Levulinic Acid



Levulinic Acid at a glance

  • Occurs in many natural and processed foods
  • Byproduct of certain biorefinery processes
  • Skin conditioning ingredient + possibly a penetration enhancer
  • Maximum usage in leave-on products is 0.0005%

Levulinic Acid description

Levulinic acid occurs in many natural and processed foods, including papaya, rice, sake, and wheat bread. It can also be produced during the biorefinery process of wood, algae, and starchy crops. In cosmetics, it serves as a skin conditioning ingredient; in the medical field, levulinic acid has also been investigated for potentially enhancing the skin penetration of certain drugs and having antimicrobial properties. The independent Cosmetic Ingredient Review board is currently reviewing data on the safety of levulinic acid as used in skin care products. In its raw form it is a solid with a low melting point. It has a maximum usage of 4.5% in hair dyes and 0.0005% in leave-on formulations.

Levulinic Acid references

  • Molecules, February 2022, page 1296
  • Cosmetic Ingredient Review, September 2021, ePublication
  • Polymer Chemistry, June 2020, 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.