Hyaluronic acid (HA) is one of the most abundant substances in skincare. It’s not just that you’ll find it in most serums and moisturizers, either. Our bodies produce it naturally, especially in our skin.
Long considered the “holy grail” of youthful, supple skin, it’s outlasted every other beauty ingredient touted as the next anti-aging serum. But what makes it so special, what do we know about it, and what could it add to your skincare routine?
What is hyaluronic acid?
In simple terms, hyaluronic acid is a naturally–occurring sugar molecule produced mainly in the skin. Its molecular group 一 glycosaminoglycans 一 are long chains of unbranched carbohydrates found in the body’s connective tissue.
Like collagen, it’s responsible for giving the skin structure, but it offers other unique benefits too.
What role does it play in skincare?
Hyaluronic acid keeps our skin looking supple and full thanks to some powerful properties. On a molecular level, HA can bind over 1000 times its weight in moisture, and it doesn’t just preserve what’s in the skin, either.
Hyaluronic acid molecules are powerful enough to draw water from the air, making them one of the most effective moisturizers in the beauty industry. By keeping our cells hydrated, HA can help promote healthy collagen and elastin production, boosting essential proteins that support skin health.
Dermatologists and beauty brands have invested heavily in understanding hyaluronic acid, and finding new applications for it. Today, it’s a common ingredient in moisturizers and creams, but there are special hyaluronic acid lotions that try to maximize its powerful effects.
Potential side effects
As with any beauty product, powerful effects can go both ways. Hyaluronic acid can have a molecular weight as low as 5 kDa, which can easily penetrate the skin.
As a natural compound in our bodies, bad reactions aren’t common. Even so, HA’s penetrative ability can carry bacteria, chemicals, and other irritants into deeper skin layers. If you’re looking for an HA product to try, experts recommend sticking to ones with a concentration of 2% or lower.
People with sensitive skin can still experience allergic reactions when applying it. As wonderful as hyaluronic acid can be, we always suggest sitting down with a dermatologist to get an expert opinion first.
One thing they’ll tell you is that not all HA compounds are equal. More often than not, hyaluronic acid comes in three unique forms.
Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid
In its hydrolyzed form, hyaluronic acid breaks down into the small, penetrating particles mentioned above. When applied correctly, this form of HA works best for people with oily skin who don’t want to over-moisturize. By focusing on deeper layers like the dermis, this form of HA offers deep hydration without clogging the surface.
Sodium hyaluronate is the form most commonly found in beauty serums. It can reach even deeper into the skin for incredible results, but it isn’t as long-lasting. It’s the “middle option” of the three forms, making it best for normal, balanced skin. This is what Hygieia uses in its popular Hyaluronic Acid cream on Amazon.
Sodium acetylated hyaluronate
Lastly, we have sodium acetylated hyaluronate, the longer-lasting version of sodium hyaluronate. It’s most effective for dry skin, and people who live in extremely dry climates where moisture easily escapes from the skin.
Skincare benefits of hyaluronic acid
For all of its powerful properties, what are the actual benefits behind hyaluronic acid’s popularity?
Collagen and hyaluronic acid overlap in many ways. Both give our skin structure and fullness, maintaining that healthy glow for longer. As with collagen, we produce less hyaluronic acid as we age, and overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can also reduce its presence.
Applying a tincture made with a form of HA supports our skin when production slows down.
Wound healing and regeneration
Over half the hyaluronic acid in the body can be found in the skin, and it does more than keep it hydrated. It also functions as an anti-inflammatory, often appearing in higher concentrations at the site of damaged skin. By regulating inflammation and hydrating cells, hyaluronic acid can help wounds heal faster.
If that isn’t impressive enough, hyaluronic acid has been shown to have antibacterial properties too. A comparative study analyzing those properties concluded:
“[Hyularonic acid] in the MW range of 100 kD may prove beneficial in minimizing bacterial contamination of surgical wounds when used in guided tissue regeneration surgery.”
Hyaluronic acid’s moisture retention fills out wrinkles for longer, smoothing out one of the most common signs of aging. Thanks to its ability to hydrate deep into the skin, it could also combat ‘crepey’ skin, says medicine physician Bonnie Gasquet, MD.
Soothing dry eye
Did you know that eye drops contain up to 0.4% hyaluronic acid? It’s such an effective lubricant that it can relieve dryness and promote eye health.
1 in 7 people suffer from dry eye. It’s a result of lower tear production, which is the primary way we keep our eyes hydrated. As a naturally-occurring non–irritating agent, hyaluronic acid can soothe irritation in safe doses.
While we don’t usually associate eye health with skincare, we do associate red, irritated eyes with a tired appearance. Treating dry eye can restore a more youthful appearance at any age, so don’t count it out!
How to approach including hyaluronic acid in your skincare routine
Everyone’s skin is different, and hyaluronic acid is an extremely powerful compound. While it’s generally safe for skincare uses, there are things to keep in mind. The form of hyaluronic acid you use, how often you apply it, and in what concentration all play a major role.
As always, speak to a dermatologist to better understand how your skin may react. More importantly, don’t rush! Taking your time to understand your body’s relationship to HA products will serve your skincare routine well in the long run.
When you’re ready to try it, start with the mildest products and slowly build up to your comfort level. By the time it’s a regular part of your routine, your skin won’t thank you enough!
Convinced yet? Get our encapsulated (liposomal) Hyaluronic Acid cream on Amazon by clicking here.