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Hyaluronic Acid: Everything You Need to Know

           Hyaluronic Acid: Everything You Need to Know

Hyaluronic Acid: Everything You Need to Know

Hyaluronic Acid benefits skin on both a surface and deep level, so Hyaluronic Acid creams and serums may be an effective way to shake up your skincare routine and pack in some serious skin hydration punches.

What is Hyaluronic Acid?

When talking about skincare ingredients, we have to get a little scientific on you, but Hyaluronic Acid is one skincare ingredient that you’ll want to geek out on. “Acid” may sound a little scary, but Hyaluronic Acid is a good kind of acid.

Hyaluronic Acid is found naturally in the body with the highest volume found in the skin and the highest concentrations found in the eyes and joints. [1] Since it’s a natural role in joint health, many people take Hyaluronic Acid supplements for various joint disorders. But Hyaluronic Acid benefits aren’t limited to the eyes and joints—Hyaluronic Acid is extremely hydrating, making it one of the best skincare ingredients for moisturizing.

So, scientifically speaking, what is Hyaluronic Acid? In short, Hyaluronic Acid is a thick, gooey substance. It’s clear as water but has a gel-like consistency. The high viscosity of Hyaluronic Acid makes it great for keeping tissues lubricated and moist.

While this doesn’t sound like an attractive substance (who wants to rub slime on his or her face?), Hyaluronic Acid is a powerful substance that, when harnessed in skincare products, affects the way skin responds to injury, dehydration, and other unfavorable skin issues.

Wondering why so many skincare products are packed with Hyaluronic Acid if it occurs naturally in our bodies? The truth is that we produce Hyaluronic Acid in small amounts, and this amount decreases even more with age. Hyaluronic Acid is also synthesized and used daily by the body, so to keep Hyaluronic Acid levels up in your skin, be sure to use Hyaluronic Acid products regularly.

How to Spot Hyaluronic Acid on Ingredient Labels

If there’s one thing that makes us question our IQ, it’s cosmetic ingredients labels. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of ingredient names, the industry confuses us further with scientific, chemical-sounding names that we can’t pronounce.

You may have better luck spotting Hyaluronic Acid on serums and creams since cosmetic companies are proud of this ingredient and want to advertise it in their products.

However, Hyaluronic Acid and the various forms of it also go by a few other names:

  • Sodium Hyaluronate
  • Hyaluronan
  • Glycosaminoglycan

You may also see Hyaluronic Acid written in other languages:

  • French: Acide Hyaluronique
  • Spanish: Ácido Hialurónico

Where Does Hyaluronic Acid Come From?

Hyaluronic Acid

Since Hyaluronic Acid is naturally found in human tissues, especially in the eyes and joints, you may be wondering how this ingredient is harnessed in skincare. There are two main sources of Hyaluronic Acid: plant origins and animal origins.

Plant-based Hyaluronic Acid is extracted from microbial fermentation. [2] This fancy way of saying that a bacterial strain naturally contains Hyaluronic Acid is then fermented to yield the desired molecular weights ideal for skincare purposes.

Some plant-based Hyaluronic Acid may contain wheat. Although this is less common, it’s important to double-check if you’re sensitive to wheat products.

Animal-based Hyaluronic Acid utilizes the combs of roosters—this is the red flesh at the top of a rooster’s head. Like humans, other animals also produce Hyaluronic Acid in their bodies, and the rooster’s comb is considered one of the best animal sources.

How to know if your Hyaluronic Acid creams are plant-based or animal-based? Rest assured, animal lovers, microbial fermentation is the most common way to source Hyaluronic Acid. Not only is it more cost-effective for manufacturers, and therefore consumers, but it’s also more eco-friendly since it produces less environmental pollution. [2]

The most natural, organic, and vegan skincare lines utilize plant-based Hyaluronic Acid in their formulations, but animal-based Hyaluronic Acid is still commonly used in Hyaluronic Acid supplements and injections. If you’re vegan or concerned about the ethics of Hyaluronic Acid that comes from the rooster’s comb, double-check with the manufacturer of the product.

Hyaluronic Acid Cosmetic Functions

Hyaluronic Acid

In cosmetics, Hyaluronic Acid has three main functions:

  1. Hydrate and Moisturize Skin

Hyaluronic Acid mainly functions as a humectant, a water-attracting substance that delivers water to the skin’s surface. Hyaluronic Acid doesn’t create water, but rather pulls water either from the atmosphere or from deep within the skin to hydrate the outermost layer of skin. The moisture-binding properties of Hyaluronic Acid and its ability to retain water make it a go-to ingredient in highly moisturizing skincare products.

    2. Anti-Aging Properties

Its intense hydration capabilities also make Hyaluronic Acid a key anti-aging agent. This is because dewy and plump skin appears to have fewer fine lines and wrinkles, creating the effect of more youthful-looking skin.

    3. Heal Skin Injuries

Hyaluronic Acid is a popular medicinal treatment or remedy for people with eye and joint injuries because of its proven ability to heal wounds. Skin is no exception. Hyaluronic Acid plays a key role in tissue regeneration, specifically in repairing skin. [3] This can come in handy if you have injured skin affected by scarring, inflammation, burns, lesions, and other wounds. [4]

Hyaluronic Acid Safety Profile

The Good Face Project gives Hyaluronic Acid an A safety rating.

This is due to the natural presence of Hyaluronic Acid in human bodies, the low environmental impact, and the low toxicity rating as indicated by scientific studies. [5] [6]

Many studies have been conducted on the toxicology and efficacy of Hyaluronic Acid derivatives and have determined that Hyaluronic Acid does not cause cancer, skin sensitivity, or other significant adverse reactions. [7] [8]

Our stance on cosmetic safety is that a product is only as safe as its most toxic ingredient. Although Hyaluronic Acid gets an A safety rating from our Good Face Index database, always check your cosmetics—even your Hyaluronic Acid creams—for potentially toxic ingredients.

7 Hyaluronic Acid Benefits

Hyaluronic Acid benefits skin in many ways—as a moisturizer, strengthener, and defense against aging.

The top 7 ways that Hyaluronic Acid benefits skin include:

Hyaluronic Acid as a Moisturizer

  1. Attracts and Holds Moisture

Some experts say that Hyaluronic Acid has the ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. This is a feat that even some of the best hydration can’t accomplish. Hyaluronic Acid can do this in two ways:

First, when moisture is available in the atmosphere, such as when humidity is present, Hyaluronic Acid latches on to those water molecules and delivers them to the skin’s outermost layer.

Second, if moisture isn’t available externally, Hyaluronic Acid attracts water from deeper layers within the skin. Think of Hyaluronic Acid like a magnet pulling water from down below. It then redirects this source of hydration where it’s needed.

Good Face Tip: Regardless of where Hyaluronic Acid pulls water, that water is at risk of evaporation. This can lead to dehydration (the opposite of what you want), so be sure to seal in your Hyaluronic Acid serum with a moisturizer rich in emollients.

   2. Prevents breakouts

Part of Hyaluronic Acids benefits as a moisturizer is its ability to regulate the moisture balance in the skin. [1] It’s simple—take some water where it is too much and redirect it to where it is too little.

This can help balance the amount of the oil in the skin as well by treating dehydrated skin. When skin is dehydrated, it may become overly oily to compensate for the lack of moisture. This can lead to breakouts. By treating dehydrated skin and excessive oiliness, the moisture levels in the skin become balanced and adult acne is prevented.

Hyaluronic Acid Makes Skin Stronger

   3. Speeds Wound Healing

One of Hyaluronic Acid’s greatest benefits is its ability to heal and repair wounds, including the skin. Because of its involvement in body and skin tissue, Hyaluronic Acid levels increase where wounds are present. [9] More than half of the body’s Hyaluronic Acid levels are in the skin, so when the skin is inflamed or wounded, Hyaluronic Acid benefits the rate at which the wound heals.

Hyaluronic Acid present during wound healing is also believed to aid in the synthesis of various types of collagen. [9] This is because collagen is also present during skin repair. When your skin is in trouble, both Hyaluronic Acid and collagen found naturally within your body come to the rescue. However, both these substances diminish exponentially with age, which is why it’s important to supplement with a Hyaluronic Acid cream or serum.

   4. Defends Against Free Radicals

New research shows that Hyaluronic Acid benefits include antioxidant properties, which means that this substance defends against oxidative stress. [10] [11] Since Hyaluronic Acid assists in healing wounds and soothing inflammation, this is no surprise. However, more research is needed to expound upon the antioxidant properties of Hyaluronic Acid when applied topically.

  5. Enhances Natural Barriers

The skin’s barriers are integral to the skin’s overall health and protection. Since skin is our body’s first line of defense, we depend on it every day to protect our organs from external contaminants and pollutants. However, when skin is unhealthy, skin’s barriers are compromised, inhibiting the body from defending itself from environmental aggressors.

Skin barriers are further inhibited by unsafe and harmful skincare ingredients and products. Fortunately, Hyaluronic Acid isn’t one of them. In fact, Hyaluronic Acid supports the natural barriers by keeping the skin’s moisture balance and defending against the free radical activity. [12]

Hyaluronic Acid Promotes Anti-Aging

 6. Fine lines and wrinkles

The anti-aging properties of Hyaluronic Acid have long been studied, and its role in combating the signs of aging has been confirmed. When applied topically, Hyaluronic Acid can decrease the depth of wrinkles by up to 40% and increase skin firmness and elasticity by up to 50%. [13]

Hyaluronic Acid in skincare products doesn’t penetrate the dermis. Instead, these molecules stay in the epidermis. This works out for aging skin because there’s significantly more Hyaluronic Acid naturally available in the dermis than in the epidermis, meaning that Hyaluronic Acid is needed in the epidermis. [1] Because existing Hyaluronic Acid in the skin is rapidly degraded, external Hyaluronic Acid is needed to fill in fine lines and wrinkles.

UV radiation and sun damage are huge concerns when it comes to skin aging. In fact, research suggests that up to 80% of skin aging is related to the damages of UV radiation. [1] Since this is a form of skin wound, and Hyaluronic Acid plays a huge role in skin repair, this substance can improve photoaging and sun damage. [1]

 7. Skin tone and Pigmentation

In addition to decreasing fine lines and wrinkles and increasing skin firmness, Hyaluronic Acid helps skin tone appear more uniform and reduces the appearance of pigmentation. [13] Hyaluronic Acid smooths out roughness for even skin topography and improved skin structure. With the help of Hyaluronic Acid creams and serums, the overall texture of skin is noticeably more even in tone and color.

Combining Hyaluronic Acid With Other Skin Care Ingredients

To maximize the Hyaluronic Acid benefits that are possible in skincare, try to use skincare products that combine this hydrator with complementary ingredients. This also means steering clear of ingredient combinations that counteract each other.

Good Face Combos:

  • Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol work together to renew skin (hello, anti-aging!) and provide a powerful punch of hydration
  • Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides is an example of a perfect skincare ingredient combination—Ceramides seal in the water molecules that Hyaluronic Acid attracts, so no moisture is lost

What about “Bad Face Combos” with Hyaluronic Acid?

Contrary to its powerful abilities, Hyaluronic Acid is actually a mild ingredient. Its main job is to lubricate tissues, and it’s proven to be a very safe ingredient. Because of its simplicity and safety, Hyaluronic Acid doesn’t have any skincare ingredients, enemies.

However, beware of Hyaluronic Acid products containing ingredients that are generally toxic or harmful (i.e. parabens, certain preservatives, PEGs, silicones, hormone disruptors, etc.).

The Bottom Line

Hyaluronic Acid benefits aren’t limited to hydration. Yes, this water-grabbing substance is highly known for its ability to hydrate even the most stubbornly dry skin, but Hyaluronic Acid is also a key agent in repairing skin and improving skin texture.

It’s also important to remember that Hyaluronic Acid can have a potentially dehydrating effect. Since Hyaluronic Acid is at risk of evaporation, always seal it in with a product containing sealing ingredients, such as ceramides and emollients.