Phytosphingosine at a glance

  • Found naturally in skin’s upper layers
  • Essential part of skin’s natural moisturising factor (NMF)
  • Replenishes skin’s barrier for a more youthful look and feel
  • Has a calming effect on skin
  • Named partially after the mythological Sphinx

Phytosphingosine description

Phytosphigosine is a long-chain, complex fatty alcohol that is found naturally in skin’s upper layers. It’s an essential part of maintaining skin’s natural moisturising factor (NMF) for overall skin health. It’s also a base component of certain ceramides, which serve as part of skin’s structure. Phytosphigosine in topical skin care products helps replenish skin’s barrier for a more youthful look and feel. Recent studies also show that phytospingosine can have a calming effect on skin, helping reduce redness and sensitivity. Since this ingredient occurs naturally in skin and is essential for its healthy appearance, it is considered safe as used in cosmetics, where concentrations rarely exceed 1%. Indeed, amounts as low as 0.05% are considered effective. One interesting note of trivia: the name phytosphingosine is derived from the term sphingoid, which was coined in 1884 by chemist J. L. W. Thudichum. The way the molecules of this substance lined up reminded him of the riddle of the mythological Sphinx.

Phytosphingosine references

  • Journal of Dermatological Science, January 2020, Volume 97, Issue 1, pages 2-8
  • Archives of Dermatological Research, December 2017, Volume 309, Issue 10, pages 795-803
  • Biochimica et Biophysica Acta: Biomembranes, May 2017, Volume 1859, Issue 5, pages 824-834
  • International Journal of Cosmetic Science, June 2007, Volume 29, Issue 3, pages 181-190
  • Molecular Medicine, January-March 2006, pages 17-24
  • Journal of Investigative Dermatology, October 2003, issue 5, pages 1135–1137

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.