Phospholipid at a glance

  • Occur naturally in skin and can be derived from plant and animal sources
  • Are hygroscopic, meaning they attract water from surrounding air and hold it where hydration is needed
  • Have antioxidant properties
  • Can help deliver other ingredients more effectively to skin

Phospholipid description

Phospholipids are types of lipids (fats) composed of glycerol, fatty acids, and phosphate (a salt made from the non-metallic element phosphorus). They occur naturally within the human body and can be derived from plant and animal sources, such as soybeans, egg yolks, and milk. Phospholipids can also be synthetically derived. Lecithin is an example of a phospholipid. [br] [br] Phospholipids in skin care have value for numerous reasons– chief among them is that they are hygroscopic, meaning they pull in water from surrounding air and hold it where more hydration is needed. That means they have excellent moisturising capabilities without being occlusive. [br] [br] Applying phospholipids to skin can help replace phospholipids that are depleted either through cleansing or from environmental factors. Research also shows that phospholipids can have antioxidant properties and be effective in helping deliver other ingredients more effective to skin in cosmetics. [br] [br] As skin-natural ingredients, phospholipids are considered safe as used in skin care in concentrations up to 50%; however, they are most often used as part of a blend with glycerine, lecithin (itself a source of phospholipids as stated above) and ceramides.

Phospholipid references

  • International Journal of Toxicology, Volume 39, Supplement 2, September 2020, pages 5S–25S
  • Nanocosmetics, 2019, van Hoogevest P., Fahr A., pages 95-140
  • Journal of Food Bioactives, April 2019, volume 5, pages 31-42
  • Pharmacognosy Reviews, 2009, Volume 3, Issue 5, pages 82-89
  • Journal of Nanjing Medical University, November 2007, Volume 21, Issue 6, pages 349-353

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.