Hyaluronic Acid vs. Sodium Hyaluronate—Which Is Better?

Ask a skin expert how to treat parched skin and we guarantee the answer will include two words: Hyaluronic acid. In fact, it’s one of the few skincare ingredients that can remedy both dryness and dehydration. But along with all great ingredients arises many pertinent questions: What is it exactly? Is it beneficial for my skin type? Why does the term “sodium hyaluronate” often pop up when I search for it online? Get all the answers to your hyaluronic acid questions (and more) down below.  

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring sugar that is found in the body. While it can be found in lips, connective tissues, and joints, half of hyaluronic acid lives in the skin. As a humectant, its main purpose is to draw in moisture and keep these areas of the body hydrated so they can work properly. Considering it has the ability to hold 1000x its weight in water, it’s pretty good at that job. Similarly to collagen and elastin, the hyaluronic acid found naturally in our skin degrades as we age, resulting in dryness, fine lines, and a crepey texture. When hyaluronic acid is abundant, however, skin appears soft and plump.  Eating certain foods (such as leafy greens and starchy vegetables) may stimulate hyaluronic acid production in the body. Some may also turn to supplements. Of course, you can also incorporate this hydrating ingredient into your skincare routine. Our Moisture Maker Hydrating Hyaluronic Serum is a great match if you’re looking for a lightweight product that helps quench skin above and below the surface, as well as draw in moisture.

The Importance of Molecule Size in Hyaluronic Acid

One important thing to keep in mind when shopping for HA is molecule size. As a rule of thumb, substances of a smaller molecule size penetrate deeper layers of the skin, while the largest molecules work at skin’s surface. That’s one of the key differences between serums and oils, and why serums typically absorb in a snap while oils absorb slowly on the surface of the skin. Because you want hydration both at the surface (hello, plump, smooth appearance) and below it (for skin health and to combat dehydration), getting multiple forms of HA at different molecular weights is ideal. Look for hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid—a chemically broken down version of HA with a low molecular weight—and sodium hyaluronate (more on that below) to hydrate both at the skin's surface and the layers beneath it. 

What Is Sodium Hyaluronate?

If you’re familiar with hyaluronic acid, there’s a chance you’ve come across the ingredient sodium hyaluronate before too. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably in the skincare world. A product labeled as containing hyaluronic acid may actually list sodium hyaluronate on its ingredient list instead. By definition, sodium hyaluronate is a salt extracted from hyaluronic acid that exhibits very similar properties. It too can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water and is incredibly hydrating.

How Does Hyaluronic Acid Differ From Sodium Hyaluronate?

The key differences between the two are their molecular size and stability. Sodium hyaluronate has a smaller molecular weight than hyaluronic acid, penetrating even deeper than HA can. It’s also more stable, meaning it’s less prone to oxidation and maintains a longer shelf life.

Are There Similarities in Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate?

Both hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate are effective, non-comedogenic ingredients that can add a dose of hydration to any routine. If you’re choosing between the two (although they can be formulated together) consider your skin type. While hyaluronic acid typically works for everyone, it's especially beneficial for oily types who don’t want too much moisture. Because sodium hyaluronate reaches deep beneath the layers of the skin, it’s ideal for dry skin types or those focused on aging. That’s why sodium hyaluronate is one of the hero ingredients formulated in our Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum hybrid. Together with chamomile extract and vitamin E, it helps deliver a more radiant, hydrated complexion. 

Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate

Because both forms of hyaluronic acid are so effective and play well with other ingredients, HA and sodium hyaluronate commonly hold a spot on many ingredient labels, whether it be in a serum, moisturizer, or facial oil. You’ll find sodium hyaluronate in our cult-favorite Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream. Both ingredients are made for all skin types, can be applied daily AM and/or PM, and are pregnancy-safe. Some additional benefits include:
  • Hydrates dry and dehydrated skin
  • Strengthens skin’s barrier
  • Improves skin texture 
  • Firms and plumps 
  • Softens fine lines and wrinkles
  • Adds a healthy glow

Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate Together?

Definitely. They're both gentle, non-irritating, uber hydrating ingredients—using them together can only help moisturize the skin.

One thing to remember: As a humectant, hyaluronic acid pulls moisture from the air in order to work. If you live in a particularly dry climate with not much humidity to pull from—or you simply notice your skin still feels parched after applying an HA serum—apply while skin is still slightly damp and consider layering on a moisturizer or oil afterwards.

What’s the Difference Between HA and Other Acids?

We’ll admit the title ‘acid’ is a bit confusing; most acids conjure up notions of exfoliating peels, which does not closely resemble hyaluronic acid’s benefits at all. Name aside, remember that exfoliating acids like AHAs and BHAs do not occur naturally in the body and are sourced from things like citrus fruits and milk. These types of ingredients are generally used to exfoliate, treat hyperpigmentation, and calm acne. And some of these acids (like the lactic acid found in The Shortcut) are humectants too.

Are Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate Vegan?

Since hyaluronic acid naturally occurs in the body, it’s not wild to assume it isn’t a vegan ingredient. And technically, it’s not. Many times, hyaluronic acid is extracted from the umbilical cords and fluids in the joints of cows and horses. The good news is that hyaluronic acid can be synthetically made in a lab and your skin won’t even notice the difference. Versed only uses vegan ingredients, so you can be rest assured the HA in all of our products is 100% vegan. 

If you’re looking for more cult-favorite ingredients to add to your routine, read our complete guide to niacinamide.
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