Hyaluronic acid has become almost a buzzword now - you keep hearing it everywhere. Hyaluronic acid in this, hyaluronic acid in that - everyone praises the powers of this magical compound that always goes hand in hand ! with images of picture-perfect models with their skin lightened and their faces glowing.
It looks alluring and powerful, but what is it? Is hyaluronic acid really that powerful, or are you just being fooled by the power of advertising? Well, we decided to check for ourselves, and this is the result - welcome to our ultimate guide for hyaluronic acid.
As is the case with salicylic acid, the name sounds a bit intimidating. An acid? What kind of acid, and why would anyone be willing to put acid on their face? After all, acids are known to cause burns - so one has to understand people’s reservations.
But you should rest easy. The “acid” part in hyaluronic is actually a misnomer - the ingredient has a neutral pH value and is naturally produced in our bodies. Its main function in the body is to attach itself to water molecules and act as a sort of lubricant. Initially, hyaluronic acid was referred to as “goo”, because it was translucent and slippery. It can be found in the insides of our eyeballs, as well as between our joints, but also in the structure of our skin.
There, hyaluronic acid acts as a glue, connecting the molecules of collagen and water and keeping them together. Collagen, being one of the building blocks of our skin, plays the main role in its elasticity and appearance. By pairing it up with water, hyaluronic acid acts as a powerful natural hydration agent, making your skin not just look fresh, but also feel so to the touch.
All of this makes hyaluronic acid one of the best “natural” moisturizers. The hyaluronic acid your body creates binds itself to the water molecules in your skin, too, giving it an elastic, full, smooth, dewy quality. The average adult person of around 70 kilograms (or 154 lb), is considered to contain around 15 grams of hyaluronic acid in their body. A full third of this amount is getting recycled each day, which sometimes creates the need for external supplementation.
This makes your skin acquire a certain pleasant glow, which is why hyaluronic acid is often used in skin lightening products. And not just that, hyaluronic acid is nowadays the main ingredient in many skin care products. It is found in creams, gels, moisturizers, serums, face washes, and even beauty masks.
Good question, right? Why would we need all those products boasting of their rich contents of hyaluronic acid, when our bodies make it themselves. Well, there’s a catch.
You see, entropy is one of the fundamental properties of nature, and it expresses itself in living organisms through the phenomenon of aging. As we become older, our bodies gradually lose their efficiency and functionality, resulting in losses of collagen and hyaluronic acid too. All of that combined makes our skin become less fresh, less supple, more vulnerable, more wrinkled.
But this doesn’t only affect old people. Harsh weather, be it scorching summers or freezing winters have a deleterious effect on our skin too. We may not be able to see it or notice it, but all that expansion and contraction that our skin goes through due to differences in temperature inflicts microscopic cracks in it. And guess what these cracks do? They either make your water molecules evaporate, or make them freeze and burst, making for that winter redness you see on your skin when you go outside.
Those processes hamper your body’s natural ability to bind water molecules within its skin in order to ensure optimal freshness and elasticity. The collagen becomes destroyed, the hyaluronic acid becomes recycled and can’t keep up with all the damage your skin is going through. The solution?
The powerful moisturizing effects of hyaluronic acid products. The added hyaluronic acid will trap all those loose water molecules floating around, and basically, resurrect your skin.
I hear you asking that question, because in this day and age, who knows, right? There are so many products out there, so many new things coming out. And you’ve learned through experience, the hard way, that not every new, touted, hyped up product is actually good for you. The hype is real, but so are the consequences.
So, should you use hyaluronic acid? Is it safe? And congratulations because the answer is yes, you can use hyaluronic acid regardless of your skin type, because hyaluronic acid is good and safe for all skin types. Hyaluronic acid is one of the few substances popular in the skin care industry that don’t cause any allergies or irritation. Which kind of makes sense when you consider that it is, after all, a substance that our bodies produce naturally, right?
But… Of course, there is a but. Not everyone will see the same benefits from applying hyaluronic acid to their skin. People with dry skin will, logically, see the greatest improvements after using hyaluronic acid. Their skin has seen the most amount of damage, so it makes sense that the effects of the hyaluronic acid product will be the most visible in their case.
Additionally, and as we mentioned above, people who are older, or at least middle-aged, will find hyaluronic acid especially useful. This is because their skin is not as moisturized and elastic as when they were young. As people age, their collagen levels drop, so they could use a boost of hyaluronic acid in order to recapture the water molecules. Applying hyaluronic acid, then, will help aging people and people with dry skin the most, helping them regain that skin freshness and elasticity.
But this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to harness the properties of hyaluronic acid if you don’t fall in either of those two categories. People with normal, or oily skin, or even sensitive and combination skin types will find hyaluronic acid useful. It will impart that additional smoothness and glow that you so desire.
After all, our bodies recycle at least 30% of our hyaluronic acid every day and depending on your diet or lifestyle, the levels can vary. And young people can benefit from it too because the same applies to them. Sometimes you need that additional boost, because why not? Hyaluronic acid is completely natural and harmless. To date, there have been no side effects related to the application of hyaluronic acid - precisely because it’s something our bodies produce naturally.
However, if you are still experiencing side effects after applying a product, you should immediately consult with your doctor or dermatologist. If that happens, however, it’s probably not the hyaluronic acid that’s causing the reaction - if that was the case, your entire body would hurt. But skin care products come packed with dozens of ingredients, so chances are that your skin is reacting to another ingredient found in the product. At any rate, wash the area, and visit your dermatologist, or doctor, to figure out what caused the reaction.
You’ve probably seen the commercials. Sometimes they offer hyaluronic acid in the form of a really good leanser, other times it’s a gel, or a nice cream, or a tincture, a mask, or a serum, and sometimes it’s a large bottle of clear liquid. But hyaluronic acid can also be administered invasively, with the help of a needle under the skin.
As I hope you are probably aware, topical means that something is applied on the surface of the skin. Meaning, you don’t need to eat it, drink it, or stab yourself with it. Nope. You open up the lid, squeeze or pick some of the product with your fingers, and apply over your skin only. Lucky for everyone, this makes the vast majority of products containing hyaluronic acid, which can be bought over the counter.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about which sort of products work best. What should I look for on the label, you ask? Well, there are roughly two kinds of hyaluronic acid that are offered in most skin care products. The so-called “pure” hyaluronic acid or its serum form. And while both are good, that’s not what determines their effectiveness.
Knowing what to look for in a product containing hyaluronic acid can make all the difference. If you have a tool, but don’t use it right, it won’t be effective. One can imagine tons of scenarios where using a hammer goes terribly wrong… So a short buyer’s guide for hyaluronic acid products is a must.
When it comes to how effective hyaluronic acid will be for your skin, it all comes down to the molecular weight of the hyaluronic acid formula. The lighter the weight, the smaller the molecules, and the better - and deeper - they will be able to penetrate your skin and induce some plump, hydrating goodness. However, you shouldn’t merely go for the low molecular weight products, but a combination of various molecular weights.
Why? Because your skin isn’t absolutely identical in all of its areas. Smaller hyaluronic acid molecules work well for some areas of the skin, but other areas have larger microscopic gaps, which is why you will need some heavier molecules too. So, in short, a combination of low and high molecular weight of hyaluronic acid will maximize its effectiveness. This information should be visible on the product’s packaging and composition, so, read up to avoid wasting money. Knowledge is power - I mean, knowledge is fresh, moist, lustrous skin.
Okay, so molecular weight, got it. But is there anything else? Indeed there is. Besides looking to optimize the effects of hyaluronic acid by ensuring that it comes in a variety of molecular masses, you should also be on the lookout for sodium hyaluronate. And you’re probably asking yourself what the heck is that now, but it’s simple.
Sodium hyaluronate is a type of salt that is made of hyaluronic acid. The good thing is that it has the exact same benefits, with the added bonus of it being more easily absorbed. As is the case with hyaluronic acid proper, this offshoot, derivative salt of the acid, called sodium hyaluronate is completely safe to use.
So, if you really want to kick your hyaluronic acid into high gear, make sure the products you’re using contain both hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate. Of course, don’t forget about getting those diverse molecular masses too. Taking all these factors into consideration when shopping for hyaluronic acid products can really be a lifesaver.
Above, I dropped the hint that hyaluronic acid can also be administered invasively. Of course, this just sounds scary, but the truth is far from terrifying. Hyaluronic acid is used in the application of fillers, by way of a syringe or otherwise. As you probably know, getting a filler is a pretty common and safe procedure nowadays, so there is no reason to be worried.
For example, hyaluronic acid is often used in dermal fillers. For this purpose, hyaluronic acid is used in the form of a clear gel. It is injected under the skin, where, once administered, it binds to the water from the surrounding tissue. This helps the surface of the skin and the tissue below it to become smoothened out because hyaluronic acid helps rebuild lost tissue and skin structure. In effect, this tightens up any wrinkled or saggy areas of the skin, making for a younger looking skin.
For your safety, it is best to follow the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines and list of approved hyaluronic acid fillers. At the moment of writing this, the approved hyaluronic acid fillers by the FDA are Belotero, Juverdem, Restylane, Restylane Silk, Restylane Lyft, Restylane Refyne, Restylane Defyne, Vollure, Volbella, and Voluma.
These are not only used for removing tightening up flat areas of skin, though. Other applications of hyaluronic acid fillers include the filling up of marionette lines (those curves that run from the corners of your mouth down along your chin), and the nasolabial folds (the line between the upper corners of your mouth to the outer corners of your nose). Additionally, hyaluronic acid fillers can be used to augment the cheeks, the areas under the eyes, the lips, and even the dorsal areas of your hands.
However, not all fillers are the same. A hyaluronic acid filler intended for the filling of the dorsal area of the hands, for example, will not be the same as the filler for the lips. While the main composition remains the same, i.e. hyaluronic acid, the intended function of each filler makes for important structural differences.
The molecular weight, as well as the ways in which the hyaluronic acid molecules are attached together affect the gel’s density and lift-ability. Some hyaluronic acid fillers are more stiff and weighty, but hold more water. On the other hand, other fillers have a softer, more pliable structure, and are better suited to treat feature present on the surface of the skin.
I can almost feel your reservation. Are these fillers irreversible in the same way as Botox, or other permanent modifications?
Relax because the answer is nope. Hyaluronic acid is natural, but also completely reversible. Sometimes things go wrong, and the filler can block out important blood vessels, compress nerve endings, or it may just look bad. In any case, regardless of the reason, hyaluronic acid fillers can be easily reversed. All your dermatologist needs to do is inject a bit of an enzyme called hyaluronidase in the filler. The hyaluronic acid will quickly react to this enzyme in its midst and can dissolve in minutes.
For better results, however, you should allow anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. But, dermatologists advice caution when deciding to dissolve a hyaluronic acid filler. The enzyme we mentioned above, hyaluronidase, is present in bee venom. This means that it can cause an allergic reaction in people who have bee sting allergies. So, if you’re allergic to bees… You better avoid hyaluronic fillers or just be very forgiving when they go bad.
While there is no hard data to prove the harmfulness of hyaluronic acid fillers for pregnant women, dermatologists avoid the scenario. Simply, since hyaluronic acid is very reactive to water and molds surrounding tissue, it can, at least theoretically, lead to fetal malformations If it reaches the embryo or the fetus. Which is, you have to admit, a likely scenario. It is for this purpose that pregnant women should not be getting hyaluronic acid fillers. Just wait it out, ladies! Once you bring the baby to the world, fill away.
Same goes for people who are struggling with some sort of skin infection, or some other skin condition. The injection of hyaluronic acid, in order to use it as a filler can lead to complications and unforeseen consequences. Besides, it can be completely counterproductive. Why get a fill, if your skin is still beset with acne? The acne will undo any repair the hyaluronic acid filler will do. So, deal with the skin condition first, and use the hyaluronic acid filler later.
Blood thinning agents such as ibuprofen or aspirin can mess up the filler, but also cause excessive swelling, and even bruising and bleeding. So, in case you are taking those medications (for whatever reason, really), it is best that you stop taking them for a while, or delay taking the filler. Interestingly, wine can have much the same effect.
Other substances, like bromelin or arnica, can counter this to an extent, and decrease any swelling and bruising. But it’s always the better choice to just stop drinking wine, or taking aspirin or ibuprofen for at least a week before getting your hyaluronic acid fill. Better be safe than sorry, you know what they say.
Your skin deserves to bask in the many benefits of hyaluronic acid. It is one of the most effective, and at the same time most harmless substances that finds wide use in the skincare industry. That makes the reputation of hyaluronic acid well-earned, despite its competitors. It moisturizes your skin, making it feel younger, softer, and brighter - risk-free.
Being naturally produced, hyaluronic acid is still routinely recycled by our bodies, which can reduce its amounts and effectiveness. That is why supplementing it with a quality hyaluronic acid product can be of great help. It is suitable for all skin types, although it has to be said that people with dry skin, adults, and the elderly will need it the most.
When considering which hyaluronic acid product to purchase, it is important to keep an eye for its molecular weight and check if it contains sodium hyaluronate. Using hyaluronic acid that comes in a variety of molecular weights is the best, since this will maximize the absorption of the product in the skin. The same goes for sodium hyaluronate, providing you with an additional boost.
For the braver souls out there, getting hyaluronic acid fillers is also an option. There is a variety of hyaluronic acid products on the market, and the safest ones are those approved by the FDA. Depending on their intended use, hyaluronic acid fillers come in different structures and compositions and are completely reversible and usually harmless. However, pregnant women, people with a skin condition, or people allergic to bee venom should steer clear. But for everyone else...
Who needs Instagram filters when you have hyaluronic acid?
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.