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One exciting thing about my job as a beauty editor is sitting down with the skincare industry's most respected experts to uncover game-changing skincare products and ingredients before they hit the big time. A couple of years ago, it was all about souped-up moisturiser squalane (it makes dull, dry winter skin glow), then succinic acid (a gentle yet effective ingredient for treating breakouts), not forgetting epidermal growth factors (which work like Botox without the needles).
With the icy temperatures refusing to let up, you might be on the hunt for products with ingredients that deliver maximum moisture and hydration — think hyaluronic acid and ceramides. But according to consultant dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite, it's beta-glucan that everyone is going to be obsessing over this year. While the well-loved polyglutamic acid and hyaluronic acid (both deeply hydrating and great for dry skin) made the list, Dr Granite said that beta-glucan is going to increase in popularity in the coming year especially.
Beta-glucan is not so under the radar that skincare brands aren't using it. Everyone from REN Skincare to Caudalie and Paula's Choice is incorporating it into moisturisers, serums, toners and eye creams. So what exactly is beta-glucan and how can it benefit your skin?
What is beta-glucan and where does it come from?
Celebrity aesthetician and skincare expert Cynthia Franco explains: "Beta-glucan is a nice big molecule composed of many smaller sugar molecules called polysaccharides." Without boring you with the science, Cynthia adds that the ingredient is found in yeast, some mushrooms, seaweed and cereals. Research shows that it's 20% more hydrating than hyaluronic acid. "They are both great hydrators for the skin," says Cynthia, "and reduce fine lines with continued use over time." It's not unusual to find skincare products that combine hyaluronic acid and beta-glucan for maximum hydration and plumping benefits.
What are the skincare benefits of beta-glucan?
Cynthia says that beta-glucan is shown to have intensive skin-repairing and wound-healing properties. If you've damaged your skin barrier by using too many ingredients or something your skin hasn't tolerated well (such as retinol or exfoliating acids), it's a great addition to any comforting face cream. "It's especially good for sensitive or damaged skin because it soothes and moisturises," says Cynthia. She also champions the ingredient for its mild antioxidant properties (antioxidants protect skin against environmental factors such as pore-clogging pollution).
The actual product you choose is important, though. "Beta-glucan would be best in a serum or moisturiser so it can sit on your skin," says Cynthia, rather than being rinsed off (as in a cleanser, for example). Like hyaluronic acid, it can be used daily. Cynthia doesn't list any downsides of the ingredient itself but as always when using a new skincare product, there could potentially be a risk of a reaction. "If you do start to notice irritation, I would advise using just once a day or a few times a week depending on your skin," says Cynthia. "Stop altogether should irritation continue."
What are the best skincare products with beta-glucan?
Leave-on products are your best bet for soft, hydrated, healthy skin. Cynthia rates Kat Burki skincare and recommends the highly rated Vitamin C Intensive Face Cream, $186. This is on the thicker side (perfect for dry, winter-ravaged faces). The velvety texture cocoons skin in moisture while shielding it from the environment using vitamin C. Also try the Nutrient-C Eye Cream, $144, which combines hydrating beta-glucan with highly moisturising vitamin E and caffeine, which may help to brighten dark under-eyes.
If you have a little less to spend and are looking for an easy AM and PM moisturiser, try Dr.Jart+ Ceramidin Cream, $55, which makes tight, dry skin soft and smooth, or Caudalie Vinosource-Hydra S.O.S Intense Moisturising Cream, $59.
If your skin needs a really intense hydration boost, layer a serum underneath your chosen moisturiser. R29 recommends Dr.Jart+ Ceramidin Serum, $65, or Paula's Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum, $59, which all soothe, hydrate and protect skin.