- Hyaluronic acid is naturally produced by the body, and is an essential component in lubricating the skin, eyes, joints, connective tissue and organs.
- Hyaluronic acid supplements increase the moisture content in skin cells, improving skin hydration and elasticity.
- Generally, hyaluronic acid is safe; however, it can possibly trigger side effects for those with certain pre-existing health conditions.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a is a lubricating substance produced by the human body. It provides a number of skin care benefits including encouraging moisture retention in the skin, improving elasticity and reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
HA supplements ensure the body’s tissues are adequately hydrated and can support the proper functioning of a number of vital systems in the body. These include the immune system, the wound healing process, and the health of the eyes and joints.
Since HA occurs naturally in the human body, HA supplements carry virtually no risk of causing adverse reactions or negative side effects in healthy individuals. As such, HA supplementation can be a safe and effective option for those looking to improve the overall look and feel of their skin.
What Is Hyaluronic Acid and Why Take It as a Supplement?
HA plays an important role in wound healing and the body’s inflammatory response; it contributes to the health and proper functioning of the skin, eyes, connective tissues and vital organs. It is also an important component of cartilage, and helps to cushion and lubricate joints.
HA has a strong hydrating potential due to its capacity to attract water particles. HA molecules have been found to bind with up to 1,000 times their own weight in water molecules. This is due to the strong negative ionic charge of HA molecules, as well as their high molecular weight.
As a natural part of aging, the body’s HA production levels decrease, which results in the skin becoming drier, looser and thinner. To counteract these negative effects, HA supplements’ powerful hydrating effects can restore moisture and suppleness to the skin.
Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid Supplements for the Skin
Daily HA supplementation can contribute significantly to the skin’s ability to retain moisture, leading to an improvement in appearance, functioning and health. As the skin serves to protect the body from external threats, maintaining healthy, hydrated skin is vital to overall health.
HA’s unique hydrating properties contribute to the firmness, resilience and elasticity of the skin, and can restore a more youthful complexion by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Furthermore, the antioxidant properties of HA supplements can help prevent signs of aging caused by damage from sun exposure and free radicals.
Does it really work?
When taken orally, HA combats the dryness that results from aging, sun damage, smoking and exposure to free radical air pollutants, contributing to overall skin health .
A recent study demonstrated that oral HA supplements can significantly restore moisture to the skin and improve the appearance of skin in as little as 12 weeks. HA supplements have also been found to effectively reduce the visibility of wrinkles after eight weeks.
Supplements vs. topicals
Topical application of HA formulations effectively restores moisture to targeted areas of skin. Most topical formulations have a soothing effect due to HA’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As such, topical application of HA is well suited for addressing isolated areas of dry, red, irritated or inflamed skin, and suitable as part of an anti-aging skin care routine.
When ingested, HA hydrates the skin across the entire body. In this manner, HA supplementation may be more practical for those with thin, dry or aging skin all over their body.
Whether you choose topical HA or supplements, it is important to remain consistent with your routine for optimal results. And, as it is a naturally occurring substance in the body, HA is known to cause very few side effects by either method.
Other Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
In addition to hydrating the skin, HA supplementation offers a number of other key benefits; it plays a vital role in supporting tissue regeneration, and the health and smooth functioning of joints and ocular tissues.
Tissue regeneration and wound healing
HA activates specific responses in skin cells that are key to the tissue regeneration process. HA supplementation can help expedite wound healing and cell turnover in areas of damaged skin and will reduce the likelihood of infection or scarring.
Joint health and osteoarthritis
HA administered orally has been shown to reduce the pain and discomfort related to osteoarthritis, such as joint pain and in particular, knee pain. This is due to its lubricating and anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to prevent cartilage deterioration.
Lubricates the eyes
HA supplements provide a number of eye health benefits as well. Eye drops containing an HA solution were found to significantly improve the condition of the eye’s surface environment and relieve the discomfort associated with a condition called dry eye syndrome.
HA supplements also help stabilize, heal and protect the eye. The same hydrating properties that contribute to moisturizing the skin also ensure the health, proper functioning and regenerative capacity of the ocular tissues. Furthermore, HA is an integral component of the tear film, the mucosal membrane that protects the surface of the eye from environmental irritants and pollutants.
Are Hyaluronic Acid Supplements Safe?
HA supplements are generally very safe, with few reported side effects. As a natural component of the body, it very rarely triggers allergic reactions.
Several studies have been conducted on long- and short-term effects of HA supplementation, yielding encouraging results. One study found no changes in the metabolism, inflammatory responses or microbiomes of any patients after a month of supplementation. Another recent study conducted over the course of a full year also found that oral HA supplements caused no negative side effects.
Those with liver conditions should avoid taking HA supplements. The liver plays a role in the metabolism of HA and an abnormally high quantity of naturally produced HA in the body can serve as an important indicator of the liver’s deterioration. As such, HA supplements can interfere with the diagnosis and prognosis of liver diseases.
Those with cancer should also avoid HA supplementation, as HA has been found to play a role in the growth and proliferation of cancer cells.
The effects of HA supplementation during pregnancy and while breastfeeding have not been researched in depth. For this reason, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid taking HA supplements.
How to Use Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
HA is a safe supplement that should be taken daily for ideal results. One 12-week study found improvements in skin moisture and firmness with a daily dose of only120 mg. Dosages of up to 240 mg daily should be safe for most and produce positive results in as little as eight weeks.
HA can also be found in food and topical skin care products. The HA in food products is absorbed through the digestive system in much the same way as HA supplements are, while HA topicals are absorbed directly into the skin.
Hyaluronic acid creams, serums and other skin care products
HA topicals have been proven effective in improving skin elasticity and decreasing wrinkles. HA topicals are available in many formulations; ensure you select one appropriate for your skin type.
An HA topical will work best if it contains:
- at least 0.1% HA
- a low molecular weight; lower molecular weights (50 and 130 kDa) are more easily absorbed by the skin
It is also possible to layer topical HA products (cleansers, serums, moisturizers and creams). For even better results, pair topical products with an HA supplement to provide your skin with a stronger anti-aging defense.
Hyaluronic acid-rich foods
A number of foods serve as natural sources of HA. Some also contain nutrients that are integral to the body’s HA production process, such as vitamin C, magnesium and estrogen.
Sources of hyaluronic acid:
- Bone broth
- Organ meats
- Sweet potatoes
Sources of vitamin C:
- Citrus fruits
Sources of magnesium:
Sources of estrogen:
- Soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk)
- Red wine
Similar active ingredients
Topically applied ceramides reinforce the skin’s barrier function, encouraging moisture retention and protecting the skin from environmental pollutants.
Other supplements that can contribute to the overall lubrication of skin and joints include vitamins D and E, and fish oil.
The body’s HA production level slowly decreases with age, and over time leads to dry, loose skin and a dull complexion. HA supplementation can help counteract these effects by restoring moisture to the skin, reducing laxity, smoothing texture and allowing for more, youthful complexion.
Supplements can be best utilized for uniformly increasing moisture levels across the body, while topical HA can be beneficial for addressing isolated patches of dry, rough or reddened skin. As part of a daily skin care routine, HA’s powerful hydrating properties can improve skin hydration and elasticity.
While HA supplementation is generally safe, people with certain pre-existing health conditions run the risk of experiencing side effects. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who have been diagnosed with cancer or liver diseases, should consult with their healthcare provider before taking HA supplements.
- John, H. E., & Price, R. D. (2009). Perspectives in the selection of hyaluronic acid fillers for facial wrinkles and aging skin. Patient preference and adherence, 3, 225–230. doi:10.2147/ppa.s3183
- Walker K, Basehore BM, Zito PM. Hyaluronic Acid. [Updated 2019 Oct 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482440/
- Zhu, Zhu & Wang, Yin-Min & Yang, Jun & Luo, Xu-Song. (2017). Hyaluronic acid: a versatile biomaterial in tissue engineering. Plastic and Aesthetic Research. 4. 219. doi:10.20517/2347-9264.2017.71
- Litwiniuk, M.; Krejner, A.; Grzela, T. (2016) Hyaluronic Acid in Inflammation and Tissue Regeneration. woundsresearch.com/article/hyaluronic-acid-inflammation-and-tissue-regeneration
- Aya, K.L. and Stern, R. (2014), Hyaluronan in wound healing. Wound Repair Regen, 22: 579-593. doi:10.1111/wrr.12214
- Bowman, S., Awad, M. E., Hamrick, M. W., Hunter, M., & Fulzele, S. (2018). Recent advances in hyaluronic acid based therapy for osteoarthritis. Clinical and translational medicine, 7(1), 6. doi:10.1186/s40169-017-0180-3
- Iester M, Orsoni GJ, Gamba G, Taffara M, Mangiafico P, Giuffrida S, Rolando M. Improvement of the ocular surface using hypotonic 0.4% hyaluronic acid drops in keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Eye (Lond). 2000 Dec;14(Pt 6):892-8. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11584850
- Bellar A, Kessler SP, Obery DR, Sangwan N, Welch N, Nagy LE, Dasarathy S, de la Motte C. Safety of Hyaluronan 35 in Healthy Human Subjects: A Pilot Study. Nutrients. 2019 May 22;11(5). pii: E1135. doi:10.3390/nu11051135
- Gudowska, M., Gruszewska, E., Panasiuk, A., Cylwik, B., Flisiak, R., Świderska, M., … Chrostek, L. (2016). Hyaluronic acid concentration in liver diseases. Clinical and experimental medicine, 16(4), 523–528. doi:10.1007/s10238-015-0388-8
- Yahya RS, El-Bindary AA, El-Mezayen HA, Abdelmasseh HM, Eissa MA. Biochemical evaluation of hyaluronic acid in breast cancer. Clin Lab. 2014;60(7):1115-21. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25134379
- Kawada, C., Yoshida, T., Yoshida, H., Matsuoka, R., Sakamoto, W., Odanaka, W., … Urushibata, O. (2014). Ingested hyaluronan moisturizes dry skin. Nutrition journal, 13, 70. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-70
- Oe, M., Sakai, S., Yoshida, H., Okado, N., Kaneda, H., Masuda, Y., & Urushibata, O. (2017). Oral hyaluronan relieves wrinkles: a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study over a 12-week period. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 267–273. doi:10.2147/CCID.S141845
- Pavicic, T., Gagulitz, GG., Lersch, P., Schwach-Abdellaoui, K., Malle, B., Korting, HC., Farwick, M. (2011) Efficacy of cream-based novel formulations of hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights in anti-wrinkle treatment. J Drugs Dermatol, 10(9), 990-1000. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22052267
- Tashiro, T., Seino, S., Sato, T., Matsuoka, R., Masuda, Y., & Fukui, N. (). Oral administration of polymer hyaluronic acid alleviates symptoms of knee osteoarthritis: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study over a 12-month period. TheScientificWorldJournal, 2012, 167928. doi:10.1100/2012/167928