Maltobionic Acid

Maltobionic acid is formed from the oxidation of the malt sugar maltose. Although not many clinical trials have been performed to ascertain its efficacy, it has shown its promise as a multifunctional cosmeceutical in the studies conducted so far.


Grade Level of Evidence
A Multiple double-blind, controlled clinical trials.
B 1 double-blind, controlled clinical trial.
C At least 1 controlled or comparative clinical trial.
D Uncontrolled, observational, animal or in-vitro studies only.
Grade Effect Size of Effect Comments


Smoother skin


8% maltobionic acid reduced skin roughness by 66% after 12 weeks of twice daily use on the face.


Skin lightening


Improved skin sallowness and mottled pigmentation, possibly by inhibiting UV-induced melanin production.


Wrinkle treatment


8% maltobionic acid improved fine lines by 30% and coarse wrinkles by 22% in one study, perhaps via inhibiting collagen degradation by matrix metalloproteinases.


Increased skin elasticity


8% maltobionic acid improved the firmness / elasticity of the skin by 14% over baseline as measured by pinch recoil after 12 weeks.


Increased skin hydration


Hygroscopic due to its multiple hydroxyl groups, and has been shown to retain more water than lactobionic acid.


Tighter skin


8% maltobionic acid improved skin laxity by 18% over 12 weeks.


Smaller pores


8% maltobionic acid reduced pore size on facial skin by 20% after 12 weeks of use in one study.


Increased skin thickness


8% maltobionic acid led to a 7.5% increase in skin thickness on the forearm, due to a thicker epidermis and a higher density of glycosaminoglycans that plumped the skin.

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Table of contents:

1. Sources

Maltobionic acid is comprised of one molecule of glucose attached via an ether-type linkage to one molecule of gluconic acid. It is a stereoisomer of lactobionic acid,[1] and is obtained from the chemical or enzymatic oxidation of maltose.[2][3] Like lactobionic acid, it is an aldobionic acid but is often called a polyhydroxy bionic acid due to its multiple hydroxyl groups.

2. Bioavailability

Maltobionic acid's molecular weight of 358 daltons has been claimed to be sufficiently low to allow it to penetrate the skin,[4] but we are not aware of any published studies with actual permeation data.

3. Effects on the skin

In a clinical study on 28 Caucasian women aged 35-58 years, 8% maltobionic acid cream was applied twice daily to the face and thrice daily to one forearm, with one forearm remaining untreated. Clinical grading of the face revealed significant improvements in fine lines (30%), wrinkles (22%), elasticity (14%), roughness (66%), dryness (13%), laxity (18%), clarity of facial skin (92%), sallowness (33%), mottled pigmentation (28%) and pore size (20%) after 12 weeks of use. Measurements of skin thickness on the forearms also showed a 7.5% increase of the treated forearms, which was higher than that observed for untreated forearms (0.8% increase). This finding was supported by histological analysis, which found an increased thickness of the viable epidermis, a more compact stratum corneum and greater density of glycosaminoglycans.[5]

Another study had 32 women using an eye cream containing 3% maltobionic acid to the eye area twice daily for 4 weeks, and reported reductions in fine periocular lines, improvements in skin hydration, texture, tone and colour, and a more youthful and radiant appearance based on patient self-evaluations.[1]

The consistent use of a regimen including an eye cream containing 3% gluconolactone + 3% maltobionic acid for 16 weeks has been found to improve crow's feet, but these effects may not be attributable to maltobionic acid as other beneficial ingredients such as peptides, hyaluronic acid and antioxidant vitamins were also included in the formulations.[4]

The results of in vitro experiments support the notion that maltobionic acid exerts antiaging effects on the skin. Maltobionic acid shows strong dose-dependent inhibition of the activity of matrix metalloproteinases, indicating that it may prevent collagen degradation in the skin. In an assay of UV-induced lipid peroxidation, maltobionic acid reduced the production of malondialdehyde, an oxidative degradation product. In addition, it was a moderate inhibitor of melanogenesis stimulated by an analog of a melanocyte stimulating hormone, suggesting that it may help prevent hyperpigmentation following sun exposure. It also retained more water than lactobionic acid during free evaporation of their respective aqueous solutions, and may therefore have a stronger skin hydration effect.[1] Finally, maltobionic acid has been shown to increase exfoliation or cell turnover, though the effect is waeker than that observed for glycolic acid.[4]

3.2 Psoriasis treatment

Neostrata's Problem Dry Skin cream, which contains 15% alpha hydroxy acids (lactic acid + mandelic acid + glycolic acid) plus 5% polyhydroxy acids (gluconolactone + maltobionic acid) outperformed a prescription cream containing 6% salicylic acid in improving psoriasis symptoms in a randomized, double-blind comparison study.[6]

4. Side Effects

The Ames II assay showed that 10% maltobionic acid in an aqueous solution is not mutagenic. An 8% maltobionic acid cream was innocuous and not irritating to a living skin equivalent; it did not lead to the release of inflammatory prostaglandins, cytokines or an increase in cellular lysis.[5] Similarly, a repeated insult patch test on 100 men and women found that 20% maltobionic acid cream did not lead to skin irritation or allergic contact sensitization. Finally, a 3% maltobionic acid eye cream did not cause irritation to the eyes in a test on 32 women, half of which were contact lens wearers.[1]

Scientific References