Sodium PCA: The Hydrating Superpower

Sodium PCA: The Hydrating Superpower

Have you heard of Sodium PCA? It’s a super hydrating ingredient that’s receiving much less attention than Hyaluronic Acid and I want to tell you about it as it’s improved my skin. Here is a quick, to-the-point guide on its uses in skincare. I personally think it’s better than Hyaluronic Acid!

Why is sodium PCA in skincare?

In short, Sodium PCA is great for moisturizing and helping the skin to be soft and healthy.

Sodium PCA attracts water molecules to it from the air. In skincare, it helps hydrate our skin by attracting moisture from the air. That’s its superpower 1

It is also a natural humectant (retains moisture) by binding many times its own weight in water molecules to itself. That’s its superpower 2! These two properties effectively allow for the skincare product to both attract and retain more moisture

This effectively means that Sodium PCA enables the skin to retain a higher concentration of moisture and stay hydrated by slowing moisture from evaporating. It isn’t just an ingredient for the skin though, it is also a great ingredient for hair care products too.

What is Sodium PCA?

Let’s get the science name out of the way quickly. Sodium PCA stands for Sodium PyrrolidoneCarboxylic Acid (PCA). PCA can be found naturally in almost all living cells including plants, fruits and human skin.

What are the sources and properties of sodium PCA?

The benefit of sodium PCA varies depending on its source: 

  • Seaweed or algae extracted PCA is excellent for water binding. This draws moisture from the air to it and allows skincare products to effectively moisturize the skin.
  •  PCA from other vegetation sources is an excellent emollient which means that it softens the skin by forming a barrier that holds the moisture within the skin.
  •  PCA extracted out of coconut oil has excellent emulsification properties

Is sodium PCA safe for skin?

Sodium PCA has been tested for safety by various institutions and here is the summary of the findings from the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR): 

  • On the basis of the clinical data that was presented in the report, the CIR Expert Panel concludes that PCA and Sodium PCA are safe as presently used in cosmetic formulations. 
  • These ingredients should not be used in cosmetics products containing nitrosating agents. The presence of PCA with nitrosating agents together with being in heat and light can cause Sodium PCA to break down and create carcinogenic nitrosamines. Thankfully this is well-known among formulation chemists so formulations are highly unlikely to have these combinations of ingredients.

Sodium PCA has a score of 1 out of 10 as being the lowest risk category to human health.


This ingredient is great, my favorite Moisture Mist and my favorite moisturizer have this ingredient which I use daily. Even when I switch to another moisturizer to step things up, I always find myself returning to my Sodium PCA moisturizer. I haven’t written about it yet but I shall link to it shortly.

Product recommendations with Sodium PCA:

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