Xylitol at a glance

  • A sugar that may be plant-derived or lab-made
  • Has prebiotic ability that helps skin stay healthy
  • Attracts and binds moisture without a greasy feel
  • Approved for use in foods and is safe for skin

Xylitol description

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that may be plant-derived or synthetic (Paula’s Choice uses the former). In the plant world, xylitol naturally occurs in many fruits and vegetables, including mushrooms, lettuce, strawberries, bananas, and yellow plums. Research has shown that, like the skin-replenishing ingredient glycerine, xylitol hydrates and helps strengthen skin’s barrier. Xylitol also has an influential role in normalizing skin and the natural process keratinocytes (skin cells) go through as they work their way from the lower to the upper layers to the surface. Part of this is due to its ability to squelch damaging factors in skin that would otherwise throw skin’s natural processes off track. Xylitol is considered a nutritive sweetener and when added to foods or foods that naturally contain xylitol are eaten, research has shown it has prebiotic action that positively influences the gut microbiome. Xylitiol is a source of galactooligosaccharides, which are primary responsible for its prebiotic ability. Whether or not this prebiotic benefit also occurs from topical application of xylitol in skin care is unconfirmed; however, topical use clearly has well established benefits for skin.

Xylitol references

  • PersonalCareMagazine.com, September 2022, ePublication
  • Microorganisms, January 2021, pages 1–14
  • Cosmetic Ingredient Review, January 2020, pages 1-26
  • Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, May 2019, pages 323-331
  • Advances in Nutrition, January 2019, Supplement, pages S31-S48
  • Experimental Dermatology, March 2018, pages 280-284
  • International journal of Applied Pharmaceutical and Biological Research, 2017, pages 67-73
  • Acta-dermato Venereological, February 2017, pages 182-187

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.