What you need to know about hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid looks to be the it girl as of late. Why the hype?


What is hyaluronic acid (HA)?

HA is a naturally occurring complex carbohydrate that is found in the body (like in skin, eyes, and joints). HA is a lubricant in our connective tissue, including joints, nerves, and skin. HA is a humectant, meaning it can attract and retaining moisture by binding to water. As we age, we generally produce less hyaluronic acid, elastin, and collagen, which can lead to less volume/plumpness in the skin (read: dehydration) HA is also a principal ingredient in cosmetic fillers as well. We will focus on topical HA


Forms of hyaluronic acid

Molecular size determines the various forms of HA. Smaller molecules aka low molecular weight HA can penetrate deeper. This form of HA may also be listed as sodium hyaluronate.


Functions of hyaluronic acid in the body:

  • hydration in skin

  • lubrication of joint

  • Used for chronic dry eyes

  • Osteoarthritis

Claims of popular hyaluronic acid products:

  • "super moisturizer" - retain up to 370% more moisture than even the collagen protein molecule, making it a which helps to reduce fine lines caused by dehydration.

  • Immediate anti-wrinkle plumping

  • Improvement of overall skin texture

  • Long-term anti-aging effects

  • Glucosamine stimulates the body's own production of hyaluronic acid.

Who should use it:

Generally, hyaluronic acid is safe for all skin types, however, always proceed with caution. It can be helpful for those with dry or dehydrated skin. There is also research indicating that HA can accelerate wound healing (meaning it could help with active acne or for those who have dermatillomania). It is always a good idea to test patch new products, especially if you have sensitive or reactive skin.


Why it works:

Hyaluronic acid is an amazing humectant (i.e., pulling water from its surroundings). With it holding approximately 1000x its weight in moisture, this means needs moisture to reach its full potential.

So, if you are using this as an isolated step, you may not see too incredible results. Get some H20 in that mix!


When you can use it:

Topical HA can be applied twice a day, both AM and/or PM topically, at morning and at night during your skincare routine.


How to use it:

HA serums should be applied after toner to a damp face (spritz some water if necessary). Keep in mind that moisturizers may contain HA or another humectant. HA can be used as a focused treatment as well for extra plumping (eg. putting near eyes for extra moisture). Because HA can be quite finicky in pulling water molecules, be sure to seal it with an occlusive (shea butter, mineral oil etc.)

If using in the AM, you may notice some piling when applying SPF. If this is an issue, wait until your HA is fully absorbed to ensure that you sunscreen providing proper coverage.


Too much of a good thing, is not always a good thing?

HA can be drying if you use it on its own as it pulls moisture (aka water) into the skin. BUT you are not using anything else over top of it, it essentially absorbs water from the skin itself. To avoid this, you can:

  • apply to a damp face

  • after shower OR

  • apply HA and immediately sprits face with water

  • Please note that living in humid environments can change these conditions, so these conditions may not apply.

Possible interactions:

HA is a works well with other actives, including vitamin C, retinol, AHAs and BHAs. Currently, there are not any negative known reactions with HA, however HA has a difficult time penetrating the skin if being applied over facial oils.


Sources of hyaluronic acid:

HA is usually obtained by fermentation or extracted from the combs of roosters, which are very rich in HA. If you want to be conscious of the source of your HA, look for brands with non-animal sources


Forms of hyaluronic acid:

Molecular size determines the various forms of HA. Smaller molecules aka low molecular weight HA can penetrate deeper. This form of HA may also be listed as sodium hyaluronate.


Is it worth the hype?

So, is HA worth all of this hype? HA has been found to be effective in hydration and firmness. HA often is seen as a miracle worker; it is important to note that topical HA has limits, and even low molecular HA will only penetrate the skin quite superficially. If you are looking for deep hydration, HA may not be be the fit for you. Some may find the HA does not play well with other products as it is sticky and difficult to layer. Remember, other humectants exist (enter glycerin, aloe, snail mucin, urea). Hyaluronic acid is a very inexpensive ingredient, so be aware of companies attempting to ride the HA trend and overcharging.


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