Hyaluronic acid vs sodium hyaluronate

Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan, a vital naturally-occurring substance that’s part of skin’s youth-supporting matrix. As the chief glycosaminoglycan in skin, hyaluronic acid works to keep every aspect of skin stable, strengthened, and constantly renewed.

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is also a humectant, which is a category of skin care ingredients that are hygroscopic, meaning they draw moisture from their surroundings. Humectants are often found in moisturizers, serums, and leave-on skin care products because of their ability to help boost hydration for all skin types, which is especially beneficial for dry, dehydrated skin.

When HA was first discovered, it was harvested from the eyes of cows and from rooster combs. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that scientists were able to isolate the chemical composition and clone HA from Staphylococcus bacteria. Unfortunately, the bacteria also carried the risk of staph infection, which can be quite horrifying and painful. Realizing this wasn’t good, it didn’t take long for scientists to discover a way to clone HA without the risk of bacterial infection and without having to use animal sources. Today, most HA is from vegan sources, and safe to use, however it is made in a lab and many natural brands wouldn't use anything from a lab. 

The magic of HA lies in its ability to replenish a LOT of moisture. One gram of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six liters of water. HA can enhance moisture content beyond comparison to many other humectants. At the same time, it revitalizes skin’s outer surface layers, so they look and feel softer, smoother and radiantly hydrated. This instantly improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate?

Hyaluronic acid, and sodium hyaluronate, is a polysaccharide composed of long chains of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine alternating with glucuronic acid. In our skin, it stabilizes the intercellular (in-between cells) space in the dermis and contributes significantly to activities essential to skin health. Because of its tremendous capacity to hold water, adding this active to your creams, lotions, gels or serums will help keep skin moist. Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is not hyaluronic acid. By definition, the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid is in the millions. Small fragments of broken hyaluronic acid can’t hold water or form gels.

If you’ve seen sodium hyaluronate in your ingredients instead of hyaluronic acid, we hope you weren’t disappointed. Sodium hyaluronate is a salt derived from HA and is much easier for skin to absorb. So even if your cream has a lot of HA in it, it doesn’t mean your skin will accept use it. I would use a product with either one and decide which one feels best on my skin.

Since HA is so effective at taking up moisture, it is nearly impossible to add more than 1% or 2 % of it to any cream. Brands that claim more than that or “implies” more than that in a cream are flat out lying. Any more would clump up the formula. You can however, apply HA directly to your skin without worry or irritation. If you want to be sure you are getting tons and tons of it, get yourself a pure hyaluronic acid serum and put it on your face separate from your moisturizer. This way you get all the skin plumping benefits if you want more than the small percentage in a cream. We may offer a pure hyaluronic acid serum later in the year. Make sure you get our emails as they are the only way to find out about them. To get on our waiting list for serums sign up here.

Please note that if you live in a drier climate, there may not be enough water in the surrounding air for the humectant to pull water into your skin, so it may pull water the other way, from deeper in your skin to the surface where it will evaporate. Using HA in a dry climate may make your skin even drier so don't think you need to use it just because it is the latest beauty buzzword. Make sure it is ok for you and your environment.

You can always email us with questions about ingredients and we’ll answer as many as we can in a future post.

xo, Jacci

Jacci Delaneau

Adventuress, animal activist and recovering cheese addict. Dreamer and doer. A patent holding serial entrepreneur, our founder Jacci, has traveled the world in search of bizarre beauty rituals, the planet’s most beautiful beaches, and the perfect pizza. She combines her background in Marine Biology and Organic Cosmetic Science to develop clean, high performance skin care using sustainable ocean based ingredients. Read more about Jacci.