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

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: June 26, 2023
Table of Contents

Picture this: You’re standing in the skincare aisle of your favorite store, scanning the ingredients list of a promising new product. It feels like a foreign language, filled with chemical names and complex terminology that leaves you wondering, “What exactly am I putting on my skin?” It’s a common experience and one that many can relate to in the ever-evolving world of beauty and skincare.

One such ingredient that might catch your eye among the sea of words is Xylitol. It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, doesn’t it? Jokes aside, it’s an ingredient that’s gained some recognition in the cosmetics sphere in recent years.

In this article, we’ll be diving into the world of Xylitol, examining its role within cosmetic products and deciphering its potential benefits and drawbacks. By providing a comprehensive analysis of this enigmatic ingredient, our aim is to bring some clarity to the obscurities that often cloud the world of cosmetics.

What is Xylitol?

In a cosmetic context, Xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived primarily from plant sources, such as birch trees, corn cobs or even seaweed. It is also known as E967 and birch sugar. This versatile ingredient is widely used for its humectant, skin-conditioning, and anti-seborrheic properties, among others. Its primary function in cosmetic products is to retain moisture, ensuring the skin stays hydrated by drawing water molecules to the skin’s surface.

Being a popular ingredient, Xylitol can be found in various cosmetic products, such as moisturizers, cleansers, and deodorants. Its concentration in these formulations may vary depending on the product’s desired effect and formulation guidelines. While it is typically incorporated into broader formulations of ingredients, Xylitol is also available as a stand-alone ingredient for those interested in customized skincare solutions.

Who Can Use Xylitol?

Xylitol is known for its versatility and gentle nature, making it suitable for a wide range of skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin. Its hydration and skin-conditioning properties can be particularly beneficial to those with dry or combination skin, lending a hand in balancing sebum production.

One of the major highlights of Xylitol is that it’s a plant-derived ingredient, making it an excellent option for individuals seeking vegan or vegetarian skincare options. This not only broadens its appeal but also underscores a more environmentally friendly approach to skincare.

As for pregnant and breastfeeding women, Xylitol is generally considered to be safe for use in cosmetics. However, it’s always important to consult with your healthcare provider or dermatologist before introducing any new skincare ingredients during these crucial times, as individual circumstances may vary.

Xylitol Skin Benefits

Xylitol offers an array of skin benefits, thanks to its versatile functional properties. Based on the official functions listed, here are the in-depth benefits of incorporating Xylitol into your skincare regimen:

  • Hydration: As a humectant, Xylitol attracts and retains moisture in the skin. It works by drawing water molecules from the surrounding environment and binding them to the skin’s surface, ensuring your skin stays hydrated and plump. This is especially helpful for those with dry or dehydrated skin, which is often in need of an extra moisture boost.
  • Skin Conditioning: Xylitol works as a skin-conditioning agent, imparting a soft, smooth texture to the skin. It achieves this by enhancing the skin’s natural ability to retain moisture and improving the overall appearance and feel of the skin. The result is a more youthful, radiant complexion that feels silky to the touch.
  • Anti-Seborrheic: Xylitol also possesses anti-seborrheic properties, which help regulate the skin’s oil production. Excess sebum can lead to clogged pores and breakouts, so using Xylitol can help maintain a more balanced complexion, particularly for those with oily or acne-prone skin.
  • Deodorant: As a natural deodorant, Xylitol helps keep odors at bay by inhibiting the growth of odor-causing bacteria. This makes it an effective, non-irritating alternative to traditional, harsher deodorants for individuals seeking a more gentle approach to body care.

It’s important to note that the beneficial effects of Xylitol are not permanent. To maintain optimum skin health, consistent use of products containing Xylitol is essential.

Xylitol’s Non-active Cosmetic Uses

In addition to its active skin benefits, Xylitol also serves several non-active functions in cosmetic formulations:

  • Flavoring: Xylitol is widely used as a natural, low-calorie sweetener in various cosmetic products, including lip balms and lipsticks. Its mild sweetness improves the taste and sensory experience of these products, making them more enjoyable to use.
  • Preservative Enhancer: Xylitol’s ability to retain moisture can help boost the effectiveness of preservatives used in cosmetic formulations. By maintaining the right level of hydration, Xylitol can aid in preserving the shelf life and stability of these products.

Xylitol Potential Side Effects

While Xylitol is generally regarded as a safe and effective ingredient in cosmetic products, it is essential to remember that individual reactions and side effects can vary from person to person. Factors such as skin type, sensitivity, and pre-existing conditions can play a role in determining how any given ingredient affects the skin. If you’re unsure of your skin type, you may find it helpful to find your skin type to better understand your unique needs.

Here are some potential side effects linked to Xylitol:

  • Skin irritation: Though rare, some individuals may experience redness, itchiness, or discomfort when using products containing Xylitol, especially if they possess highly sensitive skin.
  • Allergic reactions: While uncommon, certain individuals may experience an allergic reaction to Xylitol, resulting in symptoms such as hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing.

If you experience any side effects or adverse reactions while using a product containing Xylitol, discontinue use immediately, and consult your dermatologist or healthcare provider. They can help determine the cause of the reaction and recommend an appropriate course of action.

It’s important to emphasize that adverse reactions to Xylitol are rare, and, in general, the ingredient is considered safe and effective for most individuals. However, as with any new skincare product, it is always a wise idea to perform a patch test before incorporating it into your daily routine. Following a patch testing guide can assist in determining if a product will cause any unwanted reactions while also ensuring the safety and efficacy of your skincare regime.

Comedogenic Rating

Xylitol has a comedogenic rating of 1, signifying that it is considered low on the comedogenic scale. This low rating indicates that the ingredient is highly unlikely to clog pores, which is excellent news for those with acne-prone or breakout-prone skin. Due to its low comedogenic rating and its ability to help regulate sebum production, Xylitol can be deemed suitable for individuals who experience frequent breakouts or acne.


The journey to attaining optimal skin health often involves a fair amount of experimentation and trial-and-error. Understanding an ingredient’s unique properties and benefits, such as Xylitol, can significantly assist in making informed decisions about the products we incorporate into our routines.

With its dual functionality, Xylitol offers both active and non-active benefits that immediately improve the skin’s appearance and overall health. Its ability to hydrate, condition, and balance sebum production, combined with its gentle nature, may sway individuals to choose products containing this ingredient over others.

While Xylitol may not be the most talked-about ingredient in the skincare world, it shouldn’t be underrated. It isn’t particularly avant-garde, but its versatility, effectiveness, and compatibility with various skin types make it an ingredient worth considering for your skincare routine.

Results may vary for each individual; however, with consistent use, noticeable improvements in the skin’s overall hydration and appearance can be observed within just a few weeks.

Summing things up, Xylitol’s ability to provide numerous skin benefits, maintain a low comedogenic rating, and cater to various skin types makes it a promising candidate for those looking to achieve healthy, radiant skin. While it may not revolutionize the skincare industry, this versatile ingredient can prove to be a valuable addition to your personal skincare journey.

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