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Ingredient Deep Dive: Ectoin

We’re calling it now: 2024 is going to be the year of ectoin. While you’re probably familiar with skincare ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, ectoin hasn’t quite achieved that level of recognition – yet. However, that’s all about to change, as this soothing, protective multitasker steps into the limelight and gets the credit it truly deserves. 

Today, we’re breaking down the benefits of ectoin and finding out why it’s such a worthy addition to your skincare routine. From blue light protection to brightening effects, ectoin boasts an impressive list of benefits – we spoke to Skin + Me Dermatologist Dr Beibei Du-Harpur to find out more. 

What is ectoin?

You might already know what an amino acid is, but here’s the lowdown if you’re not sure. Amino acids are molecules that combine to form proteins, which are the building blocks of healthy skin. Ectoin (sometimes spelled as ectoine) is a naturally-occuring amino acid, which was discovered in 1985 by a German scientist when conducting research in an Egyptian salt lake

This harsh environment gave rise to ectoin’s protective characteristics – it works hard when under stress. “A lesser-known ingredient that is about to have its moment is ectoin, which was originally discovered as a molecule that enabled certain strains of bacteria to survive extreme environments,” explains Dr Beibei. 

“Ectoin is a surprisingly well-researched ingredient and it has been used in various healthcare applications,” Dr Beibei continues. Its profile is now rising as dermatologists are educating consumers about the benefits of ectoin, and its compatibility with other active ingredients.

What are the benefits of ectoin?

“As a skincare ingredient, ectoin has been shown to have barrier-supporting, anti-inflammatory and even photoprotective effects,” says Dr Beibei.

Photoprotection: The reduction of skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays, usually from the sun

A 2022 study found that ectoin is effective in the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases, thanks to its soothing properties. So, if strengthening your skin barrier and reducing redness is a priority for you, then it’s worth including ectoin in your regime. 

Ectoin is also a great protective ingredient. Research shows that it can shield against environmental stressors such as extreme temperatures, dryness and even damage from UVA radiation. It can also protect against pollution, which can trigger oxidative stress, a process which can cause cell damage and signs of skin ageing

And that’s not all – ectoin protects against the effects of blue light too, which may accelerate the skin ageing process. It’s also kind to the skin’s microbiome, the delicate balance of microorganisms which protect the skin and may even help to educate and support an individual’s immune system

Finally, ectoin can reduce dark spots and unwanted pigmentation while also brightening the skin – so, if a luminous, even-toned complexion is your goal then ectoin is a useful ingredient.

How to use ectoin

Ectoin is found in a range of different skincare products, including moisturisers, serums and treatments. It can be used as a hero ingredient, but it also plays well with other ingredients like azelaic acid, vitamin C and peptides, so you might find it in these treatments too.

We’ve included ectoin in all three of our Brighten + Boost Morning Treatment Serums: Regulating Vitamin C, Firming Vitamin C and Calming Azelaic Acid. Ectoin’s protective qualities make it a great way to boost your AM routine and provide another line of protection from external stressors like pollution and blue light during the day. Just make sure that you keep using your sunscreen too, as ectoin alone can’t fully protect your skin from sun damage.

Find out how we made our Brighten + Boost Morning Treatment Serums

Is it safe to use ectoin?

Scientists have found that ectoin is a very safe ingredient and is well-tolerated by most people. However, if you have sensitive skin, it’s always worth being careful when you first start using new ingredients, so test a small amount of your product behind your ear before using it all over your face. If you experience irritation or a burning sensation, then that formulation is probably not a good match for you. 

Ectoin is safe to use during pregnancy, when breastfeeding and if you’re trying to conceive, so you can keep using it as part of your pregnancy-safe routine – just make sure that your other ingredients are safe too. 

Final thoughts

Some buzzy skincare ingredients are a passing trend, while others are worth their reputations. With plenty of scientific research to back up its credentials, ectoin is a truly exciting ingredient that can revolutionise your everyday skincare routine. From its protective properties to its illuminating effects, ectoin is a multitasking wonder that can help shield your skin and achieve your skin goals all in one.

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