N-Acetyl Glucosamine: A new ingredient to improve skin health

N-Acetyl Glucosamine: A new ingredient to improve skin health

A relatively new entrant to the cosmetic industry, N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) is a skin lightening agent. It is naturally produced in the body by adding an amino group to a glucose molecule. So, you needn’t worry about using it. It is a safe ingredient, that can help you look younger and fresher. Read on to see why you should try it!

How does it work?

N-acetyl glucosamine, commonly known as N-acetyl glucosamine is a monosaccharide derivative of glucose. It has several functions in the body, but the most important one is its combination with glucuronic acid. With glucuronic acid, it forms a compound called hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid is a key component of body tissues and is most abundant in the skin. Nearly 50% of the body’s hyaluronic acid is found in the skin. Hyaluronic acid, therefore, is a very important compound in the skincare industry. However, it does not penetrate skin easily, and its deficiency cannot be fixed easily. Since N-acetyl glucosamine can be metabolized into hyaluronic acid, it can increase the skin’s water content. Additionally, N-acetyl glucosamine can reduce the production of melanin through tyrosinase inhibition. Through this mechanism, it can help solve cases of hyperpigmentation due to UV skin damage.

N-acetyl glucosamine also promotes the synthesis of collagen, which is responsible for the strength, elasticity, smoothness, and plumpness of skin. Reduced levels of collagen are also linked to aging. Using products with N-acetyl glucosamine can help fight and reverse signs of aging.

Skin exfoliation is also one of the many benefits of using products with N-acetyl glucosamine. Especially for people with sensitive skin, N-acetyl glucosamine is safe to use, having no side effects such as redness, irritation and photosensitivity.

What do studies say?

There is plenty of research that backs the use of N-acetyl glucosamine in skincare products. There are studies that report the importance of the ingredient in the production of hyaluronic acid, heparan sulfate, and proteoglycans. These compounds help maintain the water content of the skin by acting as water-retainers. A laboratory study on Franz cells found that N-acetyl glucosamine was a good penetrant of skin, making it an effective moisturizing agent.

Another study tested the effect of 2% N-acetyl glucosamine on hyperpigmentation. The researchers found that after eight weeks of use, N-acetyl glucosamine significantly reduced dark skin patches and tans. Yet another study showed that combining N-acetyl glucosamine with vitamin B3 (niacinamide) was more effective in reducing dark spots on the skin.

A study from 2009 showed that topical treatments with N-acetyl glucosamine improved skin hydration, reduced flakiness and smoothening of stratum corneum. The same study reported that using N-acetyl glucosamine modulate the adhesion of keratinocytes, thereby smoothening skin efficiently.

N-acetyl glucosamine, if used early in acne breakouts, can provide relief from lesions. A 2006 study compared the effectiveness and tolerance of topical creams with N-acetyl glucosamine with those with benzoyl peroxide. It found that N-acetyl glucosamine is a more effective agent in the early phase of the treatment in comparison to benzoyl peroxide. The plus point of N-acetyl glucosamine is that it is tolerated well by different types of skin. Especially for people with skin dryness, peeling, burning and stinging, N-acetyl glucosamine was well tolerated and treated acne.


N-acetyl glucosamine is a safe skin care ingredient that makes skin look lighter, more hydrated and smoother. Studies suggest that it has the potential to aid in anti-aging treatments and to be used to treat acne breakouts. N-acetyl glucosamine together with niacinamide is an effective method for fading skin hyperpigmentation such as dark marks and sunspots. It’s easy to add N-acetyl glucosamine to your skincare routine. Just look for products that contain at least 2% N-acetyl glucosamine such as LeCerre Skincare's Rapid Brightening Serum.  It features a  proprietary blend of good for you ingredients including 4% N-acetyl glucosamine and 5% niacinamide to diminish the appearance of acne marks, brown spots, sun spots, and melasma.


  • Zoe Diana Draelos, MD. Dermatologic Therapy. 28 November 2007. Skin lightening preparations and the hydroquinone controversy
  • Donald L Bissett PhD Larry R Robinson PhD Patricia S Raleigh BS Kukizo Miyamoto PhD Tomohiro Hakozaki MS Jim Li MS, MA Gary R Kelm PhD. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 05 March 2007. Reduction in the appearance of facial hyperpigmentation by topical N‐acetyl glucosamine.
  • Mammone T, Gan D, Fthenakis C, Marenus K. Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2009 Jul-Aug;60(4):423-8. The effect of N-acetyl-glucosamine on stratum corneum desquamation and water content in human skin.
  • Barbara Green, Richard Wildnauer, PhD, Brenda Edison. American Academy of Dermatology, February 2007 Volume 56, Issue 2, Supplement 2, Page AB19. Topical n-acetylglucosamine provides fast acne-reducing benefits and mildness demonstrating its potential utility in enhancing conventional Rx or OTC acne treatments.
  • Manning Selvage. March 2006. New studies show topical glucosamine targets pigment overproduction: Data presented at 2006 American Academy of Dermatology Meeting uses first ever non-invasive imaging system to detect pigment changes, test glucosamine efficacy