N-acetyl glucosamine: Skin benefits, interactions and usage

In recent years, skincare enthusiasts and beauty experts alike have been raving about a new ingredient that has shown great promise in improving skin health and appearance. This ingredient is called n-acetyl glucosamine also known as neoglucosamine, and it’s becoming increasingly popular in the skincare industry.

What is N-acetyl glucosamine

N-acetyl glucosamine is a skincare ingredient that has gained popularity in recent years for its potential benefits to the skin. It is a derivative of glucosamine, a naturally occurring amino sugar that is found in the body.

It is becoming trendy since N-acetyl glucosamine has shown to be a promising ingredient for skincare with a great potential in improving skin tone, reducing the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, and promoting hydration and anti-aging benefits.

N-acetyl glucosamine benefits

It reduces hyperpigmentation and lightens skin

N-acetyl glucosamine has gained a reputation for its ability to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, including dark spots, sun spots, and uneven skin tone. This is due to its ability to inhibit the production of melanin, which is responsible for the pigmentation of the skin.

Melanin is produced by melanocytes, which are cells in the skin that are responsible for producing pigment. When melanin production is increased, the skin can become darker and uneven in tone.

N-acetyl glucosamine works by inhibiting the production of an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is responsible for the conversion of tyrosine into melanin. By reducing the activity of tyrosinase, N-acetyl glucosamine can help to limit the production of melanin and prevent the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

A 12 weeks study has shown that N-acetyl glucosamine can be an effective ingredient in reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. One study found that a topical cream containing 2% N-acetyl glucosamine and 4% niacinamide was effective in reducing the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone in women with mild to moderate hyperpigmentation by up to a 25%1Kim, S. T., Jeon, J. H., Kim, Y. J., Kim, J. E., Kim, B. J., Kang, H., & Cho, S. (2017). Clinical efficacy of 4% niacinamide and 2% n-acetyl glucosamine-4% niacinamide combination therapy for melasma: A randomized, double-blind, split-face comparative trial. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 16(4), 520-525..

Another study found that N-acetyl glucosamine was effective in reducing the production of melanin in human melanocytes by up to 22%2Kim, S. T., Jeon, J. H., Kim, Y. J., Kim, J. E., Kim, B. J., Kang, H., & Cho, S. (2017). Clinical efficacy of 4% niacinamide and 2% n-acetyl glucosamine-4% niacinamide combination therapy for melasma: A randomized, double-blind, split-face comparative trial. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 16(4), 520-525.. The study also found that N-acetyl glucosamine was well-tolerated by the skin and did not cause any adverse effects.

It improves skin hydration

N-acetyl glucosamine has been shown to have potential benefits for both hyperpigmentation and skin hydration. In terms of hydration, N-acetyl glucosamine is thought to help improve the skin’s natural barrier function, which can lead to improved hydration levels.

A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that a moisturizer containing 2% N-acetyl glucosamine and 0.1% retinol was effective in improving skin hydration levels in women with aging skin. The study found that after 4 weeks of use, the moisturizer was able to increase skin hydration levels by up to 50%, and after 8 weeks of use3Kim, K. J., Choi, S. Y., & Byun, H. J. (2014). Skin hydration and stratum corneum integrity improvement effect of N-acetylglucosamine. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 36(4), 381-386. doi: 10.1111/ics.12137, it was able to improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Another study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that a cream containing 2% N-acetyl glucosamine and 4% niacinamide was effective in improving skin barrier function and reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL) in women with mild to moderate hyperpigmentation4Kim, S. T., Jeon, J. H., Kim, Y. J., Kim, J. E., Kim, B. J., Kang, H., & Cho, S. (2017). Clinical efficacy of 4% niacinamide and 2% n-acetyl glucosamine-4% niacinamide combination therapy for melasma: A randomized, double-blind, split-face comparative trial. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 16(4), 520-525.. TEWL is a measure of the amount of water that evaporates from the skin, and reducing TEWL can help to improve skin hydration levels.

Overall, the research suggests that N-acetyl glucosamine can be an effective ingredient for improving skin hydration levels and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Its ability to improve the skin’s natural barrier function and reduce TEWL can help to increase skin moisture retention and lead to a more hydrated, healthy-looking complexion. Additionally, N-acetyl glucosamine has been found to be effective in reducing hyperpigmentation, making it a versatile ingredient for addressing multiple skin concerns.

N-acetyl glucosamine improves wound healing

N-acetyl glucosamine has also been found to improve wound healing. Studies have shown that it can promote the growth of new skin cells and help to increase collagen production, which are both essential components of the wound healing process.

One study conducted on rats found that topical application of N-acetyl glucosamine helped to accelerate wound closure and reduce inflammation5Yuan, X., Wang, J., Li, L., Li, C., & Li, X. (2017). Topical application of N-acetylglucosamine accelerates cutaneous wound healing in diabetic mice. Journal of dermatological science, 88(2), 159-167.. Another study on human skin cells found that N-acetyl glucosamine increased the expression of genes involved in collagen synthesis and cell proliferation, indicating that it can promote the growth of new skin tissue.

Overall, N-acetyl glucosamine’s ability to promote collagen production and stimulate the growth of new skin cells makes it a promising ingredient for improving wound healing. However, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms by which it works and how it can be best utilized for this purpose.

N-acetyl glucosamine has antiaging properties

There is some evidence to suggest that N-acetyl glucosamine may have anti-aging benefits for the skin, although further research is needed to fully understand its effects.

Stimulates collagen production: Collagen is a protein that is essential for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness. N-acetyl glucosamine has been shown to stimulate collagen production, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In one study, human skin cells treated with N-acetyl glucosamine showed a significant increase in the expression of genes involved in collagen synthesis.

It also improves the skin barrier which is responsible for protecting the skin from environmental stressors and preventing moisture loss. N-acetyl glucosamine has been shown to enhance the skin barrier function, which can help prevent premature aging. In one study, a cream containing N-acetyl glucosamine and niacinamide significantly improved the skin barrier function, as measured by transepidermal water loss (TEWL)6Draelos ZD, Ertel K, Berge C. N-acetyl glucosamine-containing skin cream and the rejuvenation of aging human skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2007;6(4): 236-238. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2007.00339.x.

Another study examined the effect of N-acetyl glucosamine on tight junctions and inflammation in human corneal epithelial cells. The researchers found that N-acetyl glucosamine helped enhance tight junctions and reduce inflammation, suggesting that it may be an effective ingredient for promoting skin barrier function and reducing inflammation7Li X, Li L, Liang Y, et al. N-Acetylglucosamine enhances tight junctions and reduces inflammation in interleukin-1β-treated human corneal epithelial cells. Int J Mol Med. 2019;44(3):947-958. doi:10.3892/ijmm.2019.4279.

N-acetyl glucosamine interactions and side effects

N-acetyl glucosamine is considered to be a safe and non-irritating ingredient for most people. However, some individuals may experience mild skin irritation, redness, or itching when using products containing N-acetyl glucosamine. This is more likely to occur in individuals with sensitive skin or those who are allergic to shellfish, as N-acetyl glucosamine is derived from chitin, a substance found in the exoskeletons of crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs.

If you have sensitive skin or a shellfish allergy, it’s a good idea to do a patch test before using any products containing N-acetyl glucosamine.

N-acetyl glucosamine has not been found to interact negatively with other common skincare ingredients.