Many skin care routines, regardless of skin type, have a shared goal of hydrating and moisturizing the skin. Maintaining a proper balance of water and oil goes a long way for overall health and skin barrier function. Two hydrating ingredients in skin care that are often confused but have important distinctions are hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate.

Sodium hyaluronate in skin care is used to increase hydration and reduce dryness. Hyaluronic acid also attracts moisture into the skin. While the two are related and benefit the skin in similar ways, sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid may both deserve a place in your routine.

What Is Sodium Hyaluronate?

Sodium hyaluronate is a derivative of hyaluronic acid. In fact, it's the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid. Sodium hyaluronate in skin care is mainly used as a humectant that prevents water loss by attracting moisture.

Sodium Hyaluronate vs. Hyaluronic Acid

If sodium hyaluronate is a derivative of hyaluronic acid, aren't the two nearly the same? The key difference between sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid is their molecular size. This impacts how the ingredient affects your skin.

Hyaluronic acid is a popular ingredient in skin care products—especially those formulated for dry skin— because it can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Though it can be found in multiple sizes, its availability at a larger molecular size allows it to coat the top layer of skin and prevent water loss from the outside. However, it's usually too large to effectively penetrate the top layer.

Skin dehydration usually occurs in the deeper layers of your skin. Ingredients with a smaller molecular weight, such as sodium hyaluronate, have the advantage of being able to penetrate the epidermis and reach those deeper layers.

Overall, hyaluronic acid is ideal for hydrating and softening the outer layer of skin, but sodium hyaluronate is more effective for deeper hydration, as it's more easily absorbed than hyaluronic acid.

Sodium Hyaluronate Skin Benefits

You may be very familiar with hyaluronic acid—but now, you may also want to familiarize yourself with sodium hyaluronate as it boasts several benefits, including the following:

Reduces Dryness and Flakiness

The low molecular weight of sodium hyaluronate is responsible for its ability to effectively increase skin hydration. Like hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate is a humectant that attracts and retains moisture in the skin.

Unlike hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate is able to reach deeper layers of the skin that may be dehydrated. By targeting the deeper layers, sodium hyaluronate improves the appearance of dry, flaky skin from the inside out.

Improves the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Fine lines and wrinkles are more noticeable when skin is dry or dehydrated. Using sodium hyaluronate in skin care products can help reduce the appearance of creases by hydrating the skin.

Improved skin hydration has a plumping effect, making fine lines and wrinkles less noticeable. Cosmetics formulated with sodium hyaluronate have been shown to reduce the volume and depth of wrinkles.

Sodium Hyaluronate in Skin Care

Skin care products that contain sodium hyaluronate are usually gentle enough for all skin types. Though people with dry skin are usually users of hydrating products, individuals with oily skin can benefit from using sodium hyaluronate, too. Believe it or not, oily skin is often a sign of dehydration in which the skin overproduces oil to compensate for a lack of water.

The EltaMD Skin Recovery Light Moisturizer contains sodium hyaluronate to help compromised skin retain moisture. It also improves the feel of skin texture. Some sunscreens like the EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 contain sodium hyaluronate to attract moisture and restore suppleness.

So, which is better? There is no clear winner between hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate in skin care because they both serve important functions. In some products, both hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate may be used together seeing as they both bring benefits. Keep an eye out for these ingredients—they may be the missing piece in your skin care routine.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

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