Dermatologists Swear This Under-the-Radar Skincare Secret Is Better Than Hyaluronic Acid For Hydrating Dry, Aging Skin

Katie Decker-Jacoby
Dermatologists Swear This Under-the-Radar Skincare Secret Is Better Than Hyaluronic Acid For Hydrating Dry, Aging Skin
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Hyaluronic acid is one of the most talked-about skincare ingredients of all time, but there’s a new superstar ingredient that’s here to steal the spotlight. It’s similar to the big H.A., yet somehow even better, according to experts. We spoke with a dermatologist to learn more about how this low-key ingredient works and the products that should be at the top of your shopping list. 

The skincare ingredient at hand is—drum roll, please—the one and only polyglutamic acid (PGA). Polyglutamic what, you might be asking yourself (honestly, same). Thankfully, we got a hold of Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Mariwalla Dermatology, to enlighten us.

Below, a run-down on what PGA really is and how it helps our skin, plus some expert-backed recs that include what will surely be your new favorite ingredient.

RELATED: The 6 Most Life-Changing Vitamin C Serums With Hyaluronic Acid—All Under $30 on Amazon 

What is polyglutamic acid?

“PGA is a multifunctional biopolymer produced via fermentation of L-glutamic acid with Bacillus subtilis,” says Dr. Mariwalla. Translation: It’s a humectant that grabs onto water and brings it to the skin’s surface. Because of that, it’s key to keeping skin hydrated and plump. 

Which skin types can use PGA?

Lucky for you, PGA doesn’t pick and choose. “Any skin type can use it, but people with dry or sensitive skin may like it the most,” Dr. Mariwalla explains. She says you can use it during any season; however, the winter might be the best time to incorporate it into your skincare regimen, since skin can tend to get extra dry. 

What’s the difference between PGA and HA?

Hyaluronic acid can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, while PGA can hold up to 4,000 times its weight in water. We’re better with words than numbers, but even we can understand that that’s a huge difference.

When it comes to which ingredient you should opt for, Dr. Mariwalla says it boils down to how dry your skin is. “If you have normal or normal-oily skin, I would use an HA,” she notes. On the flip side, “If you have dry skin or skin prone to sensitivity with certain acidic ingredients, I would use PGA.”

Which skincare ingredients work well with PGA?

Our derm expert suggests layering a polyglutamic serum over a retinoid. Or, try PGA on top of peptides to plump, improve elasticity and boost collagen production. Mixed together, these ingredients can help your skin look more bouncy and youthful.

Which skincare ingredients don’t work well with PGA?

To our relief, there don’t seem to be any ingredients to dodge while using polyglutamic acid. “PGA mixes well with all ingredients and because it can be used in concentrations as low as 0.1%, it can be found in everything from an essence to a serum,” says Dr. Mariwalla.

Below, find five derm-approved PGA products that you should add to your skincare routine, stat.

Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir

Photo: Charlotte Tilbury.

Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir

“Use of this serum really does make the skin look soft and pillowy,” says Dr. Mariwalla. It has a lightweight milky consistency that contains niacinamide and vitamin C to back up the PGA. These three ingredients blend together in one anti-aging serum that brightens, plumps, fades dark spots and minimizes the look of wrinkles. What more could you want? 


The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid Hydrating Serum Sephora

Photo: The Inkey List.

The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid Hydrating Serum

This more affordable serum has a polyglutamic acid complex that boosts your skin’s moisture levels and smooths fine lines and wrinkles. “Simple and straightforward, this is a nice way to layer PGA into your skin routine when you need it,” explains Dr. Mariwalla. 


Kate Somerville DermalQuench Wrinkle Warrior

Photo: Kate Somerville.

Kate Somerville DermalQuench Wrinkle Warrior

A hydrating treatment that will have your skin looking firm, radiant and dewy in no time, Kate Somerville’s Wrinkle Warrior is $39 off right now, so be sure to grab a bottle while you can.

“I really like the foaming delivery system because it feels so light on the skin,” Dr. Mariwalla notes. “It has PGA along with different molecular weights of HA, which help plump the skin and diminish fine lines.”


Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist Amazon

Photo: Glow Recipe.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist

For a quick burst of hydration, you’re going to want to reach for this Glow Recipe face mist. The formula centers around watermelon, which is rich in amino acids and vitamins. Hyaluronic acid and PGA lend a helping hand by quenching dry skin.

“Although it is heavily scented, the addition of hyaluronic acid with PGA and glycerin make a few sprays of this mist enough to rehydrate dry skin at any time of day.”


Oskia Isotonic Hydra-Serum Nordstrom

Photo: Oskia.

Oskia Isotonic Hydra-Serum

HA, PGA and glycerin team up once again to plump the skin and deliver hydration

“This lightweight moisturizer is really meant for very dry skin with its combination of PGA, oat ceramides and bisabolol, which will not only hydrate but also improve skin barrier function.”

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