Sorbitol at a glance

  • Type of sugar that attracts and holds moisture to skin
  • Helps stabilize and improve texture of gel formulas
  • Can keep clear formulas from becoming cloudy
  • Naturally sweet taste is sometimes used to flavor lip products

Sorbitol description

Sorbitol is a type of sugar that can be created synthetically or derived from natural sources. Similar to glycerine, it is a hydrating ingredient (technically a humectant), thickening agent, and slip agent. Its sugar component makes sorbitol an intriguing prebiotic, an ingredient that can “feed” the probiotics that make up a person’s skin microbiome, thus helping it become balanced. Specifically, sorbitol’s breakdown by certain probiotics can create beta-glucan, a skin-calming antioxidant.

Sorbitol references

  • International Journal of Pharmaceutics, January 2019, pages 175–183
  • Clinical Medicine and Research, January 2017, pages 75–87
  • Frontiers in Microbiology, December 2017, ePublication
  • 3 Biotech, June 2012, pages 115-125
  • The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, August 2011, pages 31-49
  • Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, July-September 2004, pages 321-336

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