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Dextran at a glance

  • Type of sugar that has water-binding properties for skin
  • Helps skin maintain hydration
  • Also used to create a skin care product’s hydrogel structure
  • First discovered by French chemist Louis Pasteur

Dextran description

Dextran is a polysaccharide (sugar) that has water-binding properties for skin, meaning it’s an excellent ingredient for maintaining hydration. It is often combined with peptides in powder form to improve stability and compatibility with different types of skin care formulas. It can also be used to create a skin care product’s hydrogel structure. Hydrogels are absorbent structures that don’t dissolve in water and are often used in medical settings for wound healing. The French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur first discovered dextran in the 1860s as a byproduct of wine fermentation. The dextran used today in skin care is produced from the sugar sucrose by lactic acid bacteria. Dextran has been ruled safe as used in cosmetics and has “GRAS” (Generally Recognized as Safe” status when used as a food additive.

Dextran references

  • Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine, May 2020, pages 1-14
  • Natural Products and Bioprospecting, 2019, pages 267-278
  • Algerian Journal of Natural Products, 2016, pages 348-357
  • International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences, December 2010, pages 569-573
  • European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, May 2009, pages 232-238

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.