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What is Sodium PCA?

By Pamela Pleasant
Updated May 21, 2024
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Sodium PCA is known for binding moisture to the skin’s cells. PCA, which stands for sodium salt of pyrrolidone carbonic acid, is an ingredient in many cosmetic products. This humectant is naturally found in the skin. Amino acids contain sodium PCA and it is known as a hygroscopic. This means that it has the ability to remove moisture from the surrounding air.

Natural PCA levels in the skin are at their highest during childhood. As time progresses, these levels can drop considerably. Using skin care products that contain PCA can help to increase these levels as a person ages. PCA also contains antioxidants that fight off free radicals that can age the skin. It also contains vitamin D and E, which can aid in skin rejuvenation.

This powerful moisturizer is derived from many plants, but the sodium PCA from each individual plant is used to do different things. For example, the PCA from grasses and vegetables can be used as an emollient. When PCA is derived from coconut oil, it is used as an emulsifier. The PCA found in cherries or seaweed can replenish moisture within the skin. Sodium PCA can also be used in certain types of lotions that protect the skin from excessive sunlight.

This substance not only attracts moisture to the skin, it can also help to hold it in. This makes it optimal for all types of skin-care products. When sodium PCA is used in soaps, it can help the skin in many ways. It works along with the natural PCA found in the skin to produce healthier, replenished skin.

Used in shampoos and conditioners, sodium PCA works to hold water in the hair shaft. It can also add shine and bounce to the hair. When the hair is too dry, static can occur, which produces hard-to-manage, fly-away hair. PCA keeps enough moisture in the hair to eliminate frizzy and dry hair.

In small amounts, it is thought that sodium PCA is not harmful to use. It is considered mildly toxic, but it is sometimes used with nitrosamine, which is thought to be a toxin. There have been no known skin or eye irritations associated with the use of PCA.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Ceptorbi — On Feb 11, 2014

I'll be checking product labels for this ingredient. I need sensitive skin products, and it sounds like cosmetics and soap with sodium PCA would be soothing rather than irritating.

By Nefertini — On Feb 11, 2014

@SimpleByte - Sodium PCA is non-comedogenic, which makes it suitable for all skin types including oily. It doesn't irritate the eyes or the skin, either. I've been using hair conditioner with sodium PCA. My hair tends to be dry and brittle, but products with sodium PCA keep it moist. An added benefit is that sodium PCA reduces static electricity in my hair.

By SimpleByte — On Feb 10, 2014

I like natural skin products, and the fact that this substance occurs naturally really appeals to me. As a diabetic, I suffer from dry skin a lot, and need a good moisturizer, too. My daughter has oily skin, though, and some products make her break out. Is sodium PCA an ingredient someone with oily skin should avoid?

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