Maltobionic Acid, The Exfoliant Your Skin’s Going to Thank You For

maltobionic acid for skin

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With the discovery and the ever-increasing use of polyhydroxy acids, we’re getting excited with every single buzzy acid hoping that it’s going to be the next big thing. Not because there’s a shortage of skincare products to try. But there is, indeed, a shortage of ingredients for people with reactive skin or skin that’s compromised and less resilient due to age. Enter maltobionic acid!

We love the mainstream fast-acting alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). But those acids overlook a wide variety of skin types, making exfoliation impossible for people with rosacea, eczema, sensitive skin, and aging skin.

Ironically, those are the skin types and conditions that need more and somewhat special care. Read on to learn about maltobionic acid and how it benefits your skin.

What is Maltobionic Acid?

Maltobionic acid (MBA) is in the family of polyhydroxy acids. It belongs to a subgroup called aldobionic acids or bionic acids (1). And its immediate family is lactobionic acid and gluconolactone.

It’s derived from malt sugar. In skincare, maltobionic acid is used as a gentle exfoliant and a safer alternative to AHAs and BHAs.

Maltobionic Acid vs AHAs & BHAs

As a general rule of thumb, if the acid you’re using has a small molecular size, it’s going to be more likely to irritate your skin and cause a burning sensation. Here are some numbers to help you get a better picture.

Glycolic acid is the most commonly used alpha-hydroxy acid. And it has a molecular weight of 76.05 g/mol. On the other hand, maltobionic acid has a molecular weight of 358.3 g/mol. It’s big.

Contrary to other hydroxy acids, MBA gives you an irritation-free exfoliation all thanks to its structure.

What Are Some Benefits of Using Maltobionic Acid in Skincare?

  • Maltobionic acid is one of the gentlest chemical exfoliants out there. You can use it as part of a light peel to get rid of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin.
  • The most important advantage of using maltobionic acid as your chemical exfoliant is that it doesn’t sting, burn, irritate, or cause sensitivity.
  • Just like any other hydroxy acid, MBA increases skin turnover and regulates cell renewal. As a result, it reduces hyperpigmentation and the look of aging skin.
  • It’s also hydrating for the skin. Because it attracts and binds water just like a humectant.
  • It forms a thin layer on the skin. This helps with water retention, but may also help with soothing irritated skin.
  • It works as an antioxidant and provides protection against free radicals.
  • Unlike AHAs and BHAs, maltobionic acid can be safely used with other actives including retinol.
  • MBA does not cause photosensitivity, meaning that your skin won’t be extra sensitive to sunlight after using it.

Who Should Use Maltobionic Acid?

This is actually what this article is all about. Maltobionic acid is a great addition to any skincare routine. However, the people that will benefit from it the most are the ones who are dealing with aging skin, rosacea, eczema, very dry skin, or all of the above!

When you’re dealing with these, you rule out most of the mainstream anti-aging ingredients or cell regulators like retinoids. Sensitive skin, which can’t tolerate retinoic acid, cannot afford the burning sensation, itchiness, or further photosensitivity either.

Dry skin with a damaged barrier could use the hydrating effects of maltobionic acid while normalizing cell turnover and improving the overall health of the skin. Aging skin, with sun damage and increased sensitivity, can use maltobionic acid as part of an anti-aging skincare routine.

In summary, maltobionic acid is one of the safest skincare actives problem skin can utilize to improve skin texture. Having said that, this is a new addition to the market.

Polyhydroxy acids have been around for a while. And the most commonly used of the bunch is gluconolactone. After that, lactobionic acid came around and started to gain recognition.

Maltobioncic acid is still new. It’s not widely available. Not surprisingly, Neostrata is the pioneering brand to incorporate this hot new gem into its clinical-grade products.

The Best Maltobionic Acid Products

Below are the best maltobionic acid products to get started on the trend. Both brands have other maltobionic products worth checking out too!

Neostrata Dermal Replenishment

Neostrata Dermal Replenishment

This is a maltobionic acid moisturizer that’s enriched with amino acids for barrier repair. It’s great for dry skin with a compromised barrier. It’s like a daily at-home corneotherapy, aka skin barrier treatment.

It can be of great use to help your skin get back on track and maintain a functional protective barrier that’s more resilient and less prone to damage.

Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift

Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift

This is a more focused anti-aging cream that exfoliates with a bunch of acids. It’s formulated with two PHAs; maltobionic acid and gluconolactone. And it contains an AHA; glycolic acid to boost exfoliation. The night cream rids the skin of dead skin cells and smooths out the skin texture.

With the additional benefits of the PHAs, the cream plumps up the skin and gives it an antioxidant boost. Vitamin E, antioxidant-rich botanicals, and a blend of signal peptides stimulate collagen formation and help with wrinkles and fine lines.

So this is how maltobionic works, how it benefits your skin, and the currently available products. Again, this acid is still new. But it looks like we’ll see more of it. And when that happens, more budget-friendly options will come out too.


  1. Draelos, Z. D. (2015). Clinical uses of hydroxy acids [E-book]. In Cosmetic Dermatology: Products and Procedures (2nd ed., p. 327). Wiley-Blackwell.

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