Ectoin at a glance

  • Amino acid derivative and osmolyte (compounds that help protect and regulate water balance)
  • Reduces moisture loss and boosts skin hydration
  • Promising protective, buffering and anti-pollution effects
  • Helps soothe skin and support a healthy barrier

Ectoin description

Ectoin is a synthetic or naturally derived amino acid derivative used as a skin care ingredient for its protective and hydrating effects on skin. It serves as an emollient on skin and can also have a buffering and anti-pollution effect in cosmetics. Chemically, ectoin is considered an osmolyte and extremolyte (something capable of living in extreme conditions, like Keith Richards). What that means for skin is that as an osmolyte, ectoin helps maintain balanced hydration by maintaining the correct water balance in skin. In studies, this amino acid derivative exhibited the ability to reduce transepidermal water loss across all facial areas. Through the reduction of moisture loss and the promotion of a correct, healthy water balance ectoin allowed skin to better maintain its hydration and a smooth, soft surface. Mounting research indicates ectoin can also help protect skin from environmental stressors related to different types of natural light, specifically UVA rays (although to be very clear ectoin is not a sunscreen), and pollutants. This protective ability helps thwart pro-aging damage that external factors can have on skin. It’s believed ectoin exhibits these benefits in part because of its antioxidant ability as well as what seems to be a natural ability to protect skin from dehydration due to environmental exposure. Although more research is needed for substantiation, new studies also credit ectoin with the ability to interrupt the formation of dark spots, visibly improve the look of pores, support a healthy skin barrier and soothe. Cosmetic ingredient suppliers suggest using ectoin in percentages between 0.3%-2.0%. It’s a white crystalline powder in raw material form.

Ectoin references

  • ULProspector, Accessed April 2023, Webpage
  • Applied Sciences, August 2022, ePublication
  • Asian Journal of Beauty and Cosmetology, August 2022, 437-447
  • Antioxidants, January 2020, ePublication
  • Current Pediatric Reviews, August 2019, pages 191-195
  • Journal of Applied Microbiology, August 2018, pages 457-467
  • Scientific Reports, November 2017, ePublication
  • Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, May 2007, ePublication

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.