Best ectoin skincare: Meet the moisturisers boosted by the mega-multitasker

Protective, hydrating and calming, ectoin is the latest buzzy skincare ingredient to have on your radar

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Caroline Brien31 January 2024
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There’s nothing the beauty world loves more than a hot new ingredient to get excited about.

Yet some of the most recent to get our attention are anything but fresh discoveries. Glycerine, niacinamide, and even retinol have been in the spotlight recently despite being more the grande dames rather than the new gen of skincare. Now joining this illustrious line-up of ingredients - tried and trusted for a long time because of their reliable effectiveness - is ectoin, an amino acid derived from bacteria that has the ability to protect from extreme environmental conditions and can work wonders for complexions too. 

These amino acids, naturally present in skin, are essentially building blocks important for wound healing and repairing the day-to-day damage that makes it age faster. Infused into skincare, ectoin taken from external amino acids, such as those found in plants grown in harsh desert terrain, helps shield our faces from similarly aggressive factors including water loss, pollution and potentially even UVA rays and blue light. This makes it an excellent addition to anti-ageing formulas aimed at fighting that damage.     

“Ectoin has gained attention due to its multi-functional properties and benefits for the skin, as this is what consumers are looking for now,” notes Cigdem Kemal Yilmaz, skincare formulator, chemical engineer and founder of online education tool, SkinMasterclass. “Scientific studies and clinical trials have provided a more in-depth understanding of its mechanisms and efficacy, leading to increased recognition, while ectoin’s ability to protect skin from environmental stressors and promote skin hydration has contributed to its popularity. Ectoin has been proven to enhance skin's natural moisture retention, leading to improved hydration levels. It possesses anti-inflammatory properties, making it beneficial for soothing irritated or sensitised skin states and also great for skin that’s dry or prone to acne, rosacea and eczema. Ectoin also acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect from oxidative stress caused by UV radiation and other environmental factors, so is ideal to use alongside vitamin C and other antioxidant serums.” 

By working as an environmental shield and supporting the skin’s natural barrier function, ectoin can help ward off ageing indicators such as dark spots and the breakdown of firming collagen fibres. Its ability to boost moisture, maintain a healthy water balance in the skin and reduce inflammation gives the complexion a smoother, softer surface and plumps up lines and wrinkles too.

Suited to all skin types, from sensitive to oily, this multitasker is now being added to a raft of new creams and serums and is hot on the heels of another oldie-but-goodie wonder ingredient. “Ectoin shares some similarities with other skincare ingredients known for their moisturising and protective properties,” adds Cigdem. “For example, it can be compared to niacinamide which also has humectant, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. But ectoin is unique in its composition and functionality.” As a great team player alongside other favourites including niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, choosing skincare with ectoin looks set to be an ‘as well as’ rather than an ‘either/or’ option that all complexions can benefit from. 

Try out the impressive multitasker ingredient in our pick of these top ectoin-rich creams and serums…

Evolve Pro+ Ectoin Soothing Cream


Dermatologically tested on a panel of users with sensitive skin, this lightest of creams feels like it melts into a fluid on application, yet it delivers hydration and anti-irritation by the bucketload. Ectoin from the Wadi desert in Egypt, combined with another adaptogenic ingredient in the form of Chaga mushroom extract, help to reinforce the skin’s natural protective barrier and reduce the stress on it from outside aggressors such as pollution and temperature.

In turn, redness and discomfort are gently toned down, while hydrating hyaluronic acid and essential fatty acid-rich camellia oil lock in nourishment. This blend of beautiful ingredients tackles inflammation and cell damage too, meaning the cream is a fantastic anti-ager. Formulated to be used both morning and evening, it leaves skin with a silky, soft finish. Plus, it’s certified organic, fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.

Buy now£32, Evolve

Sekkeizu AM Serum


Borne out of founder and make-up artist Andjelka Maravillas’ desire to create a one-stop, suits-all serum to rebuild a healthy skin barrier damaged by overzealous routines and harsh products, two pumps of the gel-serum every morning make an impressive multi-tasker. Ectoin forms a protective layer around the face to ward off cell damage caused by UV and the environment, as it soothes and works anti-inflammatory magic.

Meanwhile, hibiscus flower extract helps prevent water loss from the skin, keeping it plump and hydrated, as ferulic acid and vitamin E bolster the protection from ageing free radicals. For an extra hit of collagen-boosting and brightening, a derivative of vitamin C has been added too, equalling a more even, fresher and luminous complexion. As you would expect, given Andjelka’s profession, the cooling serum sinks in fast and is also a brilliant make-up base.

Buy now£99, Sekkeizu

Shiseido Vital Perfection LiftDefine Radiance Night Concentrate


Formulated to fight the effects of time and gravity on the skin (read: sagging and lack of definition), use one pump of rich serum as your last step every night. It comprises two unique ingredient complexes. The first is made up of ectoin, yarrow extract and burnet root extract to help skin recover from environmental cellular damage done during the day and strengthen its internal structure.

The other uses a liquorice root extract shown to stimulate cells responsible for keeping the complexion lifted and firm, encouraging facial contours to snap back into shape. To turbo-charge the results, there’s a special “Night Sculpt Massage” technique you can find on the website that only takes a minute or two, helps with redefining the face, and will quickly become the perfect calming addition to your bedtime routine.

Buy now£145, Shiseido

Biossance Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum


Plumping by name and plumping by nature. This serum is a lightweight, transparent blue serum that glides on and once absorbed, gives the kind of bouncy, dewy effect you would usually expect from layering several formulas. It’s aimed at achieving super-hydration no matter your skin type and harnesses the powers of a trio of well-loved skin plumpers – hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid and squalene – which attract moisture to the skin and keep it there.

A blue copper peptide (hence the serum’s tint) encourages collagen production to smooth out lines and firm up the complexion. Where ecotin comes in is to help with environmental protection during the day, plus repairing skin barrier function overnight to complete the 360-approach to a fresher-looking finish.   

Buy now£54, Space NK

Hourglass Equilibrium Restoring Essence


Don’t mistake this for a watery toner. The AM and PM essence is designed to be pressed into the skin as an active treatment before using your serum or moisturiser. Instantly, you’ll get a shot of hydration to make your face feel juicy and look plumper without any residue or heaviness.

As it gets to work over hours, the essence creates a daily defence against collagen-damaging environmental elements and blue light exposure thanks to protective ingredients including ectoin. A blend of potent lipids that mimic an essential nutrient found in amniotic fluid speeds up skin cell turnover to help smooth, balance and boost its natural, healthy function for a more glowing finish.   

Buy now£64, Space NK

Dermalogica PowerBright Dark Spot Serum


Hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, rate as one of the things that most give skin an aged appearance, but are notoriously difficult to completely treat outside a clinic. But new, sophisticated topical formulas from professional ranges including Dermalogica are fast catching up when it comes to helping significantly fade them.

This milky fluid is packed with potent actives including pigmentation-busting niacinamide and hexylresorcinol, brightening shiitake mushroom and blackcurrant oil, plus ectoin to protect against further age spots appearing while the existing ones are tackled. Win-win. It uses light-diffusing technology to give skin a brighter appearance quickly and has a slightly matte dry down so the texture is particularly perfect for complexions on the combination or oiler side.

Buy now£99, John Lewis

E45 Dermatitis Cream


Scan the ingredient list of this cream from E45’s capsule range of reparative treatments for skin conditions and you’ll note ectoin comes first. Aimed at skin that’s red, angry and itchy, the star ingredient works to quickly soothe and calm irritation while boosting essential hydration and locking in moisture. Leave to absorb for a minute and it makes the complexion feel soft, nourished and without any greasiness.

It can be used AM and PM daily, or just if you have an acute dermatitis flare-up from time to time. But turning to it regularly means this handy tube will deliver protection from environmental aggressors too, meaning you’re still getting the anti-ageing benefits of a regular moisturiser while you keep the irritation of the condition in check.

Buy now£19.99, Boots

croma farewell irritated skin


Farewell is a capsule range of five serums, each based around hyaluronic acid and then customised with specifically-selected, potent ingredients to tackle popular complexion niggles, from oiliness to puffy eyes. The ‘irritated’ variant, aimed at redness and sensitivity, treats exactly that in three drops of unctuous serum applied twice a day under moisturiser.

Ingredients are kept to a minimum but the percentages of each active are high, with ectoin nearing the top and coming just after its calming and soothing counterpart, niacinamide. It feels cool and fresh on the skin and will reduce redness and irritation quickly while it helps to rebuild a fragile skin barrier. The crucial hyaluronic acid at its core ensures this serum will infuse your complexion with the nourishment it needs too.

Buy now£109, croma

Dr Jart+ Cermadin Ecotoin-Infused Cream

Dr Jart+

This deliciously rich whipped cream melts in like a balm; simply warm a pea-sized amount between your palms and smooth it over the face.

Aimed at very dry, flaky and easily irritated skin that needs the comfort of a rich formula without the heavy feeling or residue, the blend of ectoin plus five ceramides will restore balance and calmness. As ectoin works to create and repair the skin’s protective shield that also locks in moisture, it’s reinforced by the ceramides that fill in gaps between skin cells to strengthen the outer layers, plus smoothing and softening argan oil and shea butter.

Expect skin to regain its velvety splendour in days and the pot to be a bathroom staple long after.

Buy now£50, John Lewis

Dr Brandt Liquid Sun Shield Daily Sunscreen SPF50

Dr Brandt

With its multifaceted protective qualities, it makes sense that ectoin is the ideal addition to sunscreen too, now that daily formulas have been refined and packed with skincare benefits to encourage us to use them every day (yes, even in winter).

This uses zinc oxide, a mineral filter, meaning it reflects UV rays rather than absorbing and diffusing them - which is how chemical filters work - while ectoin reinforces that defence against the sun’s rays as well as pollution and potentially blue light, making them a perfect protective duo. The light fluid won’t leave a white or ashy finish so suits all skin tones and doesn’t feel oily or make the complexion look shiny as the day goes on either.

Buy now£55, Amazon


It may be created for delicate skin types, but Evolve Pro+ Ectoin Soothing Cream manages the feat of being featherlight enough to not make oilier complexions feel coated in cream, yet ensuring dry skins are cocooned and softened. Underlying the beautiful satin finish it creates is the star of the show, ectoin, which combats aggressive irritation and redness while fending off ageing aggressors from pollution to UV light. Plus camellia oil and hyaluronic acid are there for crucial, plumping hydration. My complexion isn’t particularly sensitive but I’ll be reaching for this pot of soothing goodness any time I feel like it might be getting angry – and even when it doesn’t.