Glycogen: What Is It, Skin Benefits & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: May 8, 2023
Table of Contents

Picture this: You’re standing in the skincare aisle, scanning the ingredients list on a cosmetic product, and you find yourself completely baffled. It’s a sea of scientific-sounding names, and you can’t help but wonder what they all mean and how they’ll affect your skin. You’re not alone in this confusion, and that’s why we’re here to help break down these often perplexing ingredients.

One such ingredient that you might have come across in your cosmetic products is Glycogen. This intriguing component has been making waves in the skincare and beauty industry, but what exactly is it, and should it be a part of your beauty routine?

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of Glycogen, exploring its functions, skin benefits, and any potential side effects. So, let’s embark on this journey to better understand this compelling ingredient and its role in our skincare and cosmetics.

What is Glycogen?

Glycogen, also known as animal starch, is a natural carbohydrate found in the human body, primarily in the liver and muscles. In the context of cosmetics, it is derived from sources like marine algae, oysters, or yeast and utilized as an ingredient in various skincare and beauty products. Glycogen serves as a humectant and skin-conditioning agent in these formulations, helping to maintain the skin’s moisture levels and improve its overall appearance.

The way Glycogen works is by attracting and retaining water molecules, providing hydration and suppleness to the skin. This property makes it an excellent addition to various cosmetic products like creams, lotions, serums, and even makeup. While it’s most commonly found as a part of a wider formulation of ingredients, Glycogen can also be purchased as a stand-alone ingredient in some specialized skincare products.

The concentration of Glycogen in cosmetic products may vary depending on the formulation and desired effect. As a natural ingredient, it is generally considered safe for use in cosmetics, offering unique benefits to the skin.

Who Can Use Glycogen?

Glycogen is a versatile ingredient that is generally suitable for all skin types, including sensitive, dry, oily, and combination skin. Its ability to attract and retain moisture makes it a valuable addition to various skincare formulations, addressing common skin concerns like dehydration and dullness.

When it comes to vegans and vegetarians, it’s important to note that Glycogen can be derived from both animal and plant sources. While Glycogen obtained from marine algae or yeast is considered vegan and vegetarian-friendly, some forms of Glycogen, such as those derived from oysters, may not be suitable for those following a strict vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. As a result, it’s essential to check the specific source of Glycogen listed on the product’s packaging or consult with the manufacturer to ensure it aligns with your personal preferences and lifestyle choices.

Glycogen Skin Benefits

Glycogen offers a range of skin benefits, thanks to its primary functions as a humectant and skin-conditioning agent. Here, we’ll delve into the key advantages of incorporating Glycogen into your skincare routine:

  • Hydration and Moisture Retention: As a humectant, Glycogen attracts water from its surroundings and binds it to the skin, providing essential hydration. This moisture retention helps combat dryness, dullness, and flakiness, resulting in a more supple and healthy-looking complexion.
  • Improved Skin Barrier Function: Glycogen plays a role in strengthening the skin’s natural barrier, improving its ability to protect itself from environmental stressors, irritants, and potential damage. This fortified barrier helps maintain the skin’s overall health and resilience, leading to fewer sensitivities and irritations.
  • Enhanced Skin Elasticity: By providing hydration and supporting the skin’s barrier function, Glycogen contributes to improved skin elasticity. This increased elasticity helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, promoting a more youthful and vibrant complexion.
  • Supports Cell Energy and Regeneration: Glycogen serves as an energy source for skin cells, helping to fuel cellular processes and promote cell regeneration. This increased cell turnover leads to healthier, more radiant skin, as well as a more even skin tone.

It’s essential to note that the beneficial effects of Glycogen are not permanent. To maintain these advantages, consistent use of products containing Glycogen is necessary.

Glycogen Potential Side Effects

While Glycogen is generally considered safe for most people, it’s crucial to remember that individual reactions to cosmetic ingredients can vary from person to person. Factors such as skin type, existing sensitivities, and overall skin condition can influence how one’s skin responds to a particular ingredient. To better understand your skin’s needs, you can find your skin type and tailor your skincare routine accordingly.

Some potential side effects and interactions associated with Glycogen include:

  • Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some individuals might experience an allergic reaction to Glycogen, especially if they have a known sensitivity to its source (e.g., marine algae, oysters, or yeast). Symptoms can include redness, itching, or swelling.
  • Irritation: In some cases, people with extremely sensitive skin may experience irritation or inflammation when using products containing Glycogen. This reaction may manifest as redness, stinging, or burning sensations.

If you experience any of these side effects while using a product containing Glycogen, it’s essential to discontinue its use immediately and consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional for guidance.

It’s important to note that adverse reactions to Glycogen are relatively rare. Generally speaking, this ingredient is considered safe and effective for most people when used as directed. However, as with any new cosmetic product, it’s always wise to perform a patch test before incorporating it into your regular skincare routine. This precautionary measure can help identify any potential sensitivities or adverse reactions before applying the product to a larger area of skin. For guidance on how to perform a patch test, you can refer to this patch testing guide.

Comedogenic Rating

Glycogen has a comedogenic rating of 0, which indicates that it is non-comedogenic. This means that Glycogen is unlikely to clog pores or contribute to the formation of acne, making it suitable for use by individuals with acne-prone or oily skin. The low comedogenic rating is primarily because Glycogen is a carbohydrate that works as a humectant and skin-conditioning agent, without adding any oils or heavy ingredients to the skin. This makes it an ideal choice for those looking to maintain skin hydration without exacerbating existing skin concerns.


When it comes to skincare, finding the right products and ingredients for your unique needs often involves a process of experimentation and trial and error. Every individual’s skin is different, and what works for one person may not necessarily provide the same results for another.

Although Glycogen may not be as widely recognized as some other cosmetic ingredients, its humectant and skin-conditioning properties make it a valuable addition to various skincare formulations. With benefits like hydration, improved skin barrier function, enhanced elasticity, and support for cell energy and regeneration, Glycogen has the potential to help you achieve a healthier, more radiant complexion.

Overall, Glycogen is a promising ingredient worth considering when looking to revamp your skincare routine. As with any new product, it’s essential to perform a patch test and monitor your skin’s response to ensure compatibility. With a bit of research, patience, and an open mind, you can discover the ingredients and products that work best for your skin type and concerns, helping you achieve the glowing, healthy complexion you desire.

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