Rewind to a few years ago and those in skincare’s inner circle couldn’t stop talking about hyaluronic acid. Its popularity happened overnight—but has held steady, becoming a staple in routines. Niacinamide rose to fame shortly after. Again, a multi-benefit ingredient deserving of its flash-in-a-pan acclaim. Next up on the agenda: Ectoin, an under-the-radar, albeit very skilled ingredient that works as your skin’s ultimate bodyguard.
“Ectoin is the ingredient to look out for in 2024. It’s the epitome of cell protection,” says Dr. Margarita Lolis, Board-Certified Dermatologist and Mohs Surgeon. “It is valued for its hydrating, stabilizing, and anti-inflammatory properties; helps protect skin cells from environmental stressors like pollution and UV radiation; and its water binding capacity also affords intense hydration to the skin.”
In short: It does–well—a lot. You’ll find it in a wide range of formulas and alongside everything from hydrating ingredients to exfoliating acids. It’s safe and derm-recommended for every skin type and is extremely easy to incorporate into your routine. To get the scoop on the up and coming ingredient, read ahead. Top doctors are breaking down what to know.
What Is Ectoin?
Simply put: Ectoin is an ingredient that is designed to protect your skin from damage. Classified as something called an extremolysin, the small, highly stable molecule is able to bind with water and form a literal protective shield. “Extremolytes get their name from being found in bacterial organisms and are known to help with stress-protection, stress from the environment specifically,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mona Mislankar. The naturally occurring molecule then, by transference, offers similar protection to human skin cells. “Ectoin is remarkable in its ability to form complexes that surround cells, enzymes, proteins, and other biomolecules so it can protect cell membranes from chemical and physical damage,” adds Dr. Lolis.
What Are the Skincare Benefits?
Now that we’ve established how ectoin works, it’s easy to understand what it can do for your skin. “Because ectoin provides a protective shield for the skin, it can help to support the skin barrier and prevent water loss,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick. “By protecting against external stressors, it also offers protection against blue light and pollution.” As a result, you’ll likely find that incorporating the ingredient into your skincare routine will result in better moisture levels and smoother skin.
Ectoin is also a decent anti-inflammatory property, making it a great option for those prone to redness and irritation. “ It’s beneficial in products designed for sensitive or inflamed skin,” says Dr. Lolis. “It also aids in the repair of damaged skin cells, eliminates reactive oxygen species, and has anti-aging properties that stem from its ability to protect the skin from external stressors and to improve elasticity.”
Should I Use Ectoin?
Ectoin is a pretty agreeable ingredient and is safe for all skin types and can help address concerns like eczema, irritation, aging, inflammation, dryness, or sunburns. “It’s great for someone who is looking for extra hydration and potentially looking to reduce environmental stress damage—particularly if daily sun damage or air pollution is of risk,” says Dr. Mislankar.
You should really consider incorporating it into your routine though if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. “Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, ectoin can help soothe and calm sensitive skin, reducing redness and irritation,” says Dr. Lolis. “Since it is non-comedogenic and non-irritating, ectoin is also a great addition for acne prone patients looking for hydration.”
What to Look for in an Ectoin Product
“Most over-the-counter products range from 0.3 to 2 percent ectoin,” states Dr. Mislanker. “I am a big fan of stating that the overall formula of the product is more important than the specific percentage.”
You’ll find ectoin in a range of cleansers, serums, exfoliants, and moisturizers—it plays well with just about every ingredient. “Ectoin can work well with other moisturizing ingredients including humectants like hyaluronic acid or glycerin and barrier-strengthening ingredients like ceramides,” says Dr. Garshick. You might also find it alongside alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids like glycolic, salicylic, or lactic, as it can combat some of the dryness and irritation.
The Best Ectoin Skincare Products, According to Dermatologists
Andalou Naturals Face Sunscreen, SPF 30 Daily Shade + Blue Light Defense Facial Lotion, Broad Spectrum Protection, Deeply Hydrating Mineral Sun Block with Hyaluronic Acid & Zinc Oxide, 2.7 Fl Oz
“This contains zinc oxide and provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB coverage while also using ectoin to protect against blue light and pollution,” says Dr. Garshick. “It also contains hyaluronic acid and bio-designed collagen to help boost moisture, helping to hydrate and plump the skin and won’t leave a white cast behind.”
Squalane + Hyaluronic Acid Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum
“Containing copper peptides, this serum helps to support collagen production, while also helping to plump the skin using hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid,” says Dr. Garshick. “The ectoin helps to protect the skin while also helping to boost moisture overall.”
Ceramidin Ectoin-Infused cream 50ml
“Great for dry skin, this face cream contains ceramides and ectoin to support the skin barrier. Containing other butters and oils, this helps to soften and smooth the skin,” adds Dr. Garshick.
Scalp Solutions Overnight Scalp Renewal Serum
Scalp aging is a real thing, so keeping the skin up there hydrated and free of inflammation and irritation is key to maintaining healthy, full hair. That’s in part why Dr. Mislanker swears by this ectoin-enriched scalp serum. It’s lightweight, non-oily, and leaves the scalp balanced, soft, and supple.
ALASTIN Skincare HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36 (3.2 oz)
“While ectoin is thought to be protective, it should not replace a sunscreen,” notes Dr. Mislanker. She recommends using an SPF of at least 30 or higher. Her go to? This Alastin tinted sunscreen, which goes on smoothly, doesn’t pill, and provides mineral protection.