Acetyl Glucosamine



Acetyl Glucosamine at a glance

  • Multi-purpose antioxidant that plays a role in fading skin discolourations
  • Also known to offer skin-calming properties
  • A precursor of hyaluronic acid (meaning it helps skin make its own HA naturally)
  • The derivative form (known as n-acetyl glucosamine) is considered more stable and effective
  • Can be produced synthetically to be vegan vs. pure acetyl glucosamine is typically derived from shellfish

Acetyl Glucosamine description

Acetyl glucosamine is a multi-purpose antioxidant that has been shown to be effective in reducing visible discolourations (specifically in 2-5% concentration). It works particularly well for evening skin tone when paired with the B vitamin niacinamide. It can also help reinforce skin’s supportive elements and is known to be soothing. One of the uniquely beneficial aspects of acetyl glucosamine is that it is a precursor of hyaluronic acid (meaning it helps skin produce its own hyaluronic acid content naturally). Hyaluronic acid is a fundamental component responsible for helping skin maintain hydration and elasticity. Technically speaking, acetyl glucosamine is an amino-monosaccharide (simple sugar). Although pure acetyl glucosamine is considered more sensitive to stability issues, research shows a synthetic or bio-fermented derivative known as n-acetyl glucosamine has been proven to be more stable and highly effective. This is the type you’ll find in the Paula’s Choice Skincare 10% and 20% niacinamide treatments and RESIST eye cream. This form is also vegan (whereas pure acetyl glucosamine is typically derived from shellfish). FYI: Following the correct INCI (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient) naming conventions n-acetyl glucosamine simply goes by acetyl glucosamine on ingredient lists, but you can always consult the brand to find out which form they are using. At the time of this writing, the current assessment of acetyl glucosamine by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review is underway with the next meeting with their panel of experts set for September 2021. We will be updating the information as it comes, but preliminary data has shown concentrations as high as 8% acetyl glucosamine can be used in leave-on products without issue.

Acetyl Glucosamine references

  • Cosmetic Ingredient Review, February 2021, pages 1-22
  • International Journal of Pharmaceutics, March 2020, pages 1-10
  • Life Sciences, May 2016, pages 21-29
  • Drug Design, Development and Therapy, August 2014, pages 1,923-1,928
  • Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2013, pages 96-102; and December 2006, pages 309-315
  • Dermato-endocrinology, July 2012, pages 253-258

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