Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist)  on 29th Sep 2020

Meet Beta Glucan: The Lesser-Known Potent Ingredient In Skincare 

The Lesser-Known Potent Ingredient

You Can Bet On Beta Glucan!

Many a time, the quest for a healthy and flawless skin might seem almost unprocurable. Prolonged exposure to the ever-present pollution, dirt, and UV rays can be a major downer and become evident on your skin. Or it could be your daily reckless habits as the key offenders in damaging your skin.

But thankfully, there are a plethora of skin-saving ingredients in the cosmetic world that can not only enhance your skin’s health but also turn back the clock on the damage that has already been done, up to significant degrees.

Some of them are the well-known hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, niacinamide, and glycolic acid, which we all are pretty much familiar with. A few others have received very little to no attention but can be the next game-changers when it comes to transforming your skin. 

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Beta-glucan is one such bomb ingredient

Beta-glucan

This ingredient has recently been popping up all over the place and promises to grant your skin multifold benefits. And owing to its jaw-dropping hydrating effects, it is believed to take over the hyaluronic acid’s job anytime soon!

And if you're a newbie to the world of skincare, this ingredient might seem all greek to you. But worry not, you're not alone!

In this article, we will break down all the essential facts related to this ingredient and how it can improve your skin’s health. We'll also cover why we think you should consider incorporating it into your skincare routine. Just read on to find all about this hidden gem! 

What is beta-glucan? 

Beta-glucan is a naturally occurring polysaccharide (sugar) found in the cell wall of many organisms like yeast, bacteria, fungi, algae, seaweeds, lichens, and plants, such as oats and barley. It can be used in various ways, such as topical application and supplements.

When used in skincare, it is most commonly extracted from microorganisms like yeast, mushrooms, or algae.

It is considered to be a humectant moisturizer that can not only attract water molecules to the skin's layer but also seal in the moisture and prevent it from escaping out.

Numerous studies have claimed that its topical application can effectively provide multiple hydrating, antioxidant, soothing, and anti-aging benefits to the skin. All of these, while diminishing redness, irritation, and boosting your skin’s natural moisture barrier function.

Moreover, some studies have revealed that at equal concentration, beta-glucan imparts 20% more hydration to the skin than hyaluronic acid, making it a threatening competitor for hyaluronic acid’s role. 

What are the benefits of beta-glucan for the skin?

Beta-glucan is known to possess a whole host of anecdotal benefits for your skin that can compel you in switching up your skincare products with the ones that contain a considerable amount of this ingredient.
Some of its primary benefits include: 

1. Prevents damage: 

Beta-glucan is proven to exhibit efficient antioxidant property, which gears up to protect the skin against environmental aggressors. It does so by neutralizing the free radical assaults that can cause cellular damage and ultimately lead to the skin's premature aging.

Since our skin is prone to oxidative stress caused by exposure to pollution and UV rays daily, making it an integral part of your regular skincare routine can prevent and alleviate any potential damage caused to the skin. 

2. Barrier boosting function:

It is widely known as a “barrier superstar ingredient” in skincare, which can strengthen up and restore your skin’s compromised lipid barrier by potentially forming a protective shield through linking together on the topmost layer of the skin. This helps in protecting the underlying skin from stressful circumstances. 

3. Skin soother ingredient:

The anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties of beta-glucan can significantly soothe and calm irritated skin by reducing inflammation and redness. They also assist in speeding up the wound healing process of the skin and decreasing the infection rate by considerable amounts.

Some studies suggest that beta-glucan can help treat a variety of skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, bedsores, wounds, and burns.

In a research study published in 2016, at The Journal of Dermatology Treatment, beta-glucan was evaluated and confirmed to be an effective complementary treatment for mild atopic dermatitis (eczema). 

Pro tip:

Beta-glucan could be the best bet for people with super sensitive and dehydrated skin.

4. Intensive moisturizing and hydrating properties:

As we already know, beta-glucan acts as a humectant moisturizer. It performs dual functions by locking the hydration within the skin and prevents moisture loss, which results in a remarkably plumped up and dewy-looking skin.

Due to its high molecular weight, it has a greater water-binding capacity, which attaches the skin cells with abundant water molecules and ensures that it stays in there without evaporating out and thus averts TEWL (TransEpidermal Water Loss).

The beauty world has admired and loved hyaluronic acid for a long time for its unique ability to hold water molecules up to 1000 times of its weight, but this little-known ingredient has undoubtedly shown to do the same job even better! 

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Interesting facts:

Although it has a structure similar to hyaluronic acid, here's what makes it unique: A clinical study performed by Dr.M.S.Kim discovered that 0.4% concentration of beta-glucan was 20% more hydrating than hyaluronic acid at the same concentration. Therefore, beta-glucans can be considered hyaluronic acid’s underrated but more skilled cousin. 

5. Anti-aging and collagen booster: 

Apart from its astounding hydration effects, beta-glucan is a unique sugar molecule that has the capability of several binding receptors in your body.

And despite its larger molecular size, it is proved by many scientific studies that it can effectively penetrate deeper into the dermis and stimulate collagen production to firm & smooth out the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, resulting in youthful and supple skin. 

6. Immunity booster:

Beta-glucan can provide far more benefits by enhancing the immune function of the skin. They help ward off the invading bacteria that could agitate the skin’s external barrier and cause infections.

They work by stimulating the macrophages (WBCs) and other immune cells to stave off and kill the invading pathogens and prevent them from walking past the skin's protective barrier.

This is why they are used in wound dressing to intensify the healing process and thwart infection.  

What are the possible side effects of beta-glucan on the skin? 

Most of the ingredients don’t work out for specific skin types, causing adverse effects such as redness and inflammation. But fortunately, this isn’t the situation with beta-glucan. It is known to be exclusively safe for all skin types with no to minimal reported side effects. Irrespective of your skin type, you can saddle up with this ingredient to reap its multiple benefits.

You can consider incorporating this ingredient into your skincare regimen if your skin is extensively damaged and in need of some extra attention, without worrying about its undesirable effects.

However, doing a patch test is a non-negotiable step before introducing any new ingredient to your skin. 

Minimalist’s Expert Advice:

People who are continually struggling with sensitive, irritated skin and are looking out for a product that serves the dual purpose of combating signs of aging and providing intense hydration to the skin, it's the right time to make a beta-glucan loaded product a part of your beauty arsenal.

The Takeaways

Beta-glucan, no wonder, is a “god-sent” ingredient in skincare that can address several skin concerns, from soothing and hydrating irritated skin to diminishing the look of fine lines & wrinkles.

It is believed to be an incredible ingredient in suppressing redness and other symptoms of sensitive skin.

Also, we assume that beta-glucan will soon substitute as an alternative to hyaluronic acid to be the forthcoming prevalent skincare ingredient taking over the marketplace.

The sole hindrance has been the high manufacturing cost that we hope will become a non-issue soon, with the advancement of science and technology.