Hyaluronic Acid… The word’s a bit of a mouthful – try saying it quickly 10 times – is the skin-boosting ingredient on (and in) everyone’s lips for the past few years. Small wonder, as it’s an incredibly powerful moisture-trapping magnet. Roughly 50 % of the HA in our bodies is found in the skin, and it’s partly responsible for keeping skin cells plumped up, hydrated, and healthy. BUT we need to top it up as we age. Because it occurs naturally in our body, it is incredibly safe and effective.
HA, Hyaluran, Hyaluronan, Hyaluronate Sodium, Hylan, Sodium Hyaluronate (in its salt form), Glycoaminoglycan, Glycoaminoglycane
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in the body. It has incredible moisture absorption powers. Just think… one gram of this incredible molecule can hold six liters of water. That’s pretty mind blowing.
Besides playing its role in keeping our skin moist, it’s the stuff that lubricates and cushions our joints, and it’s found in our eye fluid, nerves and hair. It also has a role to play in skin regeneration as well as repairing damage or injury.
HA is a humectant, so it not only prevents moisture loss, it adds extra moisture by capturing water from air.
Unfortunately, as happens with many things in our skin… you know, collagen, elastin, co-enzyme Q10… the amount of HA in our body starts to decline as we get older. This means we need to supplement it or stimulate our bodies to up production levels to avoid skin dehydration. And external factors like using harsh skin treatments, cold, dry and heated environments, exposure to UV rays and pollution and smoking also encourage moisture loss, which is very ageing. Luckily, this is easily countered by supplementing our HA.
How we can help boost our Hyaluronic Acid levels?
Our diet: A healthy diet full of good nutrients can have a good effect on skin. Antioxidant-rich veggies and fruit help prevent inflammation, so the body doesn’t lose HA.
Healthline lists bone broth as a meal rich in HA, not to mention collagen and other essential nutrients. While things like oranges, kale, tofu, almonds and edamame contain nutrients essential in the production of HA.
Supplementation: There are supplements available that contain HA or help boost production – usually for helping with things like joint pain, acid reflux, dry eyes, etc., but you should speak to your doctor before you use these.
From your skin care: The quickest and easiest way to feed your skin with HA is to apply it topically.
With injections: HA is the substance used in most fillers to plump up lips, wrinkles and areas that have lost volume.
Is Hyaluronic Acid synthetic or naturally derived?
We get HA by extracting it from plants or animals.
The plant-based version (used in most skincare) is sourced from microbial fermentation.
The HA mostly used in fillers is extracted from rooster combs. Yes, you read correctly.
Who can use Hyaluronic Acid skincare?
Basically everyone. Hyaluronic acid is great for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin, as well as skins that are oily and prone to breakouts.
It’s especially helpful for mature skins, to replace the HA our skin is losing naturally.
It is one of the safest ingredients as it generally doesn’t cause any skin allergies or reactions, rosacea or acne (see Alternatives below). As with all things, however – even water – there may be a very small incidence of negative effects.
How does Hyaluronic Acid help your skin?
Dermatologist Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse captures it perfectly in a story for Allure “Hyaluronic acid … helps to bind water to collagen, trapping it in the skin, so that skin can appear plumper, dewier, and more hydrated…” She continues, “The collagen in our dermis forms the structure of the skin. Natural hyaluronic acid is bound to collagen on one side and links to water molecules on the other, giving skin its plumpness. Basically, hyaluronic acid increases hydration in the skin, which can keep your skin looking fresh, full, and bouncy.”
It has multiple actions when applied to skin:
- It repairs your skin’s moisture barrier.
- Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines by plumping up the skin.
- It provides immediate hydration results. Skin feels softer, more supple and pillowy and it looks more radiant.
Healthline reports recent research that suggests hyaluronic acid also has antioxidant properties against free radicals from pollution and other aggressors.
It can soothe redness and dermatitis.
Find Hyaluronic Acid in these products
Different sized hyaluronic acid molecules are used for different purposes:
High molecular weight molecules (larger) sit on top of the skin, moisturizing the skin’s surface, protecting the skin’s barrier and improving skin elasticity. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to soothe sensitive or irritated skin. They are hydrolysed (broken down) to allow the large molecule to penetrate.
Low molecular weight HA (smaller molecules) in the form of sodium hyaluronate (HA salt) has a smaller molecule. It’s easily absorbed into the skin’s deeper layers, where it does its attracting and binding act on water to give a smoothing, plumping and wrinkle-reducing effect.
Look at just about any skincare product and you will probably find HA somewhere in the ingredient mix – usually as sodium hyaluronate – because it is lightweight, absorbed quickly, doesn’t block pores, it’s so good at boosting the product’s moisturizing properties, and it leaves skin looking dewy.
You’ll find it as the hero ingredient in day and night moisturizers, serums, eye creams, masks, etc.
It’s also a great companion treatment for ingredients like retinol, some forms of vitamin C, peels and some fruit acids because it is so safe.
Some formulations crosslink HA molecules so that it lasts longer in the skin.
Injectables aka fillers
For at least 2 decades, HA has been the safe option for fillers as it doesn’t cause major irritation. It’s used to add volume to areas like the lips and cheeks and under eye area, as well as plumping up wrinkles and countering sagging. Where it’s been injected, it attracts water and plumps up the area.
The hyaluronic acid in filler usually lasts about a year before the body breaks it down. If you’re happy with the result, you can top it up or let it fade naturally.
If you’re unhappy, fillers are reversible – hyaluronidase enzyme is used to break down the filler practically instantly.
NEED TO KNOW: Fillers have different recipes – using larger or smaller molecules, textures and crosslinking – to achieve different results. You will need a different type of filler to treat deep lines around your mouth compared to treating the undereye area and fine lines, for instance. Your trained injecting doctor will know which to use.
How do you use Hyaluronic Acid skincare?
HA is the darling of the skincare world because it is so gentle and unlikely to cause any irritation. It can be used alongside highly active and exfoliating ingredients like retinol, as well as AHA and salicylic acid.
In fact, skin experts advise this, as the HA has a hydrating and soothing effect to counteract any redness and irritation. They also say using retinol and HA together has a synergistic effect. Applying the HA before retinol boosts its action.
A word of caution: Some forms of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) should be used with caution if you’re using HA at the same time, but it is perfectly safe with the ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate used in Yours products.
Did you know that you should apply HA to damp skin? Because it absorbs moisture from surrounding areas, if you apply it to dry skin, the HA will draw moisture out of the skin, which is totally counterproductive in our quest for well-hydrated skin.