Phytosphingosine For Persistent Acne

What Is Phytosphingosine?

Phytosphingosine is a type of sphingosine that is composed of carbon atoms. Sphingosine makes up sphingolipids, which are a type of fatty layer located in the membrane of cells.

Phytosphingosine plays a role in epidermal differentiation (1).

Epidermal differentiation is the process by which skin cells become ‘specialized’ to have specific features of an epidermal cell.

These features include providing structural integrity to the skin, keeping the skin hydrated by reducing transepidermal water loss, and preventing microbes from entering the skin that could cause infections. 

Therefore, phytosphingosine plays a vital role in the function of the skin barrier, as it helps to direct cells to function properly.

What Is Persistent Acne?

Acne is characterized by red bumps that may have a whitehead. 

They may be clustered into a few areas of the face, or spread along certain areas of the face and/or body.

Those suffering from persistent acne have consistent breakouts despite using acne treatments.

The most common reason for experiencing persistent acne is that the skin barrier itself is damaged and needs to be repaired.

No matter how many different kinds of acne treatments you try, you will not be able to clear your acne until you repair your skin barrier completely.

Is Phytosphingosine Good For Skin?

Phytosphingosine is a fat that occurs normally in skin cells.

It has a fatty acid component that is beneficial for skin.

Fatty acids are an essential component of the skin barrier. 

It makes up part of the golden ratio of substances of the skin barrier.


Phytosphingosine has anti-inflammatory properties (1).

This is particularly important for those suffering from acne, post-inflammatory erythema (PIE), eczema, and other forms of redness. 

Topical use of phytosphingosine can calm redness and create a more even skin tone.


Phytosphingosine is antimicrobial (1). This means that it protects the skin against microbes that could potentially harm the skin by weakening the skin barrier or causing infections.

Topical application of phytosphingosine may protect against Propionibacterium acnes, which is the bacteria that contributes to acne formation.

Phytosphingosine may be an effective complementary treatment to other conventional acne treatments.

Phytosphingosine To Repair The Skin Barrier

As mentioned above, persistent acne is often exacerbated by a damaged skin barrier.

You must use gentle ingredients that nourish the skin in order to create a healthy skin foundation for acne treatments to work effectively.

Phytosphingosine is a pre-cursor for ceramides in the skin (2).

Ceramides are another component of the golden ratio that makes up the stratum corneum.

The use of phytosphingosine implements essential fatty acids into the skin, promotes the formation of ceramides, directs the function of epidermal cells to support the skin barrier, and has calming properties that treat inflamed skin.

All of this leads to a strengthened skin barrier and a better chance of breaking the cycle of persistent acne. 

How To Use Phytosphingosine

Phytosphingosine is found in a variety of skincare products such as serums, lotions, creams, and ointments.

It is not an ingredient you will see on its own, rather an ingredient that is combined with other hydrating ingredients to support the skin barrier.

It can be found in CeraVe’s Baby Healing Ointment. 

Those of all ages can use this product.

Since this product is in the form of an ointment, it is best to use it as the last step in your skincare routine at night

Since it contains petrolatum as well, it has occlusive properties, which means that it has the ability to retain moisture in the skin.

Along with the phytosphingosine, occlusives can maintain hydration levels, reduce inflammation, lessen PIE, and soothe irritation.

Phytosphingosine is also available in anti-redness creams and makeup primers.

Choose a skincare product that will fit into your routine.

If you have a minimal skincare routine, incorporate a sunscreen with phytosphingosine, as you will get adequate sun protection and benefits from the phytosphingosine. 

Overall, phytosphingosine helps to repair your moisture barrier in order to create a healthy base for acne treatments to work better, rather than wreaking havoc on your skin.


  1. Choi HK, Cho YH, Lee EO, Kim JW, Park CS. Phytosphingosine enhances moisture level in human skin barrier through stimulation of the filaggrin biosynthesis and degradation leading to NMF formation. Arch Dermatol Res. 2017 Dec;309(10):795-803. doi: 10.1007/s00403-017-1782-8. Epub 2017 Sep 21. PMID: 28936777.
  2. Pavicic T, Wollenweber U, Farwick M, Korting HC. Anti-microbial and -inflammatory activity and efficacy of phytosphingosine: an in vitro and in vivo study addressing acne vulgaris. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2007 Jun;29(3):181-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2494.2007.00378.x. PMID: 18489348.

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