Why polyglutamic acid has the beauty world buzzing

There’s a new skin hydration hero in town! Learn why polyglutamic acid is trending and what it can bring to your skincare routine.

Behold, the master of moisture: Polyglutamic acid (PGA).

This polypeptide is all about hydration, so, when used in beauty products, it keeps skin looking and feeling its best.

Dermatologist Dr Cara McDonald explains how it works.

“Polyglutamic acid is a humectant, meaning it has the ability to attract and hold water, making it a powerful hydrating ingredient for the skin,” Dr McDonald says.

“It’s been gaining popularity over recent years and is now found in a number of hydrating serums and make-up primer products.”

What is polyglutamic acid?

As unappealing as it sounds, polyglutamic acid begins with a bunch of bacteria.

“PGA is made of amino acid strands (protein building blocks) called glutamic acid and is produced by several types of bacillus bacteria through fermentation,” Victorian Dermal Group director and dermal clinician Derya Koch says.

And, because this versatile ingredient has its origins in soybeans, it’s also edible.

“PGA is a naturally occurring ingredient that is derived from fermented soybeans and several other plant sources,” Dr McDonald says.

“It is relatively uncommon in skincare but is now being used more frequently.”

What are the skincare benefits of polyglutamic acid?

Polyglutamic acid’s ability to attract and hold onto water is what makes it so effective as a moisturiser.

“Unlike hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1000 times its weight in water, PGA can absorb up to 5000 times its weight with its larger molecular size,” Derya says.

What starts with a supercharged ability to moisturise the skin, can extend to a range of anti-ageing, healing and skin health benefits.

“High moisture levels in the skin give a smooth, plump appearance and are also necessary for healing and efficient cell renewal,” Dr McDonald says.

“PGA has been shown to have the additional benefit of inhibiting pigment production, which may help with skin brightening.”

For skin that’s both smooth and strong, it can also protect against the likes of chilly winter winds and dry heat.

“Polyglutamic acid provides additional support in sealing over the skin barrier, helping protect (it) from environmental damage and irritation while creating a smoother skin appearance,” Dr McDonald says.

Polyglutamic acid vs hyaluronic acid

Skincare’s staple moisturising ingredient, hyaluronic acid, is also an agent of hydration.

But is polyglutamic acid better?

“PGA is said to hold onto even more water than hyaluronic acid,” Dr McDonald says.

A 2014 study also showed that after nine days, polyglutamic acid still retains approximately 57 per cent of its moisture, which researchers say trumps the moisturising effect of hyaluronic acid.

However, Dr McDonald says there’s more to consider.

“Polyglutamic acid may be better at holding water and sealing it into the skin surface, which makes a small amount go a long way, but it is a more expensive ingredient than hyaluronic acid, so is less accessible,” she says.

For the latest and greatest in skin hydration, Dr McDonald says it’s possible to combine the two.

“PGA can be used in combination with hyaluronic acid for an ultra-hydrating and smoothing effect,” she says.

PGA also pairs nicely with a range of other skincare ingredients.

“Polyglutamic acid works well with any number of active ingredients including retinol, niacinamide and vitamin C,” Derya says.

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Written by Hayley Hinze.