Hyaluronic Acid vs Sodium Hyaluronate - what is the key difference?

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. Approximately 50% if found in the skin, and the remainder is distributed throughout our joints, nerves and eyes to keep them lubricated. 

Hyaluronic Acid is a moisture binder, meaning it can draw moisture from the atmosphere and any water that sits on top of our skin and lock it into the epidermis, keeping our skin hydrated, plump and elastic. 

As we age, our body naturally produces less Hyaluronic Acid, resulting in loss of skin elasticity, volume and the appearance of wrinkles.

Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid

When added to serums and moisturisers, Hyaluronic Acid has the ability to draw in moisture, thus improve skin hydration, elasticity and restores skin volume. It is also fast-absorbing and well-tolerated. 


Hyaluronic Acid vs Sodium Hyaluronate

Naturally occurring Hyaluronic Acid molecule is too large and cannot penetrate the skin easily. One way to improve absorption is to hydrolyze the molecule to reduce the molecular weight, leaving you with what is known as hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid. Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid attracts moisture and retains this moisture in the upper skin layers, thus improving skin hydration at the surface level.

Sodium Hyaluronate is the salt form of Hyaluronic Acid. When in its salt form, the molecule has a much smaller molecular weight than it's hydrolyzed cousin and therefore; is able to penetrate deeper into the skin. This effect gives longer-lasting skin hydration and improves skin volume and firmness. 

Sodium Hyaluronate is also more stable and is less likely to oxidise. 


Side effects of Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid needs moisture to work effectively. When it is applied to the skin in dry conditions with very low humidity, it draws moisture from the deeper layers of skin and brings it to the surface of the epidermis, thus; this can leave the skin drier than it was, to begin with. For this reason, it should be noted that Hyaluronic Acid may not be suitable for everyone, depending on the environment you live in. 

For people who in live humid conditions, Hyaluronic Acid have the ability to draw moisture from the air and into the skin, thus improving skin hydration and elasticity. 

Therefore it is always a good idea to apply Hyaluronic Acid serums to damp skin and seal it with a good moisturiser.



Author: Helen Lam, Pharmacist and Editor for ellé derm







Manjula Jegasothy, S et al. "Efficacy of a New Topical Nano-Hyaluronic Acid in Humans". Journal of Clinical and Asthetic Dermatology (2014) Mar; 7(3): 27–29.

Pavicic, T et al. "Efficacy of cream-based novel formulations of Hyaluronic Acid of different molecular weights in anti-wrinkle treatment". Journal of Drugs and Dermatology (2011) Sep;10(9):990-1000.

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