Update 9/2/20. Glucosamine, the ever celebrated arthritis supplement is getting popular in the skincare world. Various studies appear to show glucosamine supplements and topical creams may help improve skin appearance, reduce age spots, and firm-up sagging skin. Cosmetic companies have been pumping money into research too, so is this a scam or the real deal? In this review, I will show you the glucosamine skincare research and help you make sense of it. I will also show you the product with the best evidence so far.
There are three different types used in supplements:
- Glucosamine sulfate
- Glucosamine HCL
- N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG)
This last type – NAG – is the form most studied for improving skin appearance. This is the version found in cosmetics too.
Here is a quick video review I created which summarizes the research with before and after pictures.
Glucosamine Skincare FAQ
1 How much works?
With supplements, studies have used 250 mg of glucosamine sulfate per day. With topical creams, a combination of 2% NAG and 4% niacinamide has been investigated. Look for these percentages in skincare creams.
2 Does chondroitin sulfate work?
Human research on chondroitin sulfate helping wrinkles, sagging skin and overall skin appearance cannot be located. Likewise, the same is true for the combination of glucosamine + chondroitin sulfate.
Chondroitin sulfate is controversial. Some studies link chondroitin sulfate supplements to prostate cancer. Preliminary research also suggests chondroitin sulfate supplements may promote skin cancer (melanoma). While creams probably don't have any effect on cancer, the same can't be said for supplements. Speak to your pharmacist /doctor if considering chondroitin sulfate supplements.
3 What about glucosamine HCL?
All forms of this cartilage building block look basically the same. Studies tend to use the N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) form – especially in creams. Research on the HCL version for skincare improvement cannot be located. In theory, all forms should all work similar but if you are looking for one version to try, go with NAG.
4 Can glucosamine cause a rash?
Some studies have reported rashes, itchy skin, and upset stomaches with supplements. These side effects are rare for most people. To minimize side effects start with less than recommended for the first week. Apply creams to a small patch of skin for the first week to see if you have any side effects.
5 Does MSM have skin health benefits?
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is also popular in the world of arthritis dietary supplements. So, can MSM also help your skincare routine? Some research hints MSM may improve the skin by helping us make a protein called keratin which is very concentrated in the skin.
Most of the evidence, however, comes from lab animals and not humans. As such, it's difficult to know if MSM improves the skincare effects of NAG.
Good natural sources of MSM include fruits and veggies which are good for the health of the skin in many other ways.
6 What is acetyl glucosamine?
It's the same thing as N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG). Sometimes cosmetics may leave out the “N” when they list their skincare product ingredients. If we are talking about dietary supplements, the N is usually in the name.
7 Does it whiten the skin?
This where the idea of NAG helping age spots come in. Age spots (liver spots) are the accumulation of the dark pigment, melanin, in response to overexposure to the sun's UV rays. Some research suggests glucosamine blocks an enzyme involved in melanin production. If this is true, then it may help lighten the skin and revere age spots.
My guess is topical skin creams would be better than supplements because they are more targeted. See the video above for more on the age spot research and decide for yourself.
What NAG Skincare Products Do You Suggest
NeoStrata Neck Cream has at least 1 study with very impressive before and after pictures. Proctor and Gamble, maker of Oil of Olay have conducted many studies on N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) and skin health. Their skincare products which contain NAG are:
Glucosamine Side Effects
Supplements are expected to be safe in healthy people for the most part. Here are a few things to consider when using supplements and creams containing this ingredient. This list is not complete:
- Take less of the supplement for the first week to see how you respond
- Since glucosamine is derived from shellfish, taking supplements may cause allergic reactions in those who are allergic to shellfish. While this is a bit controversial, first speak to your doctor just to be safe. One possible indication of an allergy is having itchy skin.
- Some diabetics have told me glucosamine raised their blood sugar levels. This effect seems to be rare. Most studies do not show any effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. When in doubt, diabetics should monitor blood sugar levels to make sure.
- Stop taking glucosamine supplements at least two weeks before having surgery. Like many supplements, all forms of this compound have blood-thinning properties. They may also interact with blood thinner medications too.
- With creams, apply to a small area first to see if you develop a rash, dry, or any skin irritation.
Does It Work?
The research on using glucosamine (specifically the NAG version) to improve skin appearance is interesting. While results will likely vary, some studies show benefits in skin health and age spots and firming the skin. The before and after pictures for the NeoStrata Neck cream were the most impressive to me.
What Do You Think?
- Glucosamine: an ingredient with skin and other benefits
- Oral N-acetylglucosamine supplementation improves skin conditions of female volunteers: Clinical evaluation by a microscopic three-dimensional skin surface analyzer
- Reduction in the appearance of facial hyperpigmentation after use of moisturizers with a combination of topical niacinamide and N-acetyl glucosamine: results of a randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled trial
- A Firming Neck Cream Containing N-Acetyl Glucosamine Significantly Improves Signs of Aging on the Challenging Neck and Décolletage
Hi again Joe, I’ve been so interested to see that in the week since I read your article and put NeoStrata Neck Cream in my Amazon Wish List, the price of it has increased from $50 to $51.81! Maybe they read your review??!
I also saw that Neutrogena has a product on Amazon called Bright Boost Face Cream, and it has “Neoglucosamine” as an ingredient. It sells for $19.99. Is neoglucosamine similar to NAG?
Joe Cannon says
Rosanne, That’s funny! Maybe they have read it? I looked into the Bright Boost Face cream and Neoglucosamine. From what I can tell Neoglucosamine is another name for N acetyle glucosamine (NAG) – the stuff thats in Neostrata.
As I looked further, I discovered NeoStrata actually owns the trademark on the word Neoglucosamine. Because of that, it sounds like Neutrogenia gets their NAG from Neostrara.
From what I can tell, they both appear to be the same thing, just under different names.
Based on the price, I’d go with the Bright Boost Face Cream. If it has the same ingredients as NeoStrata, it should be a similar product.
Thanks for the heads up on Neoglucoamine. Until today I had not heard of it 🙂
I think I better buy another “Bright Boost Face Cream” before THAT goes on up to $50 or $60!
Interesting what you said about NeoStrata’s trademark on the word “Neoglucosamine”!
I was just so excited to find another product with what I suspected was the same ingredient, and now even more excited that you confirmed it!! See what great results came from my reading SupplementClarity.com!
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, I’m glad you found it too. My guess is Bright Boost will probably stay at the same price point. I hope it works. Those before and after pictures of NeoStrata were interesting. I would like to see a larger study, but at $20 or so its not too much to spend just in case 🙂
I’ve been behind in reading your reviews, Joe, so I started to catch up tonight. I am SO GLAD I read this one!! It’s an incredible review, and I learned so much! First, I want to buy the NeoStrata Neck Cream, but we have property taxes and Christmas expenses due. After that, I’m going to Amazon. I’m also going to buy Glucosamine supplements!!
I was shocked to see that Chondroitin is linked to prostate cancer and melanoma!!
Your videos are very interesting, even if we don’t get to actually SEE YOU! But you make them interesting even with PowerPoint! And I like that you have links to the studies you mentioned in the review.
I better make a habit of staying up to date with you or I might miss out on important, healthful information.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Roseann, Yes the glucosamine and skin wrinkle research is interesting. I was honestly surprised by what I saw. The before and after pictures for NeoStrata neck cream was something I was not expecting. Im not sure what to make of it but those pictures just looked impressive to me.
Glad you like my youtube videos! It would be so much easier to just talk into the camera but that means I don’t get to show the research. I’m definitely doing it the harder way but people seem to like it.
I also do a weekly health podcast too which you can listen on my website or on Apple, Google, Pandora etc
Yes, the research on Chondroitin sulfate and cancer is weird and unfortunately not as researched as Id like. hopefully, that changes one day.
Christmas bills – yes don’t remind me LOL
I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas! 🙂
I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas, too! I bought Glucosamine online after I read your review. I bought from Amazon. I’m a top 500 reviewer on Amazon, so obviously I buy a lot from them. There are still predominately Glucosamine Chondroiton mixes in the supplements, but I made sure to buy one without Chondroitin since I read what you said.
I will make it an educational point to read at least one of your reviews or listen to one of your Podcasts every week. I think it’s essential to my health to do so! You are wonderful!
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, yes most supplements I’ve seen too are combos of glucosamine and chondroitin. This is probably because there is some positive arthritis research on the combination. I hope you like my podcasts. They are a lot of work but are fun to do. I try to mix it up with a variety of topics.
All the research you do must take a long time. But that’s what makes reading what you say and listening to you so rewarding.
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, it is a lot of work but I do enjoy it 🙂
Linda Redding says
If the cream was only applied to the neck, why would the chin areas shown in the “after” photos also have markedly less redness?
Joe Cannon says
Linda, good question. You mean the NeoStrata neck cream? I can’t answer that except maybe the people did apply it to the chin too? They did take the stuff home and apply it themselves? I did not see and explanation for this when I looked at the study.
If I bought the NeoStrata Neck Cream, and I want to later (after property taxes and Christmas expenses), I would apply it to my face as well as to my neck. That’s just me, but if it helped sagging skin and redness on my neck, it would help the same on my face. I bet those women applied it to their faces, too. Or at least to their chins!
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, thats my guess too. when you try it, start by applying to a small area of your skin first for the first week just to see what happens. I think that’s wise for anything we put on our skin.
I always do what you advise with anything. If it’s something you take by mouth, I take a lower dose first and work up if needed. And I’ll follow your wise advice with topical applications in the same way.
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, thanks that is so nice of you to say 🙂
Great review, Joe! Very interesting. I’m trying glucosamine for osteoarthritis due to your reviews but haven’t noticed a difference in skin while taking orally . I’m curious to try some of these skin products! I have a lot of redness, starting to notice age spots and changed in my neck now that I’m in my early 50s. Love your reviews!!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Laura, Thanks so much! I was a bit surprised by some of the glucosamine studies myself. Neostrata neck cream has the best before/after pictures of the products I saw.
Glucosamine skin research uses the NAG (n-acetyl glucosamine) form of glucosamine. Odds are the glucosamine supplement you’re using for oestoarrhtis does not use NAG (most don’t). Could this be a reason why you dont notice any skin differences? I cant say. In theory, all forms of glucosamine should work similar because their chemical structures look similar (but are not identical).
As you saw in the video glucosamine (the NAG form) seems to reduce redness and may have an effect on age spots. Most age spot creams contain lactic acid and/or hydroquinone such as Admire My Skin. I do believe these compounds will work – they are basically chemical peels. Apply to a small patch of skin first for a week or so to see what happens before applying to the face.
Do you think the glucosamine has helped your osteoarthritis pain?