There’s a buzzy new ingredient sweeping the beauty industry that promises to transform dull, wind-chapped (and screen-ravaged) skin into the sort of glowing, healthy visage you recall from summers past. Hailed as the new hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid (or PGA) is a naturally-derived ingredient (from Nattō, a Japanese food made from fermented soybeans), that could be the answer that those suffering from dry and dehydrated skin have been looking for.
“Polyglutamic acid is the perfect winter-ready ingredient,” facialist Renee Lapino explains. “We’re constantly bouncing between environments, and spending most of our time in overheated, dry, recycled air during the winter months, so it’s no wonder our skin feels frazzled. Because polyglutamic acid functions as a humectant [meaning it pulls water towards it], it holds five times more moisture than hyaluronic acid—that’s 5,000 times more moisture than its molecular weight [as opposed to hyaluronic acid, which famously holds 1,000 times its own weight].”
As a peptide, one of polyglutamic acid’s (many) game-changing qualities is its ability to inhibit hyaluronidase—an enzyme which breaks down the skin’s naturally occurring hyaluronic acid as we age – making it an effective preventative product too. “Unlike hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid is made up of large molecules, causing it to form a thin film on the skin’s surface. That layer prevents water loss and encourages the skin’s natural moisturising process, which, in turn, will plump the appearance of fine lines, and brighten grey winter complexions,” Lapino says.
Before you cast your beloved hyaluronic acid aside altogether, dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting believes there’s a place for both formulas in your skincare routine. In fact, they can be used together. “Polyglutamic acid helps to reduce trans-epidermal water loss, so that means it functions as an occlusive. This makes it a very effective moisturiser, and whilst comparisons are made with hyaluronic acid, this additional property may give it more of an edge. In fact, the two ingredients can be combined easily for synergistic results, as hyaluronic acid penetrates the lower levels of the skin whereas PGA seals moisture in. In my view PGA doesn’t replace transformational ingredient families, like retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids, but it is a nice addition to our hydration tool kit, and works very well with vitamin C and water products,” she explains.
Chances are, PGA may already be lurking in your skincare regime, especially in any moisturising formulas. However, brands such as The Inkey List and Zelens have cottoned on to its rising popularity and have launched stand-alone PGA serums—which is the best way to harness the ingredient, according to Lapino. She does have some application tips: “There are no products PGA interacts poorly with, but because it is a large molecule, it does need to always be the last step in serum application. After cleansing, apply your hyaluronic acid first to hydrate and buffer the following antioxidant (such as vitamin C), or exfoliant serums (like glycolic acid), and allow them to sink deeper into the skin. You should then apply your PGA, as it sits on the surface and locks in the thinner and lighter products underneath. Follow PGA serums with a hydrating cream or lotion. The last step should always be SPF if you’re using it in your morning routine,” she explains.
A tonic for those with dry skin, PGA can also be a saving grace for post-retinol peeling and those looking to soften the first signs of ageing. “Almost everyone can use PGA,” Renee explains. “But it’s most ideal for those that experience a lack of moisture which can highlight fine lines further. Because our collagen production drastically declines from age 25 onwards, I would suggest it’s a must-have for those in their thirties and beyond.”
5 Polyglutamic Acid-Based Products To Try Now
The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid Serum
With a 3 per cent PGA complex, this is the most cost-effective PGA product on the market and promises to plump and hydrate skin both morning and night. Quickly absorbed and easy to use, it’s ideal to sandwich between HA serums and a moisturiser.
Zelens Z-Melatonin Night Repair Serum
Tapping into the skin’s nightly rejuvenation process, Zelens Repair Serum combines PGA and melatonin to reinforce the skin’s protective barrier and target any signs of damage from daily aggressors, such as pollution, sun damage and stress.
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum Crystal Elixir
Charlotte Tilbury’s latest launch is a “science-powered, supercharged secret to your skin’s best future”, thanks to its combination of PGA and antioxidant vitamin C to give your skin a brighter and more youthful appearance.
Kate Somerville DermalQuench Wrinkle Warrior
Enriched with botanical extracts including lavender flower oil, patented DermalQuench technology and, of course, PGA, this everyday serum helps to improve skin firmness and elasticity.