Polydextrose: What Is It, Skin Benefits, Cosmetic Uses & Side Effects

This article was last updated on: September 10, 2023

Navigating many personal care products, including skincare and hair care, can often feel like traversing through a labyrinth. Without a background in chemistry or biology, most consumers find themselves at a loss when trying to comprehend the cryptic list of ingredients plastered on product packaging.

An ingredient that you might encounter in your favorite cosmetic products is Polydextrose. While seemingly esoteric, the name is quite common in the cosmetics industry.

Polydextrose is employed for a variety of purposes in cosmetic formulations. The focus of this article is to delve into the science of Polydextrose, exploring its roles, benefits, and potential side effects within cosmetic products.

What is Polydextrose?

In the context of cosmetics, Polydextrose is a synthetic polymer derived from D-glucose. It is a complex carbohydrate engineered to serve specific roles in cosmetic formulations. While it is primarily recognized as Polydextrose, it may also be named D-glucose, Polymer with 1,6-didehydrosorbitol 5-membered cyclic acetal, or Poly(D-glucose).

The primary functions of Polydextrose are bulking and humectant. As a humectant, it can attract and retain moisture, keeping the product and, subsequently, the skin or hair hydrated. As a bulking agent, it contributes to the density or thickness of the product, improving its texture and consistency.

While the concentration of Polydextrose can vary depending on the specific product formulation, it is not typically found as a standalone ingredient in consumer products due to its function as a supportive ingredient in complex formulations.

Who Can Use Polydextrose?

Polydextrose is suitable for all skin types. Its humectant properties benefit dry skin, as it helps retain moisture, but it is non-comedogenic, so even oily and acne-prone skin can benefit from Polydextrose products.

As a synthetic ingredient, it does not derive from animal sources, making it suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Furthermore, no specific risks have been associated with using Polydextrose by pregnant or breastfeeding women, making it generally safe for these groups. However, individual product formulations can vary, and other ingredients within a product may not be recommended for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Always check the complete list of ingredients and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Polydextrose Skin Benefits

Polydextrose offers several benefits in skin care formulations, mainly due to its functions as a humectant and bulking agent:

  • Hydration: As a humectant, Polydextrose can attract and hold onto water molecules, which helps to hydrate the skin. Pulling moisture from the surrounding environment and locking it into the skin can prevent trans-epidermal water loss, a significant contributor to dry, dehydrated skin. This hydration benefit can improve the appearance of fine lines and give the skin a healthier, plumper appearance.
  • Improved Skin Texture: The moisture-binding aspect of Polydextrose can also contribute to an improved skin texture. By increasing skin’s hydration, it helps to smooth rough or uneven skin texture, leaving skin feeling soft and smooth.

It is crucial to note that these beneficial actions of Polydextrose are not permanent. Using products containing this ingredient must be consistent and regular for sustained benefits.

Polydextrose’s Non-active Cosmetic Uses

In cosmetic formulations, Polydextrose primarily serves a bulking function:

  • Bulking Agent: In its role as a bulking agent, Polydextrose contributes to the volume or viscosity of the cosmetic product. It does not necessarily affect the product’s performance, but it does influence its physical properties. Adding density helps the product distribute evenly during the application, improving the user experience. Bulking agents like Polydextrose are critical in maintaining the consistency of products such as creams, lotions, and moisturizers, ensuring they are not too thin or thick but suitable for easy application and absorption.

Polydextrose Potential Side Effects

While Polydextrose is generally considered safe for use in cosmetics, it’s important to note that reactions to this ingredient can vary from person to person. This variability is largely due to individual differences in skin types, sensitivities, and allergies. To better understand your skin and its potential reactions, it can be helpful to find your skin type.

Potential side effects and interactions with Polydextrose are minimal, but they may include:

  • Skin Irritation: Though rare, some individuals might experience mild skin irritation such as redness, itching, or swelling.
  • Allergic Reactions: While infrequent, individuals with specific sensitivities or allergies might have an allergic reaction to Polydextrose.

If you experience any of these side effects while using a product containing Polydextrose, it’s advisable to stop using the product immediately and consult with a healthcare provider or dermatologist for further advice.

However, it’s crucial to note that adverse reactions to Polydextrose are rare. It is widely recognized as a safe and effective ingredient in cosmetics.

That said, it is always essential to conduct a patch test when trying a product with Polydextrose or any new ingredient for the first time. A patch test can help identify any potential irritation or allergic reaction before widespread use. Refer to our “patch testing guide” for detailed instructions on effectively conducting a patch test.

Comedogenic Rating

On a scale of 0 to 5, where 0 signifies non-comedogenic, and 5 represents high comedogenicity, Polydextrose receives a rating of 0.

This is because Polydextrose, as a synthetic polymer, doesn’t clog pores, making it non-comedogenic. This means it is suitable for all skin types, including those prone to acne and breakouts, as it won’t contribute to pore blockage, a leading cause of acne.


Achieving a successful skincare regimen often involves a degree of trial and error, as everyone’s skin responds differently to various ingredients. One ingredient that stands out for its multi-faceted benefits is Polydextrose. This synthetic polymer delivers immediate benefits to the skin due to its active role as a humectant, and enhances the overall product consistency with its bulking properties.

Products containing Polydextrose may be preferred over others for these reasons, specifically for individuals seeking to improve their skin’s hydration levels or those looking for products with a pleasing, more robust texture.

As for its popularity, Polydextrose isn’t typically heralded as an avant-garde ingredient, nor is it unusual. Instead, it’s a functional ingredient that quietly contributes to the efficacy and consistency of cosmetic products, often without consumer awareness.

When it comes to results, skincare is a long-term commitment. The full effects of Polydextrose, like any skincare ingredient, will be most noticeable after sustained and consistent use over several weeks or months.

Lastly, to address potential concerns, it’s important to reiterate that Polydextrose is generally safe for all skin types. While minimal risk of side effects exist, these are more the exception than the rule. The ingredient is typically well-tolerated and delivers hydration and texture benefits to the skin and the product it resides in, solidifying its place as a worthy component in your cosmetic repertoire.

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