Is Polyglutamic Acid Good for Your Skin? We Asked a Derm All About the Trendy Ingredient

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We all know and love certain popular skincare ingredients, like hyaluronic, glycolic and azelaic acids for their hydrating, exfoliating and skin-plumping powers. But are you familiar with polyglutamic acid, the hot new humectant on the scene? It’s been likened to hyaluronic acid, only called better, which had us wondering, could this be the savior of our worn out winter skin? We spoke with Dr. Sheila Farhang, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics, who told us all about this trendy ingredient.

What is polyglutamic acid?

Polyglutamic acid (aka PGA) is a humectant and water-based component, so expect moisture (and lots of it). According to Dr. Farhang, they are “long chains of amino acids produced from fermented soybeans” (or natto, which is a traditional Japanese food). While it’s an acid, it doesn’t exfoliate, but it has similar properties to hyaluronic acid (HA) because it keeps the skin hydrated all day long.

What is polyglutamic acid use for?

“It is a powerful hydrator similar to hyaluronic acid, so we have been seeing this [ingredient] in skincare products. The actual compound has been around for more than 80 years, but it has definitely become more trendy lately,” she mentioned. PGA is used for keeping the skin hydrated and retaining moisture. During the colder seasons, try using it to replace any moisture loss. Dr. Farhang believes PGA is great in serum form (especially a highly concentrated one).

Is polyglutamic acid good for the skin?

Yes, yes and yes. “There are almost no reported allergens or hypersensitivities. It helps pull in water similar to hyaluronic acid, therefore helping keep the skin hydrated,” she said. The three main benefits include: retaining and preserving moisture, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and pores and improving elasticity.

Dr. Farhang recommends that all skin types can use polyglutamic acid. If you have dry or dehydrated skin, consider incorporating the ingredient often in your daily routine. If you have oily skin, consider limiting your usage to 2-3 times a week. PGA works well during the colder seasons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a few drops during the summer to reap the benefits all year round.

What's the difference between polyglutamic acid and hyaluronic acid?

While they have similar goals of providing hydration, PGA and HA focus on different areas of your skin. Hyaluronic acid addresses the deeper layers of the skin while polyglutamic acid sits on the top layer. Think of it like this: HA works within, while PGA works at the surface for a dewy, plumped look.

“They are still different, and while PGA does pull in more water, there’s so much we still don’t know about it in the skincare and cosmetic field. Plus, hyaluronic acid is intrinsically produced and found in our skin/body," she explained

We totally understand why people are gravitating towards PGA. Limited research shows that PGA actually retains ten times more water and four times more moisture than HA. However, don’t go throwing out your hyaluronic acid just yet. These two ingredients can actually work together to give you even more moisture. By combining the two, it nourishes every layer of the skin, so you’re more likely to keep dry skin at bay.

Anything else I should know?

PGA is gentle and can be mixed with other ingredients (like HA, vitamin C, you name it). It works very well with water-based ingredients for the ultimate moisture barrier. However, Dr. Farhang recommends not overdoing the acid and trying a patch test first before including it in your regime.

Like mentioned above, it’s not known to have any side effects, but if any irritation does occur, consult with a dermatologist. That said, PGA might be just the ingredient you need to keep your skin hydrated and winter-proof.

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...