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Phytic Acid in Skincare: Overview, Benefits, Mechanism, Safety, Application, Clinical Evidence, Limitations, and Future Research

Last updated: Aug 2023
In this article:

Overview of Phytic Acid

Phytic acid, also known as inositol hexaphosphate or IP6, is a compound found in many plant-based foods. It is most abundant in grains, legumes, and oilseeds. Although it has been widely studied for its potential health benefits, it is also known for its anti-nutrient properties.

Main Functions of Phytic Acid

One of the main functions of phytic acid is to store phosphorus in plants. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants, and phytic acid serves as a phosphorus reservoir. However, when consumed by humans or animals, phytic acid can bind to minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc, making them less bioavailable for absorption. This can potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies, especially in populations relying heavily on plant-based diets.

Health Benefits and Anti-Nutrient Properties

Despite its anti-nutrient properties, phytic acid has been linked to various health benefits. It possesses antioxidant properties, which can help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Studies have also shown that phytic acid has the ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent the formation of kidney stones.

Reducing Anti-Nutrient Effects

To reduce the anti-nutrient effects of phytic acid, traditional food preparation methods such as soaking, fermenting, and cooking can be employed. Soaking grains and legumes overnight in water with added acidic mediums like lemon juice or vinegar helps break down phytic acid, making the minerals more readily available for absorption. Fermenting foods such as sourdough bread and tempeh can also help reduce phytic acid levels. Cooking methods such as boiling or steaming can further decrease the anti-nutrient effects of phytic acid.


It is important to note that phytic acid, despite its drawbacks, also has some beneficial properties. It acts as an antioxidant, has potential anticancer properties, and can aid in intestinal health by serving as a prebiotic. Therefore, complete elimination of phytic acid from the diet may not be advisable.

Benefits of Phytic Acid in Skincare

Phytic acid, a natural compound found in various plant-based foods, has shown great potential in skincare due to its numerous benefits. In this guide, we will explore the benefits of phytic acid in skincare, including its antioxidant properties, exfoliation and anti-aging effects, skin moisturization, skin brightening and hyperpigmentation reduction, and acne treatment.

1. Antioxidant Properties

  • Phytic acid acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the skin from harmful free radicals.
  • It helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, which are major contributors to premature aging and skin damage.
  • By incorporating phytic acid into your skincare routine, you can combat the signs of aging and promote a youthful complexion.

2. Exfoliation and Anti-Aging Effects

  • Phytic acid has exfoliating properties, helping to remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover.
  • This gentle exfoliation can improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven texture, resulting in a smoother and more radiant complexion.
  • Additionally, phytic acid helps stimulate collagen production, enhancing skin elasticity and firmness.

3. Skin Moisturization

  • Phytic acid acts as a humectant, attracting and retaining moisture in the skin.
  • It helps improve the moisture barrier function, preventing water loss and keeping the skin hydrated.
  • Incorporating phytic acid into your skincare routine can help alleviate dryness and restore moisture balance, promoting plump and supple skin.

4. Skin Brightening and Hyperpigmentation Reduction

  • Phytic acid inhibits the activity of melanin-producing enzymes, making it effective in reducing hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and uneven skin tone.
  • Regular use of phytic acid can help lighten and brighten the skin, giving it a more even and radiant appearance.

5. Acne Treatment

  • Phytic acid possesses antibacterial properties, making it effective in fighting acne-causing bacteria.
  • It helps control excess sebum production, unclogs pores, and reduces inflammation, helping to prevent and treat acne breakouts.
  • Incorporating phytic acid into your skincare routine can lead to clearer and smoother skin.

Incorporating Phytic Acid into Your Skincare Routine

To incorporate phytic acid into your skincare routine, look for products that contain this ingredient, such as serums, moisturizers, or spot treatments.

Start by patch testing the product on a small area of your skin to ensure there are no adverse reactions.

Gradually introduce phytic acid into your routine, using it a few times a week initially and increasing frequency as tolerated.

Mechanism of Action

Chelation of Metal Ions:

Chelation is a process by which a molecule forms a complex with a metal ion, thereby rendering it inactive. In the context of pharmacology, chelation of metal ions is an important mechanism of action for certain drugs.

The chelating agents used in medicine, such as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), have a high affinity for metal ions. These agents form stable complexes with metal ions, preventing their interaction with biological molecules. This is particularly relevant in the treatment of heavy metal poisoning, where chelation therapy is employed to remove toxic metal ions from the body.

Inhibition of Tyrosinase Activity:

Tyrosinase is an enzyme involved in the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the color of our hair, skin, and eyes. Inhibiting tyrosinase activity is crucial in various dermatological applications, such as the treatment of hyperpigmentation disorders and the development of skin-lightening agents.

Certain compounds, like hydroquinone and kojic acid, have been identified as potent inhibitors of tyrosinase activity. These substances act by binding to the active site of the tyrosinase enzyme, preventing it from performing its catalytic function. As a result, the production of melanin is reduced, leading to a lighter complexion or the fading of hyperpigmentation.

Inhibition of Matrix Metalloproteinases:

Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of enzymes involved in the breakdown of extracellular matrix components. Uncontrolled activity of MMPs is associated with various pathological conditions, such as cancer invasion and metastasis, arthritis, and tissue remodeling after injury. Therefore, the inhibition of MMP activity is an important therapeutic strategy.

Several natural and synthetic inhibitors of MMPs have been identified. These inhibitors bind to the active site of the enzyme, preventing the breakdown of extracellular matrix components. Substances like doxycycline and tetracycline derivatives have demonstrated inhibitory effects on MMPs, providing potential treatment options for conditions associated with excessive MMP activity.

Safety and Side Effects

When it comes to skincare products, it is essential to be aware of potential safety concerns and side effects. Here, we will discuss three common areas of concern: skin sensitivity and irritation, potential for allergic reactions, and interactions with other skincare ingredients.

Skin Sensitivity and Irritation

  • Before incorporating a new skincare product into your routine, it is crucial to conduct a patch test. Apply a small amount of the product on a discreet area, such as the inner forearm or behind the ear, and leave it for 24 hours. If you experience redness, itching, or irritation, it indicates that your skin is sensitive to the product. In such cases, cease use immediately and consult a dermatologist for further guidance.
  • Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Some products may need to be used in moderation or gradually introduced to the skin to minimize the risk of sensitivity or irritation.

Potential for Allergic Reactions

  • Skincare products, particularly those containing active ingredients, may pose a risk of allergic reactions in some individuals. To reduce the likelihood of allergies, carefully check the ingredient list for substances known to cause allergies, such as fragrances, preservatives, or certain plant extracts. If you have known allergies, consult a dermatologist or allergist to help determine safe product options.

Interaction with Other Skincare Ingredients

  • Certain skincare ingredients, when combined, may interact and produce adverse effects. For example, using products containing both retinol and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) may increase skin sensitivity and lead to irritation. To prevent potential issues, it is essential to understand how different ingredients interact. Consider consulting a dermatologist or a reliable source to ensure compatibility when combining products.
  • Be cautious when using skincare products along with medications or other topical treatments. Some ingredients may interfere with the efficacy of medications or react negatively when used together. If you are uncertain about potential interactions, consult with a healthcare professional to receive personalized advice.

Prioritizing Safety

Ultimately, prioritizing safety and understanding potential side effects is crucial for maintaining healthy skin. By performing a patch test, checking for potential allergens, and being aware of ingredient interactions, you can make informed decisions about the products you incorporate into your skincare routine. Remember, when in doubt, consult with a dermatologist for professional guidance.

Application of Phytic Acid in Skincare Products

Phytic acid, derived from plant sources such as rice bran and oats, has gained popularity in skincare products for its various beneficial properties. This guide will provide insights into the use of phytic acid in skincare, including topical formulations, recommended concentrations, complementary ingredients, and product types.

Topical Formulations

Phytic acid can be used in various topical formulations, such as:

  • Serums: commonly used for targeted treatment of specific skin concerns
  • Creams: provide hydration and nourishment to the skin
  • Cleansers: help to gently exfoliate and remove impurities from the skin
  • Masks: offer a more intensive treatment, delivering a concentrated dose of phytic acid to promote overall skin brightness and clarity

Recommended Concentrations

The concentration of phytic acid in skincare products typically ranges from 0.5% to 2%. For beginners or those with sensitive skin, it is recommended to start with lower concentrations and gradually increase over time as the skin becomes accustomed to the ingredient. Higher concentrations may be used for more advanced skincare routines or specific skin concerns. It is advisable to consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional for personalized recommendations.

Complementary Ingredients

Phytic acid works synergistically with other ingredients in skincare products to enhance its effectiveness. Some complementary ingredients include:

  • Vitamin C: aids in brightening and evening out the skin tone
  • Hyaluronic acid: provides hydration and plumpness to the skin
  • Niacinamide: helps in reducing the appearance of blemishes and improving skin texture
  • Antioxidants like green tea extract or vitamin E: enhance the protective properties of phytic acid

Product Types

Different product types can accommodate the various preferences and needs of individuals. Consider the following options:

  • Serums: ideal for targeted treatment or quick absorption
  • Creams: suitable for regular moisturization and protection throughout the day
  • Cleansers: beneficial for daily cleansing and exfoliation
  • Masks: offer a luxurious and intensive treatment for occasional pampering and revitalization

In conclusion, phytic acid in skincare products offers multiple benefits. With a range of topical formulations available, one can incorporate phytic acid into their skincare routine based on personal preferences and individual skin concerns. It is essential to follow recommended concentrations and consider complementary ingredients for optimal results.

Clinical Evidence and Studies

In Vitro Studies

Clinical evidence and studies play a crucial role in the field of medicine and healthcare as they provide scientific evidence to support the safety and efficacy of various treatments and interventions. These studies can be divided into three main categories: in vitro studies, animal studies, and human studies and clinical trials.

  • In vitro studies are experiments conducted in a controlled laboratory setting using isolated cells or tissues.
  • These studies examine the effects of a particular treatment on cellular or molecular processes.
  • In vitro studies allow researchers to evaluate the mechanism of action and potential side effects before proceeding to more complex studies.
  • While valuable, in vitro studies do not accurately represent the complexity of the human body and its response to interventions.

Animal Studies

  • Animal studies involve the use of animals to investigate the safety and efficacy of potential treatments.
  • These studies provide insights into how a treatment may behave in a living organism and help identify any potential adverse effects.
  • Animal studies often precede human trials and provide valuable preclinical data.
  • They help researchers understand the dosage, safety, and potential effectiveness of a treatment.
  • Ethical considerations are important, and animal studies are heavily regulated to minimize harm and ensure their validity.

Human Studies and Clinical Trials

  • Human studies and clinical trials are the gold standard for evaluating the safety and efficacy of medical interventions.
  • These studies involve human participants and provide the most relevant and applicable evidence.
  • Human studies can be observational, where researchers collect data on individuals without manipulating variables, or interventional, where specific treatments are administered and their effects are monitored.
  • Clinical trials, in particular, follow strict protocols and phases to determine the safety, dosage, and effectiveness of new treatments.
  • They provide essential data for regulatory approval and are critical in advancing medical knowledge.

It is important to note that while clinical evidence is crucial, it is only one piece of the puzzle in making healthcare decisions. Expert judgement, patient preferences, and clinical experience are also valuable factors. It is also essential to critically evaluate the quality and validity of studies before drawing conclusions.

In conclusion, clinical evidence and studies, including in vitro studies, animal studies, and human studies and clinical trials, provide vital information on the safety and effectiveness of medical interventions. These studies contribute to the advancement of healthcare by providing scientific evidence that guides medical decision-making and improves patient outcomes.

Potential Limitations and Future Research

  • Stability and Formulation Challenges:

    One potential limitation in the field of skincare is the stability and formulation challenges faced by scientists and researchers. Developing a stable and effective skincare product that can withstand various environmental factors and retain its efficacy over time is a crucial aspect of the skincare industry. Future research should focus on overcoming these challenges through the development of new formulation techniques and ingredients.

    Researchers can explore the incorporation of encapsulation technologies to enhance the stability of active ingredients in skincare products. Encapsulation helps protect the ingredients from degradation and increases their shelf life. Additionally, exploring novel delivery systems such as nanoemulsions or liposomes could potentially improve stability by enhancing ingredient penetration into the skin.

  • Exploration of Combination Therapy:

    While significant progress has been made in the development of individual skincare ingredients, exploring combination therapy could be the way forward for achieving enhanced skincare benefits. Combining different active ingredients with complementary mechanisms of action has the potential to create synergistic effects and maximize the overall efficacy of skincare products.

    Future research should focus on discovering optimal combinations of ingredients and studying their interactions. By investigating the compatibility and stability of these combinations, scientists can develop skincare formulations that offer superior results compared to individual ingredients. Additionally, studying the potential interactions between different active ingredients can help identify any adverse effects that may arise, ensuring the safety of these combination therapies.

  • Additional Skin Benefits:

    Although skincare products primarily focus on promoting healthy skin, there is potential for exploring additional benefits beyond traditional skincare. Future research should delve into new avenues for skincare products to offer additional functionalities, such as photoprotection, pollution protection, or wound healing properties.

    Scientists can investigate the incorporation of natural or synthetic compounds with photoprotective properties into skincare formulations. By creating products that provide protection against UV radiation, researchers can contribute to preventing photoaging and reducing the risk of skin cancer. Similarly, exploring ingredients with antioxidant properties can protect the skin against damage caused by environmental pollutants.

    Furthermore, research into wound healing properties can lead to the development of skincare products that promote faster healing and scar reduction. By understanding the biological mechanisms involved in skin repair, scientists can identify ingredients that enhance wound healing and incorporate them into skincare formulations.

In conclusion, future research in skincare should address the limitations associated with stability and formulation challenges. Exploring combination therapy can unlock synergistic effects, while investigating additional skin benefits can extend the functionalities of skincare products. Continued research in these areas will contribute to advancing the field of skincare and ultimately benefit consumers seeking effective and multifunctional skincare solutions.


1. Exfoliation and Smoothing:

Benefits of Phytic Acid in Skincare

Phytic acid helps in removing dead skin cells and promotes a smoother texture for the skin. It is often used as an exfoliating agent in skincare.

2. Antioxidant Properties:

Phytic acid has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radicals and environmental damage.

3. Dark Spots and Hyperpigmentation:

Phytic acid inhibits the production of melanin, making it useful in reducing the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation on the skin.

4. Moisturizing Effects:

Phytic acid has moisturizing properties that improve the hydration levels of the skin, preventing dryness.

5. Skin Sensitivity:

However, phytic acid can cause irritation in some individuals, especially those with sensitive or reactive skin. Patch testing and gradual incorporation into a skincare routine are recommended to assess individual tolerance.