Suspending/dispersing agent

No known benefits

Cyclodextrin at a glance

  • Derived from cornstarch and made via biotechnology
  • Used in cosmetics to stabilize and help solubilize key ingredients
  • Has absorbent properties when used at higher levels
  • Helps keep delicate ingredients protected from light, air, and heat

Cyclodextrin description

Cyclodextrin is a cyclic (that’s what the “cyclo” portion of its name means) complex sugar (dextran) known as a polysaccharide. It is obtained from plants and produced for cosmetics, foods, and pharmaceuticals via biotechnology involving a reaction between enzymes and cornstarch. Available in three different shapes depending on application need, cyclodextrin works in cosmetics as an absorbent, chelating agent, and more importantly helps stabilize, solubilize and ensure delivery of key ingredients to skin. For example, cyclodextrins can make water-soluble ingredients more oil-soluble, enhancing their penetration and bioavailability. They can also protect delicate ingredients from degradation due to light, air and heat exposure. As the sugars in the cyclodextrin break down, the ingredients contained inside their hollow center are released. Since cyclodextrin is a food-grade ingredient considered safe to consume, it is also deemed safe as used in cosmetics. It’s considered non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Usage levels in cosmetics vary depending on formulary goals and ingredients being encapsulated in the cyclodextrins. A typical usage range falls between 0.3–10%.

Cyclodextrin references

  • International Journal of Cosmetic Science, April 2021, pages 263–268
  • Pharmaceutics, August 2019, pages 1–18
  • The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, July 2018, pages 865–873
  • Molecules, December 2017, pages 1–11
  • Journal of Cosmetic Science, May-June 2002, pages 185–191

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.