We don’t often like to get technical here at The Naked Chemist.
So, we sure are glad that the ingredient Sodium Pyroglutamic Acid goes by the more common name of ‘Sodium PCA’.
What is Sodium PCA?
Technically: It is the sodium salt of Pyroglutamic Acid; a naturally-occurring amino acid known as Proline that is found in proteins.
The potassium or sodium salts are what makes the molecule water-soluble and an effective humectant.
It has a number of roles in the personal care industry, depending on where it is extracted from:
- The PCA that is extracted from vegetable and grasses is often used for its emollient properties in moisturisers
- PCA that is extracted from coconut oil is used for its emulsification properties
- Algae and Seaweed contain moderate levels of PCA, which is often used for its water-binding properties
How Sodium PCA is Created
It is a completely natural ingredient that is derived from plants, fruits, and coconut oil.
A fermentation process of sugars and starches is used in order to create PCA.
Properties and Uses
Interestingly, this ingredient is one of the major components of our skin’s natural moisturising factor (NMF), found at around 12%.
Both Sodium PCA and Urea are ingredients that bind moisture to our skin’s cells.
When our skin has a good balance of oils and fats (lipids), our skin is well-lubricated and has a smooth and healthy surface glow.
Retains moisture: In the world of skincare, it is considered an important humectant due to the fact that it is extremely water-absorbent and can hold several times its weight in water; helping to reduce the loss of moisture through evaporation.
In cosmetic chemistry, it is thought of as a stronger hydrating agent than traditional ingredients such as Glycerine and Propylene Glycol.
Anti-ageing: Our skin naturally contains PCA, but as we age, these levels drop quite considerably.
Protecting: Previously, we’ve talked about the role of the acid mantle and the intercellular glue that holds our skin cells together, which can be likened to the mortar that holds bricks together.
PCA is an important component of this intracellular matrix; preventing our skin cells from losing water and drying out.
Reduces inflammation: PCA is a great ingredient for helping to protect the acid mantle, as it penetrates deep into the epidermis – reducing inflammation in the skin and preventing surface irritation from becoming too serious.
- It is a clear, almost-syrupy liquid, which is soluble in water
- PCA is considered a low-hazard ingredient
- Studies have shown that even in concentrations of up to 40%, no evidence of sensitivity or toxicity can be found
- I love the texture that Sodium PCA gives to my products; it isn’t sticky and doesn’t alter the viscosity of the products in any way
Join me here tomorrow, when I look at the benefits of Panthenol, another fantastic humectant.