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Impermanent loss In DeFi, Explained

Last Updated April 1, 2024 12:12 PM
Alisha Bains
Last Updated April 1, 2024 12:12 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Liquidity pools are integral to DeFi, facilitating cryptocurrency trading without traditional intermediaries by enabling direct user transactions through smart contracts.

  • LPs who contribute assets to liquidity pools face the risk of impermanent loss due to dynamic asset price changes within the pool.

  • LPs must understand the risks associated with IL and practice effective risk management strategies to minimize losses and maximize returns in DeFi liquidity provision.

  • Unlike liquidity provision, staking typically does not result in impermanent losses, as stakeholders support network functions and receive rewards without exposure to dynamic asset price fluctuations

The Concept Of Impermanent Loss (IL)

In the realm of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, decentralized finance (DeFi) has become a ground-breaking idea. It provides decentralized financial services without relying on conventional middlemen like banks. DeFi platforms, which are enabled by smart contracts on blockchain networks, enable a range of financial activities, such as lending, borrowing, trading, and earning interest. 

DeFi’s promise of financial inclusivity — enabling people all around the world to access financial services without requiring a bank account or a lot of paperwork—is one of the main things propelling its growth.

Because they supply the liquidity required for different decentralized exchanges (DEXs) and lending protocols to operate properly, liquidity pools are essential to DeFi applications. The funds in these pools are contributed by users and are utilized to make trading and other activities on the platform easier. 

When liquidity providers contribute their assets to these pools, they are rewarded, usually with trading fees. The ability of users to exchange assets easily and fairly depends on the degree of liquidity in these pools.

But when they join liquidity pools, liquidity providers (LPs) run the risk of impermanent loss (IL). It occurs when the value of assets kept in a liquidity pool differs from the value of the same assets kept on the open market. Usually, changes in the relative prices of assets cause this disparity to occur. Because of this, liquidity providers could suffer losses as opposed to just keeping their assets out of the pool, particularly in times of extreme volatility or when one asset performs noticeably better than the other.

Many liquidity providers are prepared to take on these risks in spite of the possible risks connected to impermanent losses in order to benefit from joining DeFi liquidity pools. Understanding obstacles such as impermanent loss will be crucial to the DeFi ecosystem’s future development and widespread acceptance.

IL is a misunderstood but significant risk for DeFi users, and this article will provide a comprehensive explanation.

Understanding Liquidity Pools in DeFi

Liquidity pools are a key component of DeFi, which uses them to enable cryptocurrency trading without the need for middlemen. Users can transact directly with one another through these pools, which are made up of digital assets that are locked into smart contracts. Assets are contributed to these pools by LPs, who receive trading fees based on the amount of assets they contribute. Because their assets allow users to make trades instantly, LPs are essential to the stability and liquidity of these pools. The benefits that limited partners enjoy, principally trading fees, encourage them to take part in liquidity provision.

Automated market makers (AMMs), which use liquidity pools to execute trades in an algorithmic fashion, eliminating the need of order books and allowing for continuous liquidity availability are an essential part of DeFi. AMMs ensure effective asset swaps even in volatile markets by adjusting asset prices in accordance with predetermined mathematical algorithms. Different kinds of liquidity pools serve different purposes. 

For example, stablecoin pools ensure price stability, whereas volatile asset pools make it easier to trade high-risk products. All things considered, liquidity pools — fueled by LPs and AMMs — are the foundation of the DeFi architecture, facilitating smooth and decentralized cryptocurrency trading and benefiting both liquidity providers and customers.

How Impermanent Loss Occurs 

In DeFi, LPs that contribute assets to liquidity pools run the risk of experiencing impermanent loss. It happens because asset prices in a pool are more dynamic than when the assets are held individually.

Let’s understand how IL occurs via an example. Consider a liquidity pool containing Ether (ETH) and a stablecoin (USDT). A LP contributes 10,000 USDT and 10 ETH,  creating a pool with a total value of $50,000 (split evenly between the assets).

If the price of ETH increases to $3,000 per coin (with USDT price remaining stable), the LP’s ETH holdings within the pool would be worth $30,000. However, due to traders exploiting price differences between the pool and the wider market, the pool’s automated rebalancing mechanism reduces the LP’s ETH holdings.

Consequently, the LP now owns 8.3333 ETH (worth $25,000) and a larger portion of USDT (also worth $25,000). The pool’s total value remains at $50,000. Had the LP held their assets independently,  their holdings would be worth $30,000 (from the 10 ETH) plus the original $10,000 USDT, totaling $40,000.

This comparison highlights that by participating in the liquidity pool (rather than holding assets separately), the LP experiences a temporary loss of $10,000 ($40,000 – $50,000). This loss stems from the pool’s dynamic rebalancing in response to price changes, impacting the LP’s overall returns.

Does Staking Cause Impermanent Loss?

Typically, staking does not result in temporary loss as demonstrated by liquidity provision. Liquidity providers experience impermanent loss as a result of dynamic asset price fluctuations in liquidity pools. Staking, on the other hand, entails locking up cryptocurrency to support network functions while receiving benefits in exchange. 

Although they might not benefit from future asset price growth, stakeholders do not suffer from temporary loss in the same manner as liquidity providers. Staking does, however, include certain dangers; these include the possibility of network instability or reduced fines for bad behavior, although temporary loss is not one of them.

How Do You Avoid Impermanent Loss 

In DeFi, impermanent loss mostly happens in liquidity pools where users deposit pairs of assets to create liquidity. Liquidity providers experience a transient loss when the price of one asset moves in relation to other LPs. 

For example, when a liquidity provider deposits the same amount of ETH and a stablecoin (such as USDT) into a pool and ETH prices rise, the asset ratios are adjusted by the pool’s AMM algorithm, which causes the LP’s share of ETH to decrease and their share of the stablecoin to increase. When opposed to holding the assets independently, the LP ultimately has less ETH. Impermanent loss is the difference in value between retaining assets separately and supplying liquidity.

The nature of DeFi’s liquidity provision is inherently risky since LPs are exposed to the possibility of asset price divergence. If prices continue to diverge, temporary loss turns into permanent loss. Otherwise, it can be reversed. As a trade-off for receiving trading fees and benefits for supplying liquidity, impermanent loss draws attention to the dangers of taking part in DeFi liquidity pools. To minimize transient loss and maximize their returns inside the DeFi ecosystem, LPs must practice effective risk management and comprehend market dynamics.


Impermanent loss highlights the risks that come with being a part of liquidity pools in decentralized finance. Liquidity providers who participate in these pools run the risk of suffering a brief loss as a result of volatile asset prices, even though these pools also present chances to earn trading fees and additional advantages. 

To successfully manage these risks, LPs must comprehend how IL occurs, the function of liquidity pools in DeFi, and the distinctions between staking and liquidity providing. Even with its drawbacks, IL is still a key component of DeFi, emphasizing the necessity of participants having strong risk management procedures.


What is impermanent loss (IL) in DeFi liquidity pools?

Impermanent loss refers to the temporary loss experienced by liquidity providers (LPs) in DeFi liquidity pools due to dynamic changes in asset prices within the pool, resulting in reduced returns compared to holding assets independently.

Does staking leads to impermanent loss?

Staking typically does not result in impermanent loss, as stakeholders lock up cryptocurrency to support network functions and receive rewards without exposure to dynamic asset price fluctuations inherent in liquidity provision.

What role do liquidity pools play in DeFi?

Liquidity pools are essential components of DeFi, allowing users to trade cryptocurrencies directly without traditional intermediaries. LPs contribute assets to these pools, enabling liquidity provision and earning rewards such as trading fees.

How do you avoid impermanent loss?

LPs can mitigate impermanent loss by practicing effective risk management, including diversification of assets, monitoring market trends, and adjusting their liquidity provision strategies accordingly.

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