But while the ingredient gets a lot of hype for being a hydration hero, I confess that I haven’t found a hyaluronic acid product I’ve fallen in love with.
Too many times I have found that hyaluronic acid serums feel too sticky on my skin or don’t mix well with other products, even causing my makeup to pill on several occasions.
I’m also not blown away by the moisturizing properties of hyaluronic acid, despite always applying it to damp skin.
This prompted me to look for other alternatives and I came across polyglutamic acid on TikTok, while watching a video praising plumper skin and (most importantly) the fact that it is four times more hydrating than hyaluronic acid.
A holy grail ingredient that hydrates more than hyaluronic acid? I knew I had to know more.
WHAT IS POLYGLUTAMIC ACID?
“Polyglutamic acid is a polymer of the amino acid glutamic acid made via fermentation,” Desiree Stordahl, director of applied research and education at Paula’s Choice Skincare, told news.com.au.
“It acts like a humectant, attracting and holding water in the skin and on its surface,” Desiree explains.
Best known for its benefits for boosting skin hydration, it works by forming a “hydrogel mesh network that expands to attract and retain water.”
“This creates a flexible, smooth, moisture-binding layer on the skin, which helps the skin stay hydrated even in low humidity conditions,” she said.
“That translates to a more supple, plump, hydrated and healthy appearance.”
Other benefits included aiding in wound healing and the release of active ingredients, as well as offsetting the impact of sun damage.
BEST POLYGLUTAMIC ACID PRODUCT: EDITORS’ CHOICE
Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir, Charlotte Tilbury, $110
This serum is truly magical. I’ve been a longtime fan of Charlotte Tilbury’s makeup products (yes, Pillow Talk is really worth the hype), but never tried any of their skincare lines until I learned that polyglutamic acid was the main ingredient in their Magic Serum Crystal Elixir. First of all, like all Charlotte Tilbury products, it came in beautiful packaging that looked great on my bathroom vanity. It has a very pleasant scent and consistency that is quickly absorbed into the skin, where it has an almost immediate effect on the texture. The skin looked dewy, plump and definitely more awake.
Over time, I noticed that my skin became more hydrated and more radiant. I used it every morning after the eye cream and before my moisturizer, while I used it every other day at night when I wasn’t applying retinol. My favorite thing about Magic Serum Crystal Elixir was that it didn’t pill and made whatever you applied after it sit better, meaning it worked well as a primer.
While it’s on the pricier side for a serum, the fact that it contains vitamin C to brighten skin and a proprietary peptide blend called Replexium to reduce fine lines (and you can use it as a primer, too) makes it well worth it. price tag.
BEST BUDGET POLYGLUTAMIC ACID PRODUCT
The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid Serum, Sephora, $25
At the other end of the price spectrum is The Inkey List’s polyglutamic acid serum. The Inkey List is a British skincare brand that focuses on results-driven products, this serum has (deservedly) gone viral on TikTok and is the reason I first heard about polyglutamic acid.
Like Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crysal Elixir, I also saw immediate improvements with my skin after using it as it plumped and smoothed instantly. I also loved how soothing The Inkey List serum was and found it perfect to use after retinol or other harsh substances to calm my skin. It also blended in well under my other skincare products and doubled as a primer (or could be mixed into my foundation for a dewy look).
Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir vs The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid Serum
Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir
Advantages: Absorbs quickly into the skin, does not fluff under other products and has a wonderful subtle scent.
Cons: Adding vitamin C means you have to be careful when using it with other actives and you can’t use it all after applying retinol. It is also on the pricier side for a serum.
The Inkey List serum with polyglutamic acid
Advantages: Affordable price, super softening to skin, goes well with other skin care and under makeup.
Cons: With no added fragrance, it has a sour smell which I didn’t like.
You won’t regret buying one of these serums, with Charlotte’s Magic Serum great value for money thanks to the addition of Vitamin C and Replexium. But The Inkey List’s formula felt smoother on my skin and might be more suitable for sensitive types. It also outperforms any other serum for the same price that I’ve ever tried.
BEST POLYGLUTAMIC ACID PRODUCTS
Paula’s Choice C5 Super Boost Moisturizing Cream, Paula’s Choice Skin Care, $63
In addition to vitamin C, the key ingredients of this moisturizer include polyglutamic acid, making it a “powerhouse formula,” Desiree explains.
“Polyglutamic acid helps increase the production of natural moisturizing factors (NMF) in the skin, which contributes to a healthier barrier, long-lasting hydration and a healthy glow,” she said.
“We also added other superstars such as hexapeptide-5, the peptide for improving elasticity. All this complements the firming power of vitamin C and helps the skin fight sagging – think of it as a preventative to get ahead of sagging before it starts.
Dermalogica Circular Hydration Serum, Adore Beauty, $94
If you love your hyaluronic acid but are looking for a more hardworking hydrating serum, this is for you. This serum combines hyaluronic acid with polyglutamic acid for hydration, as well as algae extract and a lactobacillus ferment blend to improve your skin barrier.
I’ve never used a Dermalogica product I didn’t like and found this serum to be as impressive as the others I’ve tried. Unlike other serums with hyaluronic acid, I used this one well layered, not pilling and instead like a big drink of water for my skin.
Bioessance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum, Sephora, $108
This serum contains the holy trinity of hydration: hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid and squalane. Copper peptides also help stimulate collagen growth for beautifully plump skin.
With more than 350 five-star reviews on Sephora’s website, satisfied customers say it “glides nicely” and has a “silky thin texture.”
“This saved my skin and I’m obsessed. Made my skin plump and glowy. I don’t wear foundation, face powder, or tinted moisturizer on a daily basis, so this helped my skin look healthy and hydrated,” reads one five-star review.
Viviology Ceramide Moisturizer 50ml, Adore Beauty, $45
Viviology is the brainchild of Australian skin therapist James Vivian and is a science-based skin care range at an affordable price.
This Australian-made moisturizer contains ceramides, squalane and polyglutamic acid to nourish and protect your skin.
Five-star reviews on Adore Beauty say it’s like a “big hug for your face” and “so smooth and soft” on the skin.
IS POLYGLUTAMIC ACID BETTER THAN HYALURONIC ACID?
“Polyglutamic acid rivals the hydrating results of hyaluronic acid,” says Desiree.
“In fact, studies show it has a four times greater ability to retain hydration in the skin’s surface layers compared to hyaluronic acid, thanks to its large molecular size.”
Polyglutamic acid may also be “more aesthetically pleasing” to users because it is “less tacky” than hyaluronic acid,” she added.
“However, it does not share the antioxidant properties of hyaluronic acid,” Desiree said.
“I wouldn’t say one is better than the other — rather, they each have their place in the skincare world.”
HOW TO APPLY POLYGLUTAMIC ACID PRODUCTS
“There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to applying products that contain polyglutamic acid, but in general it is always best to layer your serums, moisturizers, treatments, etc. in order from thinnest to thickest texture ,” said Desiree.
“Daily application produces the best results.”
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