Ingredient Spotlight: What Is Allantoin + Skin Benefits & Best Products
Like snail mucin and lotus extract, allantoin is a popular ingredient in the world of Korean Beauty, though it may not be discussed as often. This star ingredient is so notable because of its ability to soothe the skin of just about anyone, regardless of skin type or sensitivity.
Over the years allantoin has made its way into skin care ingredient lists everywhere, beyond its original popularity in K-beauty. Here, your full guide to allantoin including benefits, cautions, and the best products. Let's dive in.
What is allantoin?
We know allantoin is a popular ingredient, but what exactly is allantoin? Board-certified dermatologist and YouTube creator Andrea Suarez, M.D., explains: "Allantoin is an extract that comes from the comfrey plant but also can be found in a variety of other plants," which includes beets and chamomile.
The ingredient is similar in functionality to panthenol (vitamin B5), as it can soothe redness and irritation. For this reason, Suarez explains, allantoin is frequently found in cosmetics marketed for irritated skin and after-sun products.
However, allantoin is a multifunctional ingredient with a hefty list of benefits. Here, a list of some of the most notable uses of allantoin for the skin.
Skin benefits of allantoin.
Allantoin has several key benefits in skin care:
Whether irritation has come from over-exfoliation that led to a compromised skin barrier or an allergic reaction, allantoin is a great ingredient to soothe red, reactive skin. Clean cosmetic chemist Krupa Koestline tells mbg that allantoin is an effective anti-irritant that works by, "protecting the skin and alleviating the irritation potential of harsh surfactants, oils, and acidic or alkaline materials."
One particular case that may call for topical allantoin: dermatitis. Suarez explains, "There are some studies showing some improvement in dermatitis that is caused by radiation treatment when using an emulsion of natural oils and allantoin." However, research on the topic is still limited.
What we do know is that, in general, allantoin doesn't further irritate the skin and can have soothing effects. So next time your skin is feeling reactive and angry, this is one ingredient you can deem safe to use until your barrier is repaired.
Enhances product formulas.
Allantoin is often found as an ingredient mixed into products of all kinds, from hydrating face creams to chemical exfoliant treatments. Koestline explains that "[Allantoin] enhances the efficacy and appeal of formulas by acting as a skin protectant and providing necessary moisture."
So if you see allantoin listed on your exfoliating products, it's likely to balance out the drying effects of the other ingredients (which is a good thing).
Increases cell turnover.
Board-certified dermatologist Christina Lee Chung, M.D., FAAD, tells mbg that "allantoin is thought to have keratolytic properties and...it is derived from urea, which, like the ubiquitous alpha-hydroxy acids, can help smooth and soften skin by getting rid of excess dead skin."
While retinoic acid (found in retinol and retinoids) and chemical exfoliants speed up cell turnover, they can be irritating for those with sensitive, reactive, irritated, or injured skin. Allantoin serves as a safe, gentler way to accelerate natural cell turnover.
Aids in wound healing and scar prevention.
The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology1 (JAAD)1 investigated the efficacy of using allantoin to aid in wound healing. In this study2, allantoin proved effective at aiding wound healing and reducing the formation of scars.
This is why allantoin has been marketed as a scar treatment in many formulas.
Allantoin can be found in products commonly labeled "eczema safe" because of its ability to soothe the skin, combat itch, and reduce inflammation. For those with psoriasis, allantoin may be a safe option as well.
In this study, allantoin shampoo was shown to reduce inflammation and aid in wound healing for those struggling with psoriasis on the scalp. However, it's important for those with severe eczema and psoriasis to consult their dermatologist before using topical products.
Allantoin is a generally safe and effective ingredient, which is why it's so popular in products formulated specifically for sensitive skin. Koestline notes that up to 2% allantoin is safe, even for those with sensitive skin.
Chung notes that allantoin is a safe ingredient for those prone to breakouts as well. "Because it is thought to have keratolytic properties, allantoin can be used safely and may improve acne-prone skin."
Allergy can still occur regardless, so it's best to spot-test any product before adding it to your routine if this is a concern.
Best for scars: Derma E Scar Gel With Panthenol and Allantoin
Like we said earlier, allantoin is a great ingredient to look for in scar creams. This topical gel from Derma-E includes panthenol (vitamin B5) and antioxidants to lighten the appearance of scars and keep the skin hydrated during the healing process. During the independent four-week clinical study, 100% of participants saw improvement in the color of their scar, with 85% reporting improvement in the texture of the scar.
Best mask: Peach & Lily Water Crystal Hydrating Shimmer Peel-Off Mask
This K-Beauty peel-off mask will give your skin a much-needed hydration boost while calming irritation. Blueberry extract, hyaluronic acid, lotus, tiger grass, and diamond powder work alongside allantoin to add a radiant glow to dull and dehydrated skin, even after the shimmery layer comes off.
Best for daily use: Ilia C Beyond Triple Serum SPF 40
This product is the definition of functional makeup. The tinted serum checks the daily SPF box while providing vitamin C, niacinamide, and allantoin to gently brighten the skin over time. The tint is light and leaves a minimal white cast so you can reapply throughout the day without worry. If you're looking for a sunscreen that works overtime, this is ideal.
Best exfoliator: Moon Juice Acid Potion AHA+BHA Resurfacing Exfoliator
Like Koestline told us, allantoin is often added to formulas to boost hydration and increase efficacy, hence its inclusion in this powerful exfoliating formula. Made with glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid, this exfoliant truly is a potion for a clear, smooth complexion. Niacinamide, reishi, and allantoin work to balance the strong formula and restore balance and hydration to the skin.
Allantoin is found in skin care products of all kinds, including those formulated for sensitive and irritated skin. This ingredient has countless benefits including soothing skin, aiding in wound healing, preventing the formation of scars, reducing inflammation, and even increasing cell turnover. There are few cautions to using allantoin in skin care. If you're looking to get a handle on reactive, irritated skin, check out this guide to determine if you have hypersensitive skin and how to tend to it.