film it creates on the surface of your skin. This is due to its high molecular weight, meaning the molecules are too large to easily absorb into your skin (opposed to our Hyaluronic Acid, which has a medium molecular weight and absorbs well). As a barrier, it protects against environmental damage and irritants, but also has a tightening and lifting effect for a firmer complexion. Fine lines begone! 

In such a light and luxurious moisturiser as ours, paired with brightening and circulating caffeine and S.M.A.R.T Biosaccharide Gum, you have a product to promote overall skin health, with the ability to both protect your skin from harm, and reduce the effects of previous damage. This way for silky smooth skin and a complexion that will make you look so good it’ll make you feel so good… or something like that! 


Over and out,

Amy @ Team Q+A



Amy Robson


Aspiring author, craft addict, and Q+A's eCommerce Coordinator

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