Glycogen at a glance

  • A complex sugar known as a polysaccharide
  • Offers water-binding properties so is a humectant
  • Helps maintain skin’s barrier-strengthening ceramides
  • Can improve the stability of emulsions when exposed to heat and light

Glycogen description

Glycogen is a polysaccharide of glucose, a sugar that’s naturally present in the body, including the skin. Although its cell-energizing and signaling roles in the body has been known for decades, only recently has its role in skin been elucidated. As it turns out, glycogen naturally occurring in skin and applied topically has been shown to help maintain and replenish ceramides, a type of sphingolipid in skin’s moisture barrier. Along with barrier maintenance, glycogen helps provide antioxidant defense from various types of airborne particulate pollutants shown to prematurely age skin. Glycogen in skin care is often made enzymatically from breaking down natural foods such as corn, grains, or starchy vegetables. It may also be made from bacterial fermentation or animal-derived, the latter being a form Paula’s Choice Skincare doesn’t use. The usage level of glycogen in skin care is typically 0.05–0.3%, with the higher levels achieving greater anti-aging and hydrating benefits. Levels below 0.3% still offer efficacy when combined with similar ingredients. Glycogen is considered safe as used in cosmetics since it occurs naturally in the body and within skin.

Glycogen references

  • Journal of Applied Glycoscience, June 2021, pages 41–46
  • Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, July 2020, pages 29–35
  • Polymers, February 2018, pages 1–25
  • BBA Clinical, June 2016, pages 85–100

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