Experts on the benefits of the amino acid
With new products, brands and categories appearing every day, the beauty can be a little overwhelming. Back to Basics is our rudimentary beauty series that serves as a crash course in the science behind some of the best formulations in the game.
When it comes to the most powerful moisturizers in skin care, chances are you are already familiar with humectants (aka, moisturizing binders) like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, and if you have followed. this series, perhaps more under-the-radar ingredients like urea. But if you’re looking to boost your skin’s hydration levels while calming eczema rashes, improving its barrier function, or controlling oil and shine without stripping it, there’s another lesser-known humectant. to know: the PCA, and its many, many derivatives.
PCA stands for pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (try saying this three times faster), and it’s an amino acid that is found naturally in the body, primarily in the stratum corneum, or the outermost layer of the skin.
“PCA is an important part of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor, or NMF,” says Bryan Barron, director of skin care research at Paula’s choice. “The NMF regulates the hydration of the superficial layers of the skin. As skin cells move from the lower layers to the upper layers, a protein in skin cells called filaggrin breaks down and releases NMF substances, such as PCA. This plays a key role in binding water and helping skin cells adhere properly until it is time for them to shed and be replaced with new cells. Simply put, it’s a natural humectant that’s vital for hydrated and healthy skin.
However, when PCA is found in a skin care product formula, a certified dermatologist Dr Dendy Engelman explains that this usually means that it is made synthetically, although it can sometimes be derived from oils and plants. When applied topically as a product – be it a cream, serum, or cleanser – PCA still acts as a humectant, although each of its derivatives brings different benefits to the table.
The many forms of PCA
PCA can be found on its own in skin care products, but according to Julio Lamberty, cosmetic chemist at Paula’s Choice, it is more often combined with other active molecules such as minerals, amino acids and fatty alcohols. to form complexes or multifunctional derivatives.
The most common derivatives of PCA in beauty are its mineral salt forms, such as PCA sodium (by far the most popular), PCA potassium, PCA magnesium, and PCA calcium. While PCA sodium and PCA potassium are great physical moisturizers, Lamberty says PCA magnesium is also great for combating tired skin, while PCA calcium has a restructuring and restorative effect on stressed and mature skin.
The PCA family of salts also includes PCA zinc and PCA copper, both of which regulate sebum, which is why Dr Engelman says they are often used to treat excess oil and acne without drying out the skin. skin (because remember, these are humectants!). PCA arginine, also a hydrating salt form of PCA, has the ability to both firm and brighten the skin.
With the above in mind, it is important to do your research before looking for PCA products. “Different types of PCA target different skin types and skin problems, so it’s important to determine which type of PCA is right for your skin care to make sure you are receiving the right treatment,” says Dr. Engelman.
How to use PCA
PCA (and the many derivatives under the umbrella of PCA) can be found in a fairly wide range of products. “PCA can be found in a variety of moisturizing serums, creams or lotions, as well as in cleansers and sprays. [like toners and mists] to help retain moisture, ”says certified dermatologist Dr Marisa Garshick. She mentions that it can sometimes be found in hair care products, such as shampoos or conditioners, to add moisture and shine to hair and scalp. That said, how and how often PCA is used varies from product to product, but according to Dr. Engelman, most products containing PCA are generally safe to use on a daily basis because it is not an ingredient. aggressive.
When it comes to mixing PCA with other ingredients or products, Dr Garshick says it may be beneficial to combine it with other humectants that help attract and bind moisture to the skin. , such as ceramides or hyaluronic acid, or with occlusive ingredients that help lock in moisture, like oils and butters – basically anything that will help increase its moisturizing power. It plays well with most ingredients in general, Lamberty pointing out that in addition to ceramides and HA, it is often formulated with omega fatty acids, amino acids, niacinamide, vitamin C and retinol. .
However, there are a few instances where PCA can react negatively with another ingredient, especially nitrosating ingredients like diethanolamide. Dr Garshick mentions that according to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Database, these ingredients can break down into nitrosamines (known carcinogens) when mixed. However, this has more to do with the fact that these ingredients are combined in the same formula and not something the average consumer has to worry about when layering products.
Who is a good candidate to use PCA?
According to the particular PCA, anyone with dry skin – as well as anyone with skin conditions that cause dryness and flaking, such as eczema or psoriasis – could benefit, while a person with oily skin might benefit. benefit from its regulating forms of sebum such as zinc and copper PCA. But in general, Dr. Engelman says it is safe for all skin types and tones: “Since PCA is naturally present in the body, most people have no adverse reactions to it, which is why. means that it is also safe for sensitive skin.
As Lamberty says, if you’re looking to hydrate, improve skin barrier function, and maintain the health and integrity of your skin, consider adding PCA to the mix. “It meets the basic needs of all skin types, even the most sensitive”, he explains.
Below are seven products containing many forms of PCA – from sodium PCA to zinc PCA – to incorporate into your skin care routine.
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