The Benefits of Sodium PCA in Skincare

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.


24 thoughts on “The Benefits of Sodium PCA in Skincare

  1. Mag says:

    What a great article! I learned a lot. I was wondering if anyone knew if i could mix this in with a homemade chapstick/lipgloss. I’m trying to make something that’s moisturizing but won’t slide off the sides of my lips…lol Even in this humid heat in FL my lips are constantly chapped and cracking.

  2. Barbra says:

    So, can you use Sodium PCA straight from the bottle on wet skin after shower?
    (Which I have been doing and I mix glycerin in my body cream). Am I overdoing it? Is is better to use the glycerin straight from the bottle on out of shower wet skin?
    I’m 71 and my skin is starting to get dry an crepey (too much fun in the sun in those younger years). I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

    • Melissa says:

      The recommended use rate for Sodium PCA is .2 – 2.5% in a solution. It’s not recommended to apply directly to the skin. In fact, first aid instructions are to flush water over the skin if direct undiluted contact occurs. The pH is rather high at 6.8-7.4. Most generic skincare lotions/creams are in the 5.5 range. Glycerin can get quite sticky. Mixing it into an already created lotion is an option, but just know that it may throw off the preservation system of the lotion.

  3. Monica says:

    I came across this article by looking up benefits of Sodium PCA. I love this page
    How can I subscribe to your mailing list?
    Thank you

  4. Scott Hiltabidle says:

    A couple years ago I stocked up the best I could with the focus 21 sea plasma products. I have one year of the spray moisturizer left. I’m a cancer survivor and these are the only products that were comfortable to use on my skin. Advise for a replacement would be appreciated.

  5. carol hampton says:

    Thank you for the information regarding PCA; i’VE been
    trying to purchase the product NAPCA and found out that
    Twinlab has stopped making it. I’m so disappointed;however there is still hope for me and others.
    I will be certainly looking out for other products that have
    PCA in. Thanks very much


  6. ashley says:

    Hi, can you recommend some products that contain this ingredient? I am having trouble finding anything other than the Twinlabs spray and wanted some other options. Thx

      • R says:

        Hello, Have you found or produced a facial spray or other products with NaPca in them? I have found that the ‘Focus 21 Sea Plasma’ spray for face and hair as well as ‘Twinlabs NaPca’ are no longer available. I am currently using Nuskin facial mist which contains NaPca. Any further info would be appreciated.

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