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What Is Beta-Glucan, and Why Should I Be Using It?

What Is Beta-Glucan, and Why Should I Be Using It?

Posted by Brendan Leonard with Dr. Hannah Sivak on Oct 12th 2021

It seems as though the new era-supplement boom is never ending. Not only is the contemporary skin health expert expected to know a vast number of cutting-edge active ingredients, they should be prepared to know what makes each one different.

So today we’re talking about Beta Glucan, or as it’s referred to in science documents: β-Glucan.

Beta-glucans can be broken down into types from two courses, cereal and non-cereal. Cereal is just what you might expect, being derived from oats and barley. Non-cereal beta-glucans come from a wide variety of places including but not limited to: mushrooms, algae, and seaweed. 

You may have heard that this supplement can be taken orally for a wide variety of purported health benefits, but today we are zeroing in on what beta-glucan can do for your skin when applied topically. Then we have some suggestions for three, very easy to make, very easy to use DIY masks based around everyday challenges that many people find highly relatable. 

So buckle in, we’re going to start with some real-deal science from our Founder, Dr. Hannah Sivak!

Beta-Glucans in Skincare

What is a beta-glucan? β-Glucans are large molecules made out of small sugars like glucose bound to each other in a particular way called a beta glycosidic bond. These basic characteristics leave a lot of variation in size, branching, and sugar composition, leading to great variation in physical properties like solubility, capacity to form gels and films, viscosity, and the physiological effects on animals, including humans.

Examples of useful beta-glucans

Aloe Vera – The gel obtained from the Aloe barbadensis plant improves skin hydration, has anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to aid in the healing of cuts, grazes, burns, and insect bites. 

Apple pectin – A complex polysaccharide that contains rhamnose. Apple pectin helps thicken skin thinned by aging by increasing synthesis of collagen and strengthening the epidermal-dermal junction. 

Larch arabinogalactans – In the Indigenous tribes native to North America, larch was used as a poultice on sores, ulcers, burns and to alleviate itching. When biochemists looked into larch, they found that it can promote keratinocyte differentiation and the production of keratinocyte growth factor. 

Yeast beta-glucan – The cell wall of yeast is very complex, with a structure that contains a host of interesting glycans. When we come in contact with these special glycans, our immune system is activated so that, when a pathogen is encountered, we are better able to deal with it and stop an infection. 

A great advantage to allergy sufferers: yeast beta-glucan (and that of other fungi) seems to decrease the tendency to allergic responses and inflammation, and as an added bonus it tightens your skin.

Fucoidans, when applied to the skin have been shown to increase the density of collagen bundles, decrease activity of proteases (enzymes that break down dermal proteins), increase scavenging of free radicals, and increase cell proliferation.

Prickly pear (Opuntia fruit) extract – This beautiful fruit contains chemicals giving this extract medicinal powers in treatment of burns, edema, and asthma.

Beta-glucan (oat) is an excellent anti-inflammatory ingredient for reducing redness, itching, and irritation. Add Beta Glucan Powder to your favorite base cream, serum, cleanser or toner.

At Skin Actives, we use beta-glucans in a wide variety of products and continue to add more as their research suggests new applications. 

If you’d like to read more from Dr. Sivak, including an in-depth scientific look at today’s material, check out her personal blog, here.

Skin Actives Products with Beta-glucan

You will find beta-glucans in some of Skin Actives oldest and most beloved products! Here is how we have used beta-glucans throughout the years.

Sea Kelp Coral - Remember when we said that non-cereal beta-glucans could be found in algae? Well, check out our Sea Kelp Coral! Sea Kelp Coral is dense in the nutrients that your skin needs to get, and stay, healthy. Sea kelp is the foundation of many of Skin Actives’ products, it should be a foundation of your skincare routine too!

Zit Ender - With their wide-ranging anti-irritation properties, a host of beta-glucans make their home in our fan-favorite anti-blemish product! This potent melange of active properties can be emulated in your favorite products by adding in our Glycan 7 booster, containing seven different actives to battle antioxidants and promote collagen synthesis.

UV Repair Cream - At Skin Actives we’re all about fighting oxidant damage. Nothing makes us more upset than seeing the short term or long term ravages of over-exposure to sun on the skin. It’s so easy to prevent! But don’t despair, if you’ve gotten a little more sun than you might have liked, or just want to scour harmful environmental oxidants from your skin, UV Repair Cream has you covered.*

*When fighting a bad sunburn, combine with Sea Kelp Coral for ultimate recovery.

Dr. Sivak’s Quick Do It Yourself Face Mask

You will need:

One of the following:

  • Beta-glucan Powder from Oat - Choose this beta-glucan if you are struggling with redness, irritation or itchy skin.
  • Beta-glucan Yeast Powder - Choose this beta-glucan if you are experiencing blemishes and uneven skin texture. 
  • Glycan 7 booster - Choose this medley of beta-glucans if you want to reverse or prevent signs of aging overall.

Mixing Your Homemade Beta Glucan Mask

  1. Empty your 4 oz. Sea Kelp Coral into a clean mixing bowl.
  2. Add in the beta-glucan of your choice slowly, we recommend about ¼ of the container at a time.
  3. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Repeat this process until all the beta-glucan has been mixed in.
  5. Store in a cool place, out of direct sunlight.


Apply a thick coat of your DIY mask to your face and recline, allowing it to soak in. Let the facemask sit for 10-15 minutes. You may feel a soft tingling sensation. When time has elapsed, rinse the mask from your skin and pat dry with a soft cloth.

Thanks for joining us for another Skin Actives blog everyone! Check back with us Friday when we’re tackling one of skincare’s most important subjects: antioxidants. That’s right, we talk about them a lot, because they are so important! Have a great week and we’ll see you back here then!