Believe it or not, this doesn’t lend itself to the simplest answer… although you probably guessed that to warrant an entire blog!
The short answer is pretty straightforward though. If you see an ingredient with ‘PCA’ on the end of it, like Zinc PCA or Magnesium PCA, that means that it is a salt, rather than the element, and it requires some chemistry to create. You see, PCA itself is a thing. It stands for Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid.
As a standalone ingredient, Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid is found in high concentrations in our skin, although also exists in places such as our brain and liver. It is a natural moisturising factor (or NMF), a substance with the ability to bind water in the skin to help reduce trans epidermal water loss (or TEWL). It is referred to as a skin conditioning agent, which acts as a humectant. Just like Hyaluronic Acid, PCA draws moisture from the atmosphere into your skin to help increase hydration in the epidermis.
Let's go back to Zinc. This element exists in trace amounts in our bodies, and is part of a balanced diet. It comes in plenty of different forms, and you might recognise Zinc Oxide from sunscreen, or Zinc Gluconate as a popular dietary supplement. What we want to look at though, is the Zinc ion, which contains all the skin benefits of Zinc, but exists away from the physical form of the element.
Still with me? When Zinc ions mix with PCA ions, you end up with Zinc PCA. It’s referred to as a PCA salt, because the combination of a positive charged ion (Zinc) and a negatively charged ion, or anion, (PCA) makes a salt. The best of both worlds! Other possible ion combinations include Magnesium, or more commonly, Sodium. Try to throw out the image of table salt or rock salt from your mind! Zinc PCA is a fine white powder, which is easily soluble in water.
See you next time,
Amy @ Team Q+A
Online community coordinator at Q+A and flying through bottles of Zinc PCA!