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The inconspicuous player in the world of cosmetics – Electrolytes

The inconspicuous player in the world of cosmetics – Electrolytes

 The first association that comes to mind with the word “electrolytes” will probably have to do with sports, and rightly so – athletes, as a result of experiencing extreme exertion, excrete electrolytes with sweat and then replenish them in the form of isotonic drinks. Why? Because electrolytes are salt ions, they are essential for maintaining the basic vital functions in our body i.e, conducting electrical impulses through nerve cells or maintaining water-electrolyte balance. In addition, their presence is essential for the proper functioning of the heart or brain. The disturbance of this natural harmony is associated with many complications.


Effect of electrolytes in cosmetics

Skin care products containing electrolytes have the potential to provide moisture to dry, dehydrated skin as well as affecting its elasticity thanks to the unique ability to retain water. Among this group of compounds, there are also those that will support the care of combination or grey skin.

However, there is one small “but” in this issue – in order for all kinds of electrolytes to be able to be transported through the surface of the skin and dissolved in the aquaporin channels, they must be bound to molecules which are naturally present in the skin. Ingredients such as pyroglutamic acid (PCA) and its salts, lactic and gluconic acid salts come to the rescue – they are part of NMF, i.e. a natural moisturizing factor, which is part of the hydrolipid barrier. NMF, together with ceramides, sterols, hydrocarbons and free fatty acids, is an element of intercellular cement.

So in cosmetics, it is worth looking for electrolytes in the formulation under the names: sodium PCA, sodium lactate, magnesium sulfate, zinc PCA, copper gluconate, calcium PCA, potassium PCA, magnesium PCA, magnesium gluconate, calcium PCA, etc.


The inconspicuous player in the world of cosmetics – Electrolytes

Example of pyroglutamic acid salt structure: zinc salt of pyroglutamic acid (zinc PCA) Source:


Electrolytes - obtaining with some examples

Sodium (Na)

It is the main ion responsible for maintaining proper osmotic pressure and hydration of the body. The presence of water in the skin also affects the sodium content of the skin. It is often a component of cosmetics with a moisturizing and nourishing function, as it affects the elasticity of keratin, and its deficiency can cause wrinkles, especially on the face, neck and cleavage. Sodium is mainly obtained from dry yeast extract, algae or salt and mud from the Dead Sea.

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium is the basic building block of bones and teeth. It is also responsible for the condition of blood vessels and for nervous and muscle excitability and also affects many cytophysiological and physiological processes in our body. In a duet with vitamin C, it builds collagen fibers of the connective tissue. Its deficiency is manifested by bone degeneration, tooth decay, blood circulation disorders, pale skin or hair loss.

Zinc (Zn)

Zinc is a microelement, present in our body in small amounts, but its influence is invaluable: is responsible for the good condition of the skin and nails, helps to maintain optimal vitamin A levels, and is also essential for protein synthesis. Zinc finds its use in cosmetics, as it has anti-acne, seboregulatory properties (while not drying out the skin) and accelerates the skin’s healing process.

Potassium (K)

It is mainly responsible for water regulation of the body, maintaining proper osmotic pressure of the epider, supports muscle performance and, together with sodium, forms an enzyme known as the sodium-potassium pump, which is essential for maintaining the cation balance between the intracellular and extracellular environments. Potassium in cosmetics has properties that support cell growth.

Magnesium (Mg)

Like calcium, it is a building block for bones, teeth and skin. A component of many enzymes, including those responsible for energy metabolism in cells. It participates in cell regeneration and keratinization of the epidermis and has anti-aging properties. Its deficiency is associated with brittleness of hair and nails, disturbance of blood supply to the skin, insomnia or muscle spasm.

Fun Fact

Electrolytes, or more precisely, their care and conductive properties, have found use in cosmetic treatments, for example.; Iontophoresis or electrostimulation, intended mainly for people struggling with wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, scars and cellulite.


Electrolytes are an essential component of our body, working phenomenally from the inside and also having the potential to work just as well on the outside. They are used in cosmetic formulas with moisturizing, nourishing, seboregulating or hair conditioning effects. Creating cosmetics with electrolytes, such as for contract manufacturing, is complicated, and special care must be taken to properly select raw materials throughout the formulation as well as stability testing, since electrolytes tend to precipitate in the mass.


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