Polyglutamic Acid Is The Rising Superstar Of The Skin Care World

It gives hyaluronic acid a run for its money.

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Your guide to the ultra-buzzy polyglutamic acid, the rising superstar of the beauty world.
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If your bathroom counter is lined with hyaluronic acid-spiked serums and moisturizing creams as far as the eye can see but you still haven’t achieved the perfectly hydrated skin of your dreams, then you might hit the jackpot with polyglutamic acid — aka the rising superstar of the skin care world.

Polyglutamic acid (PGA) is an incredibly hydrating ingredient, but it’s not as well-known as, say, hyaluronic acid (HA), which has reached holy grail status over the past few years, says Dr. Sherwin Parikh, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder and chief science officer at A.P. CHEM. But it might actually be better than HA. “When it comes to [comparing] hyaluronic acid versus polyglutamic acid, both are hydrating — but polyglutamic acid does even more,” he tells Bustle. This is thanks to the peptide’s larger molecular size, he says, which can hold up to 10 times more moisture than hyaluronic acid. Pretty major.

PGA is made from fermented soybeans that, once in serum form, work to attract and retain moisture on your skin, says Dr. Dusan Sajic, M.D., FAAD, a dermatologist at DéRMA Skin Institute. Because it’s gentle, Parikh says PGA plays well with other skin care ingredients so you can seamlessly integrate it into your existing routine or combine it with other serums and moisturizers, and then rest easy knowing it won’t stir up any irritation. Sounds like a dream, right? Here’s everything you need to know about the beauty ingredient everyone’s buzzing about.

What Does Polyglutamic Acid Do For The Skin?

Polyglutamic acid is comprised of a chain of glutamic acid molecules, which are a kind of amino acid (aka building blocks of protein within your skin). It also happens to be a humectant, a hydrating agent that draws moisture from the air so that it stays on your skin, says Dr. Audrey Kunin, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor. “Polyglutamic acid not only delivers more moisture to the skin, but also helps keep this moisture in the skin’s surface layers,” she tells Bustle.

This double-duty hydration benefit is due to PGA being a large molecule — so, when applied topically, it functions as a protective barrier to ensure your skin stays soft and hydrated (so consider it for your slugging arsenal). “Because PGA slowly absorbs into skin, it can deliver a bouncy, dewy glow,” Parikh says. Besides its moisturizing prowess, it also has other skin-improving perks: “As a peptide, it helps diminish the appearance of fine lines, accelerate skin’s natural exfoliation process, and boosts elasticity — even more so than topical collagen,” says Parikh.

It’s also an ideal ingredient for improving your skin's barrier function, Sajic notes, since PGA works to protect your epidermis from environmental stressors. And, beyond that, polyglutamic acid effectively soothes the skin by calming irritation and inflammation, she says.

Is Polyglutamic Acid Safe For The Skin?

The experts note that polyglutamic acid is safe for all skin types, whether yours is dry, combination, or acneic. Because it’s so moisturizing, Kunin points out that it’ll feel extra good on extremely dry skin. It’s also totally OK to wear outside, Parikh says, because it doesn’t create sun sensitivity the way other acids do.

If you’re still hesitant, try a patch test before committing to covering your entire face. “When using polyglutamic acid for the first time, apply it lightly to a small area of skin away from your face and wait 24 hours to see if any side effects occur,” says Dr. Anna Chacon, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. If you don’t have any irritation, slather away.

How To Use Polyglutamic Acid

How you use PGA depends on the delivery system it’s incorporated into. If you pick up a serum, Kunan suggests applying about five droplets twice a day after cleansing your skin and prior to applying moisturizer and SPF. But you may also find the ingredient within toners, moisturizers, and more.

Whatever the case, you can use polyglutamic acid twice a day. Just make sure your skin is totally dry before application. Parikh recommends gently massaging it in an upward motion over your face and neck for an uber-moisturized glow.

Shop Polyglutamic Acid Skin Care

The Skin Barrier-Boosting Staple

Feed your skin barrier exactly what it needs to stay strong: This serum contains the humectant glycerin in addition to polyglutamic acid, plus niacinamide and prickly pear extract to calm and hydrate your complexion.

The Gel Moisturizer

If your skin is on the oily side, try this gel-based moisturizer — a hydration-packed formula that features both hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid to quench thirsty skin.

The Oil-Free Moisturizer

This lightweight cream is a dream for acne-prone, combination, and oily skin types thanks to its balancing formula — featuring botanical extracts, stem cell extracts, PGA, and marine-derived postbiotics, all of which work to support the skin barrier.

The Retinol Serum

You can thank polyglutamic acid for making this the ultimate gentle retinol serum. Niacinamide and PGA work to combat the retinoid’s drying effects, and the product also contains squalane, rice bran extract, and sunflower seed oil to further hydrate the skin.

The Hydrating Serum

If all you’re looking for is added hydration, this no-frills serum will do the trick. It’s super lightweight and relies on polyglutamic acid and glycerin for the moisturizing job, leaving your skin nice and plump.

Studies referenced:

Choi, JC. (2015). Promotion Effects of Ultra-High Molecular Weight Poly-γ-Glutamic Acid on Wound Healing. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2015 Jun;25(6):941-5. doi: 10.4014/jmb.1412.12083. PMID: 25791849.

Krejtschi, C. (2011). Stability and folding dynamics of polyglutamic acid. Eur Biophys J. 2011 May;40(5):673-85. doi: 10.1007/s00249-011-0673-8. Epub 2011 Jan 28. PMID: 21274709.

Lee, NR. (2014). In vitro evaluation of new functional properties of poly-γ-glutamic acid produced by Bacillus subtilis D7. Saudi J Biol Sci. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2013.09.004.

Muramatsu, K. (2017). Characterization of poly(L-glutamic acid)-grafted hyaluronan as a novel candidate medicine and biomedical device for intra-articular injection. J Biomed Mater Res A. 2017 Nov;105(11):3006-3016. doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.36155. Epub 2017 Aug 9. PMID: 28675666.

Solano F. (2020). Metabolism and Functions of Amino Acids in the Skin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1265:187-199. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-45328-2_11. PMID: 32761577.


Dr. Sherwin Parikh, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, co-founder and chief science officer at A.P. CHEM

Dusan Sajic, M.D., Ph.D., FRCPC FAAD, dermatologist at DéRMA Skin Institute Institute

Dr. Audrey Kunin, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, founder of DERMAdoctor

Dr. Anna Chacon, M.D., board-certified dermatologist

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