Skincare FAQ

Learn About Glucosamine in Skincare: A Less Known Powerhouse With Promising Skin Benefits

Find out how glucosamine replenishes the skin, fights wrinkles, and reduces hyperpigmentation.
  • Glucosamine is an amino sugar the body uses to repair cartilage and maintain tissue hydration.
  • The research shows that glucosamine benefits the skin whether taken orally or applied topically.
  • One of the roles of glucosamine in skincare is to stimulate hyaluronic acid synthesis, boosting skin moisture retention power.
  • Other glucosamine skin benefits include brightening the skin, minimizing wrinkles, accelerating wound healing, and enhancing skin firmness.
  • Glucosamine is considered safe and suitable for all skin types, particularly in concentrations of 4%.

While glucosamine isn’t one of the most popular ingredients in skincare, its skin benefits are certainly promising. The research is more than clear-cut and shows that glucosamine is not only crucial for maintaining skin hydration but plays a fundamental role in repairing the skin, healing wounds, and brightening dark spots. However, the best part about glucosamine in skincare is the fact that it’s an element present in our body, which makes it super friendly for the skin — even more reasons to love it.

Before going deeper into the benefits of glucosamine for skin, what actually is glucosamine?

What is glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring amino sugar that the body uses to build and repair cartilage as well as maintain tissue hydration.[1] Glucosamine can do that thanks to its ability to produce glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans, the components of connective tissue responsible for many functions within the body, such as regulating cell growth and proliferation, promoting cell adhesion, and attracting water molecules into the skin.[1]

The big deal about glycosaminoglycans is that they’re capable of retaining large quantities of water and are essential for maintaining the skin’s structural integrity.[2] On the other hand, proteoglycans represent the main substance that fills up the spaces between the cells, maintaining skin firmness and preventing wrinkles.

You may not be familiar with glycosaminoglycans, but you surely have heard about hyaluronic acid, which is a glycosaminoglycan. Hence, glucosamine ultimately stimulates hyaluronic aid production.

Furthermore, glucosamine is found in several forms in skincare formulations, including N-acetyl glucosamine, glucosamine sulfate, and glucosamine hydrochloride, which have distinct properties — more on that later.[3]

The benefits of glucosamine for skin

Briefly, because glucosamine stimulates hyaluronic acid synthesis, it can accelerate skin recovery, improve moisture retention, and decrease wrinkles apparition.[3] There are several studies regarding glucosamine skin benefits, showing that it’s very effective for these concerns, whether it’s applied topically or taken orally.

However, it should be noted that most research on the skincare effects of glucosamine is related to the use of N-acetyl glucosamine (and not other forms of glucosamine).

As a matter of fact, the topical treatment with glucosamine is considered an essential cofactor (aka helper molecule) for hyaluronic acid synthesis, helping enhance skin hydration and heal wounds.[3][4][5] Similarly, during one study, the intake of 1000-mg glucosamine for two months drastically increased skin moisture and reduced the oil and fat content thanks to the stimulation of hyaluronic acid.

Another beneficial effect of increasing the level of hyaluronic acid by glucosamine is reducing visible wrinkles and fine lines — obviously. But here’s the interesting part: the anti-aging benefits of glucosamine go way further than its activity on hyaluronic acid.

According to research, glucosamine can enhance skin firmness and elasticity also by supplementing collagen type I and IV synthesis as well as preventing protein degradation.[3][5][6] More than that, glucosamine stimulates proteoglycans, proteins that play a major role in skin aging and whose degradation makes the skin appear more fragile and delicate.[2][7] Based on the study’s results, facial wrinkles, particularly in the eye area, were significantly improved by topical 2% N-acetyl glucosamine.[3]

Glucosamine also possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, being a great skin replenisher and protector.

Glucosamine for skin whitening 

Last but not least, glucosamine is a potent skin lightening agent that may help with conditions of excess pigmentation such as dark spots.[3] It turns out that glucosamine can inhibit melanin production (skin-darkening pigment) by preventing the activation of tyrosinase — the enzyme that regulates melanin synthesis. As such, topical 2% N-acetyl glucosamine has been found to be an effective treatment to lighten dark areas of the skin and fade hyperpigmentation.[8][9] Glucosamine delivers even more intense brightening effects when used with 4% niacinamide.

Although vitamin C is the skin brightening powerhouse, researchers suggest the combination of glucosamine and niacinamide works best for sensitive skin as it has also soothing and repairing benefits.

Is glucosamine safe for skin?

Since glucosamine is found in the body, it is considered safe for the skin whether it’s applied topically or taken orally and carries no serious adverse effects. In skincare, glucosamine is gentle enough to be applied twice daily, helping to hydrate and repair the tissue.

Glucosamine can also be used with most actives in skincare, such as retinol, vitamin C, and AHAs, and may even be beneficial to counteract their drying and irritating effects. 

Nevertheless, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult a doctor before using glucosamine, especially supplements.

Glucosamine uses in skincare

Because glucosamine can be absorbed through the skin and both topical and oral use of glucosamine has been shown to deliver similar skin benefits, glucosamine is available in supplements and powders as well as in creams, masks, and serums.

Glucosamine and its derivatives are most often used in skincare formulations as active ingredients in brightening products targeting skin discolorations. Thanks to its restorative properties, glucosamine is also a core ingredient in products targeting skin repair. 

Best skincare products with glucosamine

Here’s a list of the best glucosamine-containing products:

  1. Neutrogena Bright Boost Serum, Available at Neutrogena, $27
  2. Neostrata Ultra Brightening Cleanser, Available at Amazon, $36
  3. Clinique Smart Custom Repair Serum, Available at Amazon, $57
  4. Estée Lauder Revitalizing Supreme+ Night Intensive Restorative Moisturizer Crème, Available at Ulta, $89
  5. Olay Illuminating Eye Cream, Available at Amazon, $49
  6. Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, Available at Paula’s Choice, $44
  7. Murad Invisiscar Resurfacing Treatment, Available at Murad, $36

The takeaway

Glucosamine is definitely a game-changer ingredient that helps maintain skin integrity. Not only is glucosamine a great moisturizer, but it does a great job at replenishing the skin, minimizing aging marks, increasing antioxidant defense, and lightening discolorations, so it’ll definitely get more and more popular in skincare products. 

  1. Casale J, Crane JS. Biochemistry, Glycosaminoglycans. [Updated 2021 May 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:
  2. Ruiz Martínez, M., Peralta Galisteo, S., Castán, H. and Morales Hernández, M. (2020), Role of proteoglycans on skin ageing: a review. Int J Cosmet Sci, 42: 529-535.
  3. Bissett DL. Glucosamine: an ingredient with skin and other benefits. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2006 Dec;5(4):309-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2006.00277.x. PMID: 17716251.
  4. Sayo T, Sakai S, Inoue S. Synergistic effect of N-acetylglucosamine and retinoids on hyaluronan production in human keratinocytes. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2004 Mar-Apr;17(2):77-83. doi: 10.1159/000076017. PMID: 14976384.
  5. Gueniche A, Castiel-Higounenc I: Efficacy of Glucosamine Sulphate in Skin Ageing: Results from an ex vivo Anti-Ageing Model and a Clinical Trial. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2017;30:36-41. doi: 10.1159/000450832
  6. Tiku, M.L., Narla, H., Jain, M. et al. Glucosamine prevents in vitro collagen degradation in chondrocytes by inhibiting advanced lipoxidation reactions and protein oxidation. Arthritis Res Ther 9, R76 (2007).
  7. Lee DH, Oh JH, Chung JH. Glycosaminoglycan and proteoglycan in skin aging. J Dermatol Sci. 2016 Sep;83(3):174-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2016.05.016. Epub 2016 May 27. PMID: 27378089.
  8. Bissett DL, Robinson LR, Raleigh PS, Miyamoto K, Hakozaki T, Li J, Kelm GR. Reduction in the appearance of facial hyperpigmentation by topical N-acetyl glucosamine. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2007 Mar;6(1):20-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2007.00295.x. PMID: 17348991.
  9. Kimball AB, Kaczvinsky JR, Li J, Robinson LR, Matts PJ, Berge CA, Miyamoto K, Bissett DL. Reduction in the appearance of facial hyperpigmentation after use of moisturizers with a combination of topical niacinamide and N-acetyl glucosamine: results of a randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2010 Feb 1;162(2):435-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2009.09477.x. Epub 2009 Aug 28. PMID: 19845667.
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