Beta glucan might sound like a complicated term, but in reality, it is a form of sugar. More specifically, beta glucans are sugars found in yeast, bacteria, fungi, algae, lichen, and some plants, most notably barley and oats. Beta glucans are typically consumed in three ways: orally, topically, or intravenously. Each method of consumption has different effects on your body.
Below, we dive into everything there is know about beta glucan, including its main health and skincare benefits.
As mentioned above, beta glucans are essentially a type of naturally occurring sugar. They are a type of polysaccharide (a carbohydrate made up of sugar molecules) found in the cell walls of bacteria or fungi. There are many foods that contain beta glucan, which is how most people consume it. However, it’s also become a popular ingredient in skincare products, such as serums and essences, owing to its anti-aging and moisturizing properties (more on that below).
When it comes to skincare, beta glucan has a myriad of benefits. First, beta glucan helps protects the skin from external stressors and irritation. It does this by increasing your skin’s natural barrier and preventing harmful bacteria or pollution from making their way into your skin.
This process reduces redness and irritation of the skin, which especially helps people who suffer from eczema or dermatitis. Second, beta glucan is a humectant, which means it has major hydrating properties that lock in moisture. Dermatologists have compared the ultra nourishing properties of beta glucan to that of hyaluronic acid. What they found is that hyaluronic acid is extremely close to beta glucan in terms of structure, with some studies even suggesting that beta glucan is 20% more hydrating than hyaluronic acid. Lastly, beta glucan has
remarkable anti-aging properties. Going back to the previous point, beta glucan allows skin to retain moisture and thus appear plumper and more youthful, but it also stimulates collagen production which reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Furthermore, beta glucan has many health benefits, such as its ability to lower cholesterol.
When people ingest foods that are high in beta glucan, such as oats or barley, studies have shown that levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol are lowered. Other research has proven that consuming foods with beta glucan on a regular basis can reduce the symptoms of hay fever.
Lastly, beta glucans can also be injected into the body through an IV and in these cases, injections of the sugars can extend the life of women suffering from advanced cervical cancer or reduce the risk of infection after surgery.
Beta glucan is generally regarded as a safe ingredient, both when consumed through the mouth or applied topically to the skin. There are no known side effects to ingesting beta glucan, but it is possible that you will develop a skin rash when applied directly to your skin. However, this is uncommon. With all new ingredients, you should always do a patch test to ensure your body or skin does not have an adverse reaction.