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What Is “Sodium PCA” in Skincare, and What Is Its Use?

What Is “Sodium PCA” in Skincare, and What Is Its Use?

Sodium PCA captures moisture from the ambient air and retains water in the stratum corneum. It thus helps to maintain the suppleness and elasticity of the skin. Focus on this mineral with a significant role in the distribution of water in the body.

Sodium, an Essential Mineral for the Human Body.

Sodium is a trace element: it is essential for the body's metabolic processes. As it is not produced by the body, it is essential to provide it to the body through the diet (mainly through salt), but without excess. The body contains about 100 g of sodium, distributed mainly in the blood and extracellular media. This mineral allows the transmission of nerve impulses that lead to muscle contraction. It is also involved in water balance: its concentration in the body regulates the movement of water between the various intra- and extracellular compartments.

What Is Sodium PCA?

Sodium PCA, also called sodium PCA salt, is a derivative of PCA or pyrrolidone carboxylic acid. This molecule is derived from the amino acid glutamic, naturally present in the body. Chemically, PCA has a carboxyl function that can create a bond with a mineral. Sodium PCA is obtained through a two-step mechanism. First, PCA is formed by thermal cyclization of glutamic acid from beets. Then, a chemical reaction is performed between the previously formed PCA and sodium oxide (NaO). The medium is stirred, filtered and atomized to obtain a pure compound, sodium PCA.

The association of PCA with a mineral adds benefits to its cosmetic activity. Thus, PCA plays a moisturizing role for the epidermis, while sodium is involved in the retention of water in the deep layers of the skin. Sodium PCA is therefore both a moisturizing and humectant active ingredient.

Sodium PCA Benefits for the Skin.

Sodium PCA in skincare acts on several levels to keep the skin smooth and healthy:

  • Boosting the hydration of the epidermis.

Sodium L-PCA is naturally present in the NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor), a set of hygroscopic substances located inside the corneocytes of the epidermis. The function of NMF is to ensure, restore and maintain an optimal state of hydration in the surface layer of the skin. Sodium PCA is one of the main components of NMF, as it is present in 14%. When applied to the skin, this ingredient acts as a humectant: thanks to its ionic charges, it traps water molecules and retains them. It is twice as effective as glycerin, a substance with recognized humectant properties. However, it is less effective than hyaluronic acid, which can retain up to a thousand times its weight in water. In fact, sodium-PCA can contain up to 250 times its weight in water.

  • Soothing irritation and redness.

Sodium PCA is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers have demonstrated its effectiveness on certain skin conditions such as eczema.

Note: In a cosmetic formula, the recommended dosage for sodium PCA is between 0.5 and 3%.

In Which Care Products Can You Find Sodium PCA?

Sodium PCA is present in certain face care products for dry and dehydrated skin, such as ultra-moisturizing day and night creams, thirst-quenching masks and aqueous serums. For the body, it can be found in after-sun milks and creams for dry hands and feet. Sodium PCA is also a hair fiber moisturizer and helps revive dry and damaged hair. It is used in some moisturizing shampoos, leave-in creams for the ends and lotions for dry scalps.

Our Anti-Imperfection and Regenerating Complex with 5 Minerals is a revitalizing serum that regulates sebum production and optimizes cell renewal and longevity. Skin is firmer, more elastic and blemishes are reduced. It is enriched with zinc, calcium, manganese, magnesium and sodium and should be applied morning and night to clean, dry skin.

Sources :

  • CIR Expert Panel, Final Safety Assessment for PCA and Sodium PCA. Cosmetic Ingredient Review (1999).

  • ISMAIL R. Skincare formulation incorporating sodium lactates, sodium PCA and lauryl PCA: Comparative moisturising efficacy on asian skin. IFSCC Conference paper (2005).

  • DRAELOS Z. D. A pilot study investigating the efficacy of botanical anti-inflammatory agents in an OTC eczema therapy. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (2016).

  • GREIVE K. & al. Skin hydration is significantly increased by a cream formulated to mimic the skin’s own natural moisturizing systems. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology (2018).


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