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Ectoin Is the Hero Ingredient Derms Are Recommending for Dry, Stressed-Out Skin

Photo by Yana Iskayeva/Getty Images

Praised for its remarkable ability to protect and repair the skin, ectoin is fast becoming a sought-after skincare ingredient and it has us scouring ingredient lists with the sharpest of eyes. Derived from microorganisms that thrive in extreme conditions, this natural compound has been scientifically proven to enhance skin health and combat the effects of aging and environmental stressors with its proteins. 

We asked two expert dermatologists to explain the science behind ectoin and explore its numerous benefits, revealing why it's garnering attention as a game-changer in the field of skincare. Whether you're concerned about texture, signs of aging, or environmental damage, ectoin might just be the secret to achieving healthier, more radiant skin. Read on for tips on how to use and product recommendations too!

About the Experts: 
Caren Campbell, MD, is a board-certified San Francisco based dermatologist. She loves educating her patients on the best solutions for their skin and debunking beauty myths.
Dendy Engelman, MD, is a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in New York City.

First, What Is Ectoin Exactly? 

Ectoin (pronounced eck-toe-in) works like a humectant, pulling water to the skin and helping your skin retain hydration—similar to the way hyaluronic acid works. “It’s a natural compound produced by single cell bacteria, in particular halophiles, or salt-loving microorganisms,” explains dermatologist Caren Campbell, MD. This compound is responsible for helping microorganisms survive in extreme weather conditions and places such as deserts, salt lakes, cold icy places, and even sulfur hot springs.

Because of this, ectoin is able to protect the cells within your skin barrier, much like it does for microorganisms that live in extreme climates. Ectoin is a naturally occurring amino acid molecule that has the capability of protecting bacteria within the skin's microbiome from extreme external conditions. “This natural moisturizer binds water molecules to create a shield and ultimately help protect cellular integrity and prevent transepidermal water loss,” adds dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD.

What Are the Skin Benefits of Ectoin? 

Like many of our favorite skincare ingredients, ectoin is a hero hydrator, which benefits our skin in more ways than one.

  • Ectoin Repairs the Skin Barrier

“It has been studied in a lab and was shown to help pull water to the skin. It helps with hydration of the skin much like hyaluronic acid does,” says Dr. Campbell. Ectoin is able to protect and also repair a compromised skin barrier by keeping hydration and important antioxidants locked in to the skin. It prevents skin from becoming dried out, which can lead to inflammation, itchy patches, and in some cases eczema or atopic dermatitis.

  • It Prevents Transepidermal Water Loss

Because ectoin works to draw water close to the skin and keep the skin hydrated, it inherently protects against transepidermal water loss. Dr. Engelman notes that it's especially great for dry skin types who struggle with keeping their skin hydrated for long periods of time. It’s recommended to use a skincare product with ectoin overnight to help repair skin, especially if you live in a particularly dry, hot climate in which you’re sweating out vital electrolytes and salts, or are predisposed to skin conditions like eczema or rosacea.

  • Ectoin Helps Calm Inflamed Skin

Have you ever tried a skincare product that didn’t quite agree with your skin? Or maybe you were out in the sun a bit too long, either skiing or at the beach in the summer. Everyone’s skin can get inflamed and show signs of redness; that’s why it's important to have products in your skincare cabinet that can calm things down and return them to their natural, unstressed state.

Dr. Campbell explained that ectoin has been widely studied to help individuals with numerous different inflammatory skin conditions. “Based on the studies that have been done theoretically it would help hydrate, calm inflammation, and potentially help with UVA-induced aging of the skin,” she adds.

Are There Any Side-Effects? 

Like most gentle humectant ingredients (including hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid, and glycerin), there are no side effects to using skincare products with ectoin. It’s a gentle ingredient and you can consider it a ‘healer’ or sorts. “As a naturally occurring molecule, ectoin layers and interacts nicely with almost any other ingredient it's paired with,” says Dr. Engelman.

How to Use Ectoin for Your Skin?

You’ll likely find ectoin in the same places you would find hyaluronic acid or even niacinamide. In products that claim to be hydrating and safe for dry skin types or sensitive skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. You may find it in products that boast benefits of antioxidants for stressed-out skin, too. “This ingredient is safe for daily use and the best way to integrate this ingredient is by way of serums and water-based formulas,” says Dr. Engelman.

Ectoin isn’t too popular of an active ingredient (yet!) to warrant its name within a product name, you’ll need to be a little skincare sleuth and diligently check the ingredients. To help you get started, we’ve pulled a couple of our favorite products with ectoin to help hydrate and keep skin plump and protected.

Our Top Skincare Products With Ectoin

1. Best Ectoin Anti-Aging Serum:

KATE SOMERVILLE Kx Active Concentrates Ceramides + Omegas Serum

KATE SOMERVILLE Kx Active Concentrates Ceramides + Omegas Serum

A must-have serum if you’re looking to improve elasticity and combat fine lines. It contains a potent blend of ceramides and omegas, which work together to strengthen the skin's natural barrier and provide essential moisture. By reinforcing the skin's protective layer, this serum helps prevent moisture loss and shields against environmental aggressors. It will help to soothe any inflammation from environmental or oxidative stress.

2. Best Ectoin Sunscreen:

TULA Skincare Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen SPF 30 Gel

TULA Skincare Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen SPF 30 Gel

Looking for a lightweight sunscreen that works overtime to help replenish skin with hydration and antioxidants? This is it. It’s a lightweight and non-greasy sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s a gel texture and it will leave a subtle glow behind. Probiotics and pineapple extract will help to hydrate and soothe the skin while defending it against the damaging effects of sun exposure. Perfect for daily use, and really easy to re-apply when you’re spending all day out in the sunshine.

3. Best Ectoin Hydrating Eye Cream:



Dark circles? This will fix them fast. This treatment is formulated to address common concerns such as dark circles, puffiness, and fine lines. You’ll note it has powerful ingredients like caffeine, peptides, and hyaluronic acid. Caffeine helps to reduce puffiness and awaken the appearance of tired eyes, while peptides work to firm and smooth the skin, diminishing the appearance of fine lines.

4. Best Ectoin Barrier Repair Treatment:

BYOMA Barrier+ Treatment

BYOMA Barrier+ Treatment
Courtesy of Byoma

This is actually a leave-on treatment that’s described as ‘intensely restorative’. It uses the trifecta of humectants, emollients and occlusives to repair and rebuild your skin barrier and help it return to its healthy and protected state. This treatment is very rich, and feels buttery on skin. It’s perfect for overnight wear to deliver optimal hydration and calm redness and inflammation. Consider this your fool proof product whenever your skin needs a break and some intense TLC.

5. Best Ectoin Moisturizer for Dry Skin:

DR. JART+ Ceramidin™ Ectoin-Infused Face Cream for Very Dry Skin

DR. JART+ Ceramidin™ Ectoin-Infused Face Cream for Very Dry Skin
Courtesy of Dr. Jart

A winter hydrating hero or, if you have very dry skin no matter the season this moisturizer will help keep everything locked in and hydrated. This cream contains a blend of ceramides and ectoin, which work together to strengthen the skin barrier and retain moisture.

Ceramides are essential lipids that help to maintain a healthy skin barrier, preventing moisture loss and protecting the skin from external irritants. As we now know, ectoin will strengthen and protect the skin against environmental stressors.

The lotion has a rich, luxurious texture that melts into the skin, providing instant relief and comfort to very dry skin. It delivers intense skin hydration and helps to seal in moisture, leaving the skin feeling supple and plump.

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Article Last Updated April 12, 2024 12:00 AM