- Hyaluronic acid is naturally produced by the body and is an essential component in skin hydration.
- Widely used in skin care products for its unique capacity to retain water, hyaluronic acid has been shown to improve the appearance of dry and aging skin.
- It can also be found in dermal fillers as well as oral supplements.
In our bodies, the largest amount of (HA) is concentrated in the skin, where it attracts water to help retain and maintain moisture. While we are born with ample amounts of HA molecules, this level gradually decreases as we age.
Skin care products containing HA are designed to compensate for that loss. These products hydrate the skin, reducing wrinkle depth and diminishing fine lines, improve elasticity and increase skin firmness.
What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
HA is a carbohydrate sugar molecule that is naturally produced by the body.
What makes HA so effective at hydrating is its high molecular weight. This notable property means it can retain large amounts of water: approximately one thousand times its weight. It helps give structure to the skin, repairs tissue and lubricates joints.
This strong water-binding feature is what makes HA such a popular skin care ingredient.
What Can Hyaluronic Acid Do for Your Skin?
A study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that a topical application of 0.1% HA can significantly improve skin hydration and elasticity.
HA works by attracting and locking in moisture to restore the outermost layer of skin’s surface. What makes it so effective at hydrating skin is its unique molecular weight and water-binding potential.
As we age, HA production decreases and causes skin to become dry and wrinkled over time.
Reintroducing HA topically is an effective solution to combat the appearance of fine lines and deep wrinkles. The high water content of HA contributes to firmness, resilience and elasticity of youthful skin, due to its hydrating power.
HA also possesses antioxidant properties that can protect skin from environmental elements such as sun exposure, harsh chemicals and free radicals, which are some of the culprits of sagging and wrinkles.
Hyaluronic Acid Skin Care Products
Topical HA skin care products are available in many forms, including serums, moisturizers and creams. It is also found in some makeup.
Look for topical products containing HA with a low molecular weight. Nano-sized HA is able to penetrate the skin more effectively and skin’s ability to absorb this ingredient is key to enhancing skin moisture and elasticity, as well as decreasing the depth of wrinkles.
For best results, select a product that contains at least 1% HA.
While HA is effective for all skin types, for best results, select a product that is designed for your skin type and skin care routine.
|Water-based hyaluronic acid serum||Oily skin||Penetrates deep beneath the surface of skin; will not clog pores||Lightweight with a highly concentrated formula|
|Oil-based hyaluronic acid serum||Normal/dry skin||Penetrates deep beneath the surface of skin; can be paired with a moisturizer||Lightweight with a highly concentrated formula|
|Hyaluronic acid creams||Normal/dry skin||Creates a physical barrier that seals the skin and locks in moisture; can be used with a serum||Rich and heavy with higher oil content|
|Non-comedogenic hyaluronic acid moisturizers||All skin types||Hydrates skin by locking in moisture rather than penetrating the skin; will not block pores; can be used with a serum||Heavier than serum but lighter than cream formula|
Interaction with vitamin C
Vitamin C has been proven to have an anti-aging effect when used in concentrations between 5 and 15%. As such, it is often paired with HA products. Due to its small molecular weight, vitamin C is an incredible antioxidant that can effectively penetrate the skin. Look for a product that combines vitamin C serum with HA.
Additional ingredients that pair well in HA skin care products are other antioxidants (vitamin A and E), peptides (amino acids), ceramides (protect the skin and help retain moisture) and niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3).
Safety and side effects
Because HA is a natural component of the skin, allergic reactions or irritation are extremely rare. However, if you have sensitive skin, choose products that are fragrance-free, as this is most often the cause of skin care product-related reactions.
When trying any product, a patch test in a discreet area is recommended prior to applying on the face.
How Should I Use Hyaluronic Acid in My Skin Care Routine?
Apply your preferred HA skin care product(s) twice daily, morning and night, after cleansing and/or toning.
- As HA works by retaining moisture, these products should be applied to damp skin.
- For oily/combination skin, use an oil-free, water-based serum to avoid clogging pores.
- For normal/dry skin, choose a water or oil-based serum.
- For those with normal/dry skin, allow the serum to penetrate and be absorbed by the skin; once dry, consider applying a HA cream to further lock-in moisture.
Other Hyaluronic Acid Uses and Benefits
HA is naturally produced by the body and is an essential component in lubricating the skin, but also the eyes, joints, connective tissue, and organs. The benefits of HA therefore extend beyond topical skin care applications to include dermal fillers, supplements and noncosmetic uses.
HA fillers offer dramatic and instantaneous results. Unlike hyaluronic creams and serums which can’t restore lost volume, these fillers can reduce skin depressions caused by scars, injury or deep wrinkles. The results are not permanent, but they can last anywhere from 6 to 18 months.
Safety and side effects
Side effects can include redness, swelling, itching and pain at the injection site.
A recent study published in Nutrition Journal demonstrated that oral HA supplements significantly moisturize the skin and relieve signs of aging in as little as 12 weeks.
When taken orally, HA combats the dryness that results from aging, sun exposure, smoking, and free radical air pollutants. This ultimately improves skin health overall.
HA administered orally has been proven to reduce pain and discomfort related to osteoarthritis, joint pain and in particular, knee pain.
Safety and side effects
The abovementioned clinical trial demonstrated that 240 mg of HA daily is safe to ingest and produces positive results.
In addition to hydrating the skin, HA plays a key role in the following noncosmetic uses:
- Instrumental in the tissue regeneration process and can help expedite wound healing.
- Hydrates joints to relieve osteo-related pain.
- Naturally lubricates the eyes and is therefore a principal ingredient in dry eye medication.
- Protects bone density.
Aging skin requires special treatment. Not only does HA production decrease, but collagen and elastic tissue is lost, resulting in dry, sagging, wrinkled skin.
Introduce HA to your skin care regime to defend against the natural signs of aging and combat dry and rough-looking skin. Include an HA supplement as another line of treatment to help improve skin’s overall moisture.
To reap the most benefits, apply a topical product containing at least 1% HA twice daily. As HA is available in many forms, choose a product that works best with your skin type.
If seeking more immediate and pronounced results, HA fillers are a viable but temporary option.
- Ganceviciene, R., Liakou, A. I., Theodoridis, A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012). Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 308–319. doi:10.4161/derm.22804
- 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., Tashiro, T., Yoshida, H., Nishiyama, H., Masuda, Y., Maruyama, K., … Fukui, N. (2016). Oral hyaluronan relieves knee pain: a review. Nutrition journal, 15, 11. doi:10.1186/s12937-016-0128-2
- Papakonstantinou, E., Roth, M., & Karakiulakis, G. (2012). Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 253–258. doi:10.4161/derm.21923
- 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