2,3-Butanediol at a glance

  • Primarily a humectant of either natural or synthetic origin
  • Helps stabilize formulas and keep key ingredients suspended
  • Also works as a solvent
  • Similar to butylene glycol

2,3-Butanediol description

2,3 butanediol is a synthetic or plant-derived (Paula’s Choice uses the latter form) that can play multiple roles in cosmetics. Its humectant properties help it to hydrate skin and its solvent, dispersing and stabilizing properties help ensure product ingredient efficacy. It’s considered an alternative to butylene glycol. This ingredient may also be obtained via fermentation. It dispersing properties are proven to help ingredients like vitamin C and ceramides from clumping together in an emulsion. This ensures they remain suspended throughout the formula so you’re getting the desired amount with each application. Usage levels of 2,3-butanediol range from 1–10% depending on formulary goals; however, lower amounts may be used in blends, where they aid dispersion and/or help preserve other ingredients.

2,3-Butanediol references

  • Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, November 2019, pages 1,583–1,601
  • Biotechnology Advanced, May 2011, pages 351–364
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, January 2001, pages 10–18

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.