In skin care, it seems everyone knows how important it is to keep their skin well hydrated for a radiant complexion. Or to avoid the nasties such as tight feeling, itchiness, or fine lines around the eyes. That’s where hyaluronic acid comes in. It helps your skin retain moisture – and that’s it.

So, what about beta glucan and why is it often claimed as better than the well-known and well-researched hyaluronic acid? A pretty bold claim for a – should I say – obscure ingredient that’s taking over the skin care world by a storm.

Beta glucan – beta what now?

Simply put, beta glucans are made up of groups of sugar compounds – the scientific word for the sugars is polysaccharides. They naturally occur in the cell walls of fungi, yeasts, bacteria, algae, and grains.

Beta glucan naturally occurs in oats

They’re a soluble dietary fiber often used in supplements because they can regulate cholesterol or blood sugar levels and boost your immune system. That’s because they increase macrophage activity. This is when scavenger cells search for and destroy pathogens like bacteria.

In skin care, the macrophages help to speed up wound healing and soothe skin by reducing inflammation. Put simply, beta glucan is often added in products to help soothe dry, rough or cracked skin, or even eczema and acne.

It’s been researched for the past 50 years at numerous hospitals and universities due to its healing and immune-boosting properties. It’s generally safe to use both as a supplement and in skin care.

Is it the new hyaluronic acid?

So, why is it compared to hyaluronic acid? The reason is because beta glucan is also a humectant that attracts water to the top layers of skin. But they serve two distinctly different functions and both are vital for your body.

As a short form, you can think that hyaluronic acid is all about protecting against moisture loss and reinforcing the skin barrier. It’s also one of the building blocks of all organisms and there are not alternatives to serve as a humectant that maintains the moisture level.

On the other hand, beta glucan is all about soothing, reducing irritation, and improving healing, even though some studies suggest that it can provide more impressive results for attracting and locking in water. This should come as no surprise seeing how its structure looks similar to hyaluronic acid. But the jury is still out for who takes the crown.

The reputation of beta glucan for wound-healing and immune-boosting is what make it interesting for the skin care industry.

How does beta glucan benefit your skin?

Since it’s often compared to hyaluronic acid, it’s evident that it boosts the level of hydration in your skin. But it has so much more going for it, for one, did I mention soothing?

Repair skin

Beta glucans are known to boost the immune system, and similarly, when applied to your skin, it increases macrophage activity to speed up wound healing. By lowering the infection rate, it reduces inflammation and so calms down irritated skin.

Protect skin

As beta glucans have high levels of antioxidants, they help to protect your skin against free radicals. They can counteract the damage done on a cellular level caused by the free radicals.

Slow ageing

Of course, if your skin is well hydrated, it looks plumper and fewer lines and wrinkles appear. But beta glucan is also known to boost collagen production in the skin. Despite its large size, it can penetrate deep into the epidermis. And depending on where it ends up, it has different effects.

Why is beta glucan not more popular?

It’s honestly not evident to me why it’s not more widely used. It probably comes down to the price. Not too long ago, it was considered expensive to produce. Further, due to its large molecular size, it was thought too big to be able to penetrate into the human skin.

Also, as beta glucans occur in so many different organisms, from algae to mushrooms and plants, it should be no surprise that they also come in different sizes and shapes.
If you don’t see it listed in the ingredient list, but still see algae or mushrooms, chances are the product also contains some beta glucan. Then as they naturally occur in yeast, grains such as oats or rice, and the already mentioned mushrooms and algae, if your product contains these, you will also get the benefits.


Beta glucans are well researched and have a proven track record for their effects on immune and digestive system, skin, and overall health. If you don’t find a product that figures it in its ingredient list, you can look for product containing

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Rice
  • Fungi
  • Seaweed

Do you have any thoughts on beta glucan? Let me know in the comments.

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