Isomalt (Topical): What Is It, Skin Benefits & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: May 13, 2023
Table of Contents

Have you ever picked up a cosmetic product, flipped it over, and tried to understand the ingredients listed on the back? There’s a dizzying array of chemical names, many of which are unpronounceable and virtually indecipherable to the layperson. We often find ourselves squinting at the tiny font, trying to make heads or tails of the complex terminology and wondering what on earth these substances could be doing to our skin.

Among the myriad of ingredients, one you might occasionally come across is Isomalt. This substance might not sound familiar to you, but it’s a common component in various beauty and skincare products.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of cosmetic ingredients, focusing specifically on Isomalt. We’ll unpack its official description, explore its functions in your cosmetic products, and look at its potential benefits and side effects.

What is Isomalt?

Isomalt is a complex mixture of polysaccharides obtained through enzyme treatment of sucrose. Scientifically, it consists mainly of 6-0-.alpha.-D-glucopyranosyl-D-glucitol and 1-0-.alpha.-D-glucopyranosyl-D-mannitol. In simpler terms, it’s a type of sugar alcohol derived from beets and is sometimes referred to as a “sugar substitute.”

In the context of cosmetics, Isomalt is known for its humectant properties, meaning it helps retain or preserve moisture. This feature makes it a valuable ingredient in many skincare products, as maintaining hydration is a critical part of keeping our skin healthy and radiant.

Isomalt works by drawing moisture from the environment and holding it close to the skin. This not only helps hydrate the skin but also aids in maintaining its natural protective barrier. This moisture-retaining feature is beneficial in various cosmetic products, from creams and lotions to serums and masks.

As for concentration, Isomalt can vary depending on the specific product and its intended use. It’s generally used in small amounts as part of a broader formulation of ingredients. While it’s not typically sold as a stand-alone ingredient for cosmetic use, you can find it in a diverse array of skincare and beauty products.

Who Can Use Topical Isomalt?

Isomalt, with its moisture-retaining properties, is generally suitable for all skin types. Whether you have dry, oily, combination, or normal skin, products containing Isomalt can help maintain the skin’s hydration levels, a crucial aspect of overall skin health.

For individuals with dry skin, the humectant properties of Isomalt can aid in attracting and retaining moisture. For those with oily or combination skin, it can provide hydration without contributing to oiliness or clogging pores, as Isomalt is non-comedogenic.

In terms of dietary restrictions or lifestyle choices, Isomalt is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Since it’s derived from beets, a plant source, it doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients. This makes Isomalt a good choice for those who prefer or require vegan-friendly skincare products.

Isomalt’s Topical Skin Benefits

Isomalt, as a humectant, plays a crucial role in maintaining skin hydration. Here are some of the main benefits that it can provide to your skin:

  • Enhanced Moisture Retention: Humectants, like Isomalt, are known to draw water from the environment and lock it into the skin. This boosts skin hydration, which is essential for maintaining a healthy skin barrier. By trapping water molecules, Isomalt ensures that your skin stays moisturized and plump, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Improved Skin Texture: Adequate hydration can significantly improve skin texture. When the skin is well-hydrated, it appears smoother and more radiant. By providing this hydration, Isomalt can help to improve skin texture, promoting a healthier and more youthful appearance.
  • Supports Skin Barrier Function: The skin barrier is critical in protecting our skin from external aggressors like pollutants and irritants. A well-moisturized skin barrier is more effective at this protective function. Isomalt, through its humectant properties, helps maintain this moisture, thus supporting the skin barrier and its protective function.
  • Promotes Skin Elasticity: Hydrated skin tends to be more elastic and supple. Regular use of products containing humectants like Isomalt can promote skin elasticity, making it appear more youthful and resilient.

It’s important to note, however, that these benefits are not permanent. Like with any skincare ingredient, the beneficial effects of Isomalt are maintained through continued and consistent use.

Isomalt Potential Side Effects

While Isomalt is generally safe for use in skincare products, it’s important to understand that reactions to any ingredient can vary from person to person. This variation is due to individual differences in skin types, sensitivities, and allergies. Understanding your unique skin type (you can find your skin type here) can help you anticipate how your skin might react to different ingredients.

That being said, potential side effects of Isomalt include:

  • Skin Irritation: While rare, some individuals may experience irritation such as redness, itching, or swelling. This can be due to a sensitivity or allergy to the ingredient.
  • Dryness: Although Isomalt is a humectant and generally helps hydrate the skin, in very dry environments, it could potentially draw moisture away from the skin, leading to dryness.

If you experience any of these side effects while using a product containing Isomalt, it’s best to discontinue use immediately and consult a healthcare professional or dermatologist for advice.

However, it’s crucial to note that adverse reactions to Isomalt are rare. Generally speaking, Isomalt is safe and effective for use in skincare products. Most people can use products containing this ingredient without experiencing any negative side effects.

Before introducing any new product into your skincare routine, it’s always advisable to conduct a patch test. A patch test can help determine how your skin will react to the product and minimize the risk of an adverse reaction. You can find a comprehensive patch testing guide here.

Comedogenic Rating

Isomalt is given a comedogenic rating of 0. This means that it is non-comedogenic and does not clog pores. The rating is due to Isomalt’s molecular structure and function as a humectant, which allows it to provide moisture to the skin without contributing to oiliness or blockages that could lead to breakouts.


Finding success in skincare often involves a degree of experimentation and trial and error. Everyone’s skin is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. This is why understanding the ingredients in your skincare products, such as Isomalt, can be so helpful.

While Isomalt might not be the most famous ingredient on your product labels, its effectiveness and safety make it a valuable player in the skincare world. Its non-comedogenic nature and humectant properties contribute to its growing popularity in various skincare and cosmetic products.

To sum everything up, Isomalt is a versatile skincare ingredient with notable hydrating properties. Its ability to attract and retain moisture can help improve skin texture, promote elasticity, and support the skin’s barrier function. Like with any ingredient, it’s important to monitor how your skin reacts to Isomalt and adjust its use accordingly. By understanding the role of Isomalt in your skincare routine, you can make informed decisions to cater to your skin’s specific needs.

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