Nobody ever talks about allantoin.
Which is weird considering it’s an age-old ingredient that’s found in lots of personal care products—everything from skincare to haircare to dental care.
Read on to learn more about this mysterious little ingredient.
What is Allantoin?
Found in both animals and plants, allantoin is a naturally-occurring compound produced from the degradation of uric acid.
As a key extract of the comfrey plant, it’s been used therapeutically for centuries (via poultices and decoctions) to accelerate wound healing and treat inflammation (source).
What is Allantoin Derived From?
Sometimes allantoin is naturally-derived from the leaves and roots of the comfrey plant (or other such plants).
But more often than not, it’s synthetically-derived through the condensation of urea and glyoxylic acid (source).
You might think that just because something is natural, it’s better.
While that might be true in some cases, it’s not true here.
Case in point: Synthetically-derived allantoin is “nature-identical.” Meaning it has the same molecular structure—not to mention, the same benefits—as the real deal.
Side note: Technically, allantoin can also be isolated from animal urine. But don’t worry. This type of allantoin won’t likely end up in your skincare products—it’s just so much easier (and cheaper) to produce it synthetically.
Allantoin Skin Care Benefits
A lot of allantoin’s benefits are anecdotal, but the ones outlined below are backed by scientific research!
1. It Accelerates Wound Healing
Allantoin has a long-standing history for being a master wound healer.
In fact, a study conducted in 2010 found that injured rats treated with a 5% allantoin-based emulsion healed faster than rats not treated with allantoin (source).
First, allantoin reduces the number of inflammatory cells.
Since too much inflammation can slow down the wound healing process, a reduction of inflammatory cells could theoretically speed it up.
Second, it promotes fibroblast proliferation.
Don’t know anything about fibroblasts?
That’s totally normal!
Fibroblasts are cells commonly found in connective tissue. They’re mainly responsible for two things: the extracellular matrix and collagen synthesis. Again, that might not mean anything to you. So let me try to explain it in simpler terms—fibroblasts help fill and cover up wounds.
Long story short—if you want your cut to heal faster, try putting some allantoin on it.
Side note: Allantoin is an ingredient in Mederma (and a bunch of other scar gels and creams). Most of the studies out there show that allantoin combined with other ingredients like onion extract, heparin, etc. can improve and prevent scarring (source 1, source 2, source 3).
2. It Smooths Skin
Much like its wound healing properties, allantoin’s skin smoothing properties are two-fold.
First, it’s mildly exfoliating.
According to an article published in 2012, allantoin exhibits keratolytic activity by way of desmosomy (source). Which is to say it exfoliates skin by breaking up the connections between skin cells.
Next, it’s moisturizing.
Another study recognized that allantoin is used as an emollient in various body creams and lotions (source). In this study, researchers also hypothesized that allantoin is added to hydroquinone creams (aka skin lightening creams) as a way to protect against hydroquinone’s harsh effects via moisturizing and softening skin.
Again, I wish there was more quantifiable data on allantoin. Hopefully, researchers will study its properties and I can update this section with more concrete details.
Side note: Even though it has smoothing properties, allantoin isn’t the ultimate skin smoothing ingredient. Studies have shown that treatments containing allantoin aren’t as good as more modern treatments when considering psoriasis (a condition characterized by scaly skin) (source 1, source 2).
3. It’s Non-toxic, Non-irritating, and Non-allergenic
Arguably, the coolest thing about allantoin is that it’s so well-tolerated.
According to a safety assessment put out by the International Journal of Toxicology, allantoin is “nontoxic, nonirritating, and nonallergenic” when administered to skin (source). Multiple research studies were cited in this assessment. Even among the studies on sensitive-skinned patients, almost no adverse reactions were found.
The good news is that you don’t need to worry about experiencing breakouts when it comes to allantoin.
Here’s a list of allantoin’s aliases:
- Urea (2,5-Dioxo-4-imidazolidinyl)
What’s It Used In?
Well, maybe not everything.
But according to Drugbank, allantoin is commonly found in moisturizing creams & lotions, dental products (i.e. toothpastes and mouthwashes), shaving creams, sun care products, lipsticks, aerosols (i.e. hairsprays), and anti-acne products (source).
Fun fact: According to the FDA, allantoin is used in a whopping 1,376 cosmetic products (source).
Allantoin is an age-old ingredient with skin healing and skin soothing. But because its effects are mild in comparison to other ingredients, it might not be the end-all-be-all of skincare. Nevertheless, it’s extremely well-tolerated (even by sensitive skin types) and easy to add to various skincare formulations.