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Deoxycholic Acid: An In-Depth Look at Its Role in Cosmetics

Article last updated: June 13, 2024

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Ever wondered what makes those stubborn fat pockets disappear without surgery? Dive into the fascinating world of deoxycholic acid and discover how this powerful compound is revolutionizing the cosmetic industry, offering both incredible benefits and important considerations.

What Is Deoxycholic Acid?

Deoxycholic Acid, also known by its chemical names such as (4R)-4-[(1R,3aS,3bR,5aR,7R,9aS,9bS,11S,11aR)-7,11-dihydroxy-9a,11a-dimethyl-hexadecahydro-1H-cyclopenta[a]phenanthren-1-yl]pentanoic acid, is a naturally occurring bile acid. It is also referred to as 3,12-dihydroxycholan-24-oic acid or 3-α,12-α-Dihydroxy-5-β-cholan-24-oic acid. In the realm of cosmetics, it is primarily recognized for its roles as a humectant, skin conditioning agent, and emollient.

Historically, Deoxycholic Acid has been known for its role in the digestive system, where it helps in the breakdown and absorption of fats. Its journey into the cosmetic industry began when researchers discovered its potential benefits for skin care. The ability of Deoxycholic Acid to interact with cell membranes and its hydrating properties made it an attractive ingredient for various cosmetic formulations.

The production of Deoxycholic Acid typically involves the extraction from animal bile, particularly from cattle. However, advancements in biotechnology have enabled the synthesis of this compound in laboratories, ensuring a more controlled and sustainable supply. This synthetic process involves the chemical modification of cholic acid, another bile acid, through a series of reactions that introduce the necessary hydroxyl groups and other functional groups to produce Deoxycholic Acid.

The Benefits/Uses of Deoxycholic Acid

In this section, we will delve into the officially recognized cosmetic benefits and uses of Deoxycholic Acid:


Deoxycholic Acid serves as a humectant, which means it helps to attract and retain moisture in the skin. This is particularly beneficial for maintaining skin hydration, ensuring that your skin remains plump and supple. By drawing moisture from the environment into the skin, it helps to prevent dryness and keeps your skin looking fresh and healthy.

Skin Conditioning

As a skin conditioning agent, Deoxycholic Acid works to improve the overall appearance and feel of your skin. It helps to soften and smooth the skin’s surface, making it feel more comfortable and look more radiant. This function is especially useful for those looking to enhance their skin’s texture and achieve a more youthful appearance.


Deoxycholic Acid also acts as an emollient, which means it helps to soften and soothe the skin. Emollients form a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, which helps to lock in moisture and protect against environmental aggressors. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with dry or sensitive skin, as it helps to maintain skin integrity and prevent irritation.

Note: the listed benefits above are exclusively based on the officially recognized and defined functions of the ingredient, as documented by the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI).

Potential Side Effects & Other Considerations

Deoxycholic Acid, while beneficial for its humectant, skin conditioning, and emollient properties, can also have potential side effects and considerations that users should be aware of.

  • Skin irritation
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Dryness

Regarding individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding, data and research on the topical usage of Deoxycholic Acid during pregnancy and breastfeeding are lacking. Therefore, it is recommended that they consult a healthcare professional for further advice before using products containing this ingredient.

Side effects and adverse reactions from Deoxycholic Acid are generally uncommon, but they can occur. To minimize the risk of adverse reactions, it is advisable to conduct a patch test before widespread usage.

Deoxycholic Acid has a comedogenic rating of 2, which means it has a low to moderate likelihood of clogging pores. For individuals prone to acne, blemishes, or breakouts, this indicates that while it is relatively safe, there is still a small chance it could contribute to pore congestion and subsequent skin issues.

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