Sodium Hyaluronate

Sodium hyaluronate helps to hydrate and plump the skin — and does a great job at it.

Written by
Tori Crowther
Medically reviewed by
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You might think you’ve never used sodium hyaluronate before, but if a hydrating serum features in your skincare routine, chances are you probably have.

Hailed for its ability to hydrate and plump the skin, sodium hyaluronate is the hardworking derivative of hyaluronic acid (an ingredient many of us know and love for being a super hydrator). 

But why is sodium hyaluronate called out as being a superstar in its own right? That’s exactly what we’re diving into. This is everything you need to know about sodium hyaluronate.

What is sodium hyaluronate?

Sodium hyaluronate — you may also see it listed as hyaluronate sodium, hyaluronic acid sodium or skin sodium hyaluronate — is the sodium salt form of hyaluronic acid (also referred to as HA) used in skincare.

It helps to hydrate and plump the skin — and does a great job at it, making it one of the most popular ingredients in skincare. 

To understand sodium hyaluronate though, we first need a quick refresher on exactly what hyaluronic acid is. 

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring sugar molecule in our body found in places like our eyes and synovial fluid of our joints where the area needs to be kept lubricated [1].

Of course, not forgetting that hyaluronic acid is also naturally occurring in our skin. Well-loved for its hydrating properties, hyaluronic acid can hold an impressive 1,000 times its weight in water making it a super hydrator [2]. 

As we age, sadly many important components in our skin keeping it plump start to decrease.

Alongside collagen and elastin, hyaluronic acid is one of them. To keep our skin in its optimal condition, it relies on us to do the job of topping it up with these ingredients. If we don't, dryness becomes more noticeable and fine lines more prominent. 

So, now we’ve covered what hyaluronic acid does, what makes sodium hyaluronate special?

Since it’s a derivative of hyaluronic acid, it has all of the main attributes like being a fantastic hydrator with the bonus of being able to penetrate deeper into the skin. 

Despite what you might think, it’s difficult for products to get into the skin and work their magic.

After all, it would be a bit of a nightmare if every time it rained we soaked up all that water from our skin. Our skincare ingredients have to work hard to get into the skin and treat it from the inside so that we can see the benefits from the outermost layer of the skin. 

That’s why ingredients with a smaller molecule like sodium hyaluronate do a great job at absorbing into the skin and getting to work fast — more on this later.

The skin benefits of sodium hyaluronate

There are so many benefits of introducing a sodium hyaluronate serum into your skincare routine, including repairing your skin barrier, reducing fine lines and wrinkles and overall combatting dryness.

It's hydrating

The main benefit of sodium hyaluronate is that it’s an excellent humectant, which means that it attracts moisture and in turn, helps to hydrate the skin over a prolonged period. 

It helps repair the skin barrier

The difference between happy and unhappy skin ultimately lies in the skin barrier function.

Think of the skin barrier as the building bricks of your skin. When the brick-and-mortar starts to crack and fall apart, it lets the good stuff (moisture) out and the bad stuff (pollutants) in.

Using products to treat this helps prevent transepidermal water loss, which can lead to things like irritation and inflammation. 

For skin barrier repair, Software’s Hydrogel Face Mask is a great choice as the sodium hyaluronate works in tandem with ceramides to help rebuild that brick-and-mortar structure and keep your skin looking and feeling healthy.

It improves signs of ageing

Combating dryness through your skincare routine can help with fine lines and wrinkles as it helps to plump and smooth them out. 

It helps calm rosacea

A 2013 study found that sodium hyaluronate helped reduce inflammation, papules and burning in patients with mild to moderate rosacea [5].

It helps heal wounds

Various molecular weights of hyaluronic acid have been studied for their efficacy in wound healing. This is because this ingredient tackles inflammation and helps to rebuild the skin's structure [6].

It's a non-irritating and non-comedogenic

Skin irritation is on the increase so any ingredient that helps to calm this is a plus in our books [3][4]. 

Sodium hyaluronate is a highly stable ingredient so you’ll rarely have issues with products going off or not working correctly in a formula. This means less irritation and more predictable results. 

Plus, it is a non-comedogenic ingredient, which means that it doesn’t clog the pores. This is why it’s a great ingredient for blemish- and congestion-prone skin.

It has anti-inflammatory properties

Sodium hyaluronate has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, which means it works particularly well for those with dry skin by improving hydration levels with great efficacy.

It pairs well with almost every ingredient

One of the downsides to a lot of ingredients is that you can’t combine them and that can make things a little confusing.

Sodium hyaluronate can be used with almost any skincare ingredient, making it a breeze to introduce into your routine.

Not only that, but it’s also highly beneficial to use it in combination with other products.

Software’s Multi-Peptide Eye Serum and Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum are great examples of this. You’re getting all of the benefits of vitamin C and ferulic acid (brightening and collagen-boosting) with the hydrating benefits of sodium hyaluronate.

Sodium hyaluronate vs hyaluronic acid: What's the difference?

Despite sodium hyaluronate being a form of hyaluronic acid, they actually behave differently on the skin, so it’s worth noting those differences.

It gets confusing because sometimes you’ll see the two used interchangeably. 

A product might be named a hyaluronic acid-based product but if you look at the ingredients list it could list sodium hyaluronate. So if you're after a sodium hyaluronate serum specifically, be sure to check out the product labels to confirm.

Essentially the difference between sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid comes down to different molecular weights.

Hyaluronic acid has a high molecular weight which means that it’ll coat the surface of the skin, helping to retain moisture, but can struggle with absorption. 

That’s why many skincare products use hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid to allow for better absorption.

But there’s another great alternative to this: sodium hyaluronate.

Since sodium hyaluronate has a lower molecular weight, it penetrates deeper into the skin more effectively. Pair this ability to penetrate the skin with its water-binding properties and we’re onto a real winner with sodium hyaluronate.

In addition to this, sodium hyaluronate has a more stable structure, typically giving it a longer shelf life. However, this isn’t a given; it depends on the overall formulation of a product taking into account things like packaging, too. 

So is sodium hyaluronate better than hyaluronic acid? That all depends on what you’re looking for in your skincare. 

When used together, they can be highly effective. Software's Hyaluronic Complex Serum has an impressive 4 types of hyaluronic acid to help intensely hydrate and plump the skin.

Does sodium hyaluronate have side effects?

Do you want the good news, or the even better news first?

The good news is side effects from topical use of hyaluronic acid are extremely rare. If you do find you’re having sensitivity though, stop using the product immediately and seek medical advice. 

In the even better news, sodium hyaluronate is hydrophilic, which means that it mixes well with water. Since it’s a humectant, it draws moisture in — win-win.

If your skin is dry or you’re in a dry environment where humidity levels are low, it can start to draw moisture from deeper layers of the skin, which means you’re not getting that lovely hydrated skin but could be inadvertently making your skin drier. 

But being hydrophilic means that the product is formulated with water working as a dream team together. When applied to damp skin, you’ll see great results with dry skin.

If you’re talking about sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid fillers then there are going to be more side effects. This is typically a little swelling and redness [7].

But when you’re using it in skincare, you won’t need to worry about side effects; the safety of sodium hyaluronate is well-documented. 

Is sodium hyaluronate suitable for all skin types?

Given all of the wonderful benefits of sodium hyaluronate, it’s no surprise that it works well for all skin types

If you suffer from dry skin then you can benefit from adding a sodium hyaluronate product into your routine. 

Equally, if your concern is fine lines and wrinkles, sodium hyaluronate helps by reducing this due to its hydrating qualities as it can help smooth out those lines. 

Contrary to popular belief, all skin types and conditions need moisture.

Yep, even oily and blemish-prone skin needs hydration, so making sure your routine has a trusty humectant in there can work wonders. 

If you have incredibly compromised skin or are currently receiving treatment for a skin condition, always consult your expert before introducing a new product to your routine. 

Most everyday skin concerns do well with the continued use of sodium hyaluronate. 

How to incorporate sodium hyaluronate into your skincare routine

Sodium hyaluronate is in all sorts of skincare products, including face washes, serums, eye creams, moisturisers and more.

You may also find it in other forms, including intranasal sodium hyaluronate, eye drops and dermal fillers. That's because this ingredient has a lot of health benefits beyond the skin.

But when we're talking about skincare, there are all sorts of ways to incorporate sodium hyaluronate into your routine.

Unlike other ingredients where you have to be a little more careful about not overdoing application (retinoids, we’re looking at you), it’s difficult to overdo it on the sodium hyaluronate front. 

You can start using sodium hyaluronate in your daily routine immediately.

Either in your AM or PM face wash, in your serum to help hydrate and plump the skin, or in a moisturiser to give the same protecting benefits. You can also use it in a treatment format using a face mask to treat yourself and your skin to a boost. Happy hydration!

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