The difference between sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid is a common question among skincare enthusiasts. While both are moisturizing agents, they have a few different properties that make them useful in different ways. This post will look at sodium hyaluronate vs hyaluronic acid and help you understand the difference and similarities between the two.
Plus, I’ll give some examples of products that use these actives so you can find one that’s right for your skin type and skin concerns. So read on if you want to learn more about sodium hyaluronate vs hyaluronic acid and their benefits for the skin.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a polysaccharide (sugar molecule) naturally produced by your body. Hyaluronic acid is well known for its ability to hold 1,000 times its weight in water and helps give our skin volume and fullness. It’s primarily found in our eyes and joints and the extracellular matrix liquid between our skin cells.
As we age, we produce less and less hyaluronic acid, but luckily we can get benefits from using hyaluronic acid on our skin topically. It’s also commonly used in injectable fillers due to its ability to bind water and plump the skin, making it a great anti-aging ingredient.
The Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is often called “nature’s moisturizer” as it boosts hydration and moisturization of the skin. It acts like a sponge and binds water to the skin, helping the skin retain moisture.
Hyaluronic acid supports a healthy skin barrier and has anti-aging benefits, as it plumps the skin, helping to reduce the look of wrinkles and fine lines. It has antioxidant properties which target the visible signs of aging and protect the skin against environmental stressors like free radicals in UV rays and pollution.
This wonder moisturizer also helps to reduce inflammation (which can cause redness in your skin), promotes wound healing, and protects against infections.
Hyaluronic acid is non-comedogenic and won’t clog your pores or cause acne as it doesn’t contain any elements that can lead to breakouts, blackheads, and whiteheads. Its non-comedogenic properties make it an excellent option for those who suffer from acne or have oily skin.
Hyaluronic Acid and Molecular Weight
Hyaluronic acid comes in different molecular weights, which affect the depth of hydration. High molecular weight hyaluronic acid has a larger molecule size, making absorption more difficult, so it can only hydrate the outermost layers of your skin while creating a protective barrier.
Low-weight hyaluronic acid is chopped up HA molecules with a smaller molecule size that can penetrate deeper into the skin. Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid at weights tested at around 200 kDa (kilodaltons, which measure molecular weight) was even shown to have healing and reparative properties. It was also found to be helpful in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis.
Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid is a low-weight hyaluronic acid often found in skincare products that is better absorbed than higher-weight HA.
There is some concern that ultra low-weight hyaluronic acid (at a weight range under 50 kDa) can cause inflammation in the skin, as it has been shown to trigger an immune response. If you want to play it safe, stick to low weight hyaluronic acid at weights over 50 kDa.
What is Sodium Hyaluronate?
Since hyaluronic acid does not penetrate to the deeper layers of your skin, it makes sense to use a derivative to get better results.
Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt form of hyaluronic acid. It more readily penetrates the deeper layers of your skin, which makes it a great alternative to traditional high-weight HA.
In fact, sodium hyaluronate has a lower molecular weight than both hyaluronic acid and hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid and has better moisture retention abilities. It offers a protective barrier on your skin against environmental pollutants, which supports a strong skin barrier.
Sodium hyaluronate is also more stable than hyaluronic acid, which makes it popular for use in skincare products. When you see a skincare product advertised as hyaluronic acid, it usually contains sodium hyaluronate as the active ingredient.
The Benefits of Sodium Hyaluronate
Sodium hyaluronate is a great moisturizing ingredient that, like hyaluronic acid, can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.
It penetrates the deeper surface layers of your skin, where it acts as a cushioning and lubricating agent, resulting in improved skin hydration and moisture retention.
Sodium hyaluronate also helps to reduce the visible signs of aging, plumping the skin and reducing the look of wrinkles and fine lines.
Sodium hyaluronate plays well with other potent skincare actives (i.e., retinol or glycolic acid).
How Sodium Hyaluronate and Hyaluronic Acid are Similar
Sodium hyaluronate is a derivative of hyaluronic acid. Both actives draw water to the skin and have moisturizing abilities for the outermost layer of your skin and protect it against environmental pollutants.
They’re both able to hold up to 1,000 times their weight in water. They also both have skin-plumping and anti-aging benefits when applied topically to the skin and help smooth the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
Both are very gentle for your skin, so they’re suitable for all skin types. Of course, it is always important to patch test new skincare products before applying them to your skin for the first time.
The Differences Between Sodium Hyaluronate and Hyaluronic Acid
While your body naturally produces hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate isn’t found in nature. Instead, it’s synthetically made in a lab environment.
The main thing that sets these two ingredients apart is their molecular weight. Sodium hyaluronate has a smaller molecular size than hyaluronic acid, so it penetrates your skin more deeply and effectively.
Sodium hyaluronate molecules can penetrate deep into skin layers, making it an excellent hydrator and moisturizer for dry skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
Sodium hyaluronate is also more stable than hyaluronic acid, making it more appealing for skin care formulations.
Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate Products
I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money to get an effective skincare product. This is demonstrated with a product like a hyaluronic acid serum. The serums below work just as well as expensive hyaluronic acid products that could be several times their price.
La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum is a pure hyaluronic acid face and neck serum that not only hydrates and replenishes the skin barrier but also offers anti-aging benefits for the skin.
It targets fine lines, loss of volume and elasticity, and hydrates dry skin with two types of hyaluronic acid: sodium hyaluronate and hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid.
Glycerin is another humectant that moisturizes the skin, while madecassoside from the Centella Asiatica plant offers antioxidant protection from oxidative stress as well as healing and soothing benefits. Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5) is an anti-inflammatory that moisturizes the skin, while vitamin E offers antioxidant benefits.
This intensely hydrating hyaluronic acid serums also contains mineral-rich La-Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water for additional hydration. The serum has a rich texture, making it ideal for parched, dry, and dehydrated skin. Please note that it contains a noticeable fragrance.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 combines low, medium, and high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid and a next-generation HA crosspolymer at a 2% concentration for hydration at multiple levels. Although The Ordinary calls it hyaluronic acid, in the ingredient list, it is listed as sodium hyaluronate and sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer.
Sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer is a cross-linked form of sodium hyaluronate, which forms a mesh and a film on the skin for long-lasting hydration. If you can believe it, sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer can bind up to 5 times the amount of water that hyaluronic acid can!
This study demonstrated that sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer is a more effective humectant and occlusive moisturizer than low molecular weight HA.
The serum also contains moisturizing glycerin and panthenol for soothing and additional moisture. The serum can be a bit sticky and tacky upon application, so be sure to let it dry before applying additional skincare products.
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum tops our list here at The Skincare Enthusiast for the best hyaluronic acid serum for its lightweight texture and plumping effects. It contains a 2% concentration of hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate, and anti-aging peptides to help plump up fine lines and wrinkles.
Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 and palmitoyl tripeptide-1, known together as Matrixyl 3000, target wrinkles, skin texture, uneven skin tone and help firm the skin and improve skin elasticity. Glycerin moisturizes the skin.
The combination of hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, and Matrixyl 3000 peptide duo hydrates and plumps the skin and targets the visible signs of aging for younger-looking skin.
Good Molecules Hyaluronic Acid Serum is a lightweight hyaluronic acid serum formulated with three forms of hyaluronic acid with different molecular weights. If you look at the ingredient list, you’ll see the serum contains sodium hyaluronate (not hyaluronic acid).
This HA serum is enriched with moisturizing glycerin and antioxidant vitamin E. The serum has a thin texture that is very comfortable on the skin. This serum is one of the most affordable hyaluronic acid serums that really delivers hydration.
How to Use Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate
Use your sodium hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid product in your skincare routine based on the product type. If using a serum, apply after cleansing, toning and any active treatments like retinol or vitamin C. Follow with a moisturizer to lock in the moisture that hyaluronic acid/sodium hyaluronate draws to your skin.
If using a moisturizer with HA or sodium hyaluronate, apply as the last step of your skincare routine (or before sunscreen, if using in the AM).
Can You Mix Sodium Hyaluronate/Hyaluronic Acid with Retinol?
The good news is YES you can mix sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid with retinol. Retinol is a great anti-aging ingredient that can help repair the skin’s surface, which will improve the look of your skin over time by increasing cell turnover and smoothing wrinkles and fine lines.
Sodium hyaluronate/hyaluronic acid can help replenish and moisturize the skin, which is helpful when using actives like retinol, which are known to irritate and can be drying on the skin.
What Skin Types Can Use Sodium Hyaluronate and Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate are fantastic for all skin types because they provide hydration and moisture, which every skin type requires – even oily and acne prone skin types. They also provide anti-aging benefits without being too harsh.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to look at the complete ingredient list of a hyaluronic acid product, as it might be combined with other ingredients that may irritate your skin or clog your pores.
As noted earlier, while hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate are suitable for sensitive skin, it is always a good idea to patch test any new skincare product before using it for the first time.
Final Thoughts on Sodium Hyaluronate vs Hyaluronic Acid
Sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are terms that are generally used interchangeably in skin care products. Both have fantastic moisturizing properties that provide noticeable visible benefits for the skin.
It all comes down to the main difference between the two: a difference in molecular weight, which affects how they penetrate and bind moisture to your skin.
Whether you choose a product with sodium hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid, both will help create a hydrated and plump complexion that is soft and smooth!
Thanks for reading, and until next time…here’s to your good skin health!