In today’s article I’m going to talk all about the benefits of hyaluronic acid in skin care products.
I always recommend people to use hyaluronic acid in their moisturizers and other skin care products. It’s a great ingredient and today I’ll talk about why.
I love hyaluronic acid because it is a humectant and what that means is it allows for water to bind to itself. For use in skin care products that’s fantastic because it helps to hold water in the skin.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is something that our body makes. It’s present in various organs throughout our body. It’s present in our joints, it’s present between our muscle fibers and it’s present very abundantly in our skin.
In the skin it allows for skin hydration and holds on to water and it also can help in guiding skin cells to come in in the setting of a wound and so it’s really an important ingredient for wound healing.
Hyaluronic acid is a sugar or carbohydrate that, as I said, our body makes and it’s present in a variety of
of tissues. But the largest concentration of hyaluronic acid in your body is in your skin.
Hyaluronic acid is actually the active ingredient in cosmetic fillers like Restylane and Juvederm. That is what is being injected into your skin if you are somebody who gets filler.
Applying Hyaluronic Acid Topically
But what about applying it topically to the skin?
Applying hyaluronic acid to your skin is great because it’s a humectant, it can hold water onto the top layer of your skin and increase skin hydration.
It’s really good at holding onto water. In fact one gram of hyaluronic acid is estimated to be able to hold up to six liters of water. That’s quite a bit of water holding capacity.
It attracts water very strongly and in doing so hydrates your skin, plumps it up and can make the skin feel moisturized and smoother.
In hydrating the skin and plumping it up, the downstream effect of that is improvement in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
The other nice thing about hyaluronic acid as an ingredient in your skincare products is that it’s non greasy. A lot of moisturizing products can feel greasy and heavy. Hyaluronic acid is not like that. It is not something that it’s comedogenic whatsoever.
It also is something that your immune system could give two wits about because it is so abundant in your skin that putting it on your skin is not something that is going to cause irritation or sensitivity.
It’s very easy to tolerate for all skin types. Literally all skin types should be able to tolerate hyaluronic acid in their products.
Hyaluronic acid was first isolated in the 30s, but since that time it’s gone through clinical trials and even the FDA approval process to be used in cosmetic fillers.
What about topical application of hyaluronic acid? How much science is there to substantiate the use of topical hyaluronic acid in our skincare products?
To be frank there is not a ton of clinical data out there in terms of robust clinical trials looking specifically at hyaluronic acid alone as an ingredient in topical preparations.
But topical hyaluronic acid is an approved treatment for the healing of wounds. There is good data to show that hyaluronic acid helps in healing of a wound.
But in terms of cosmetic benefit, like improving wrinkles, fine lines, honestly speaking, we don’t have a huge body of data to suggest that.
A lot of the studies that we have actually look at hyaluronic acid that is formulated in moisturizers that have other active ingredients in them. So it’s rarely looked at it on its own.
You may be using a product, for example, that is a hyaluronic acid serum and the only thing in there, that’s a moisturizing ingredient, is going to be hyaluronic acid. We don’t have studies looking at that type of product for cosmetic benefit.
There’s one study that was done looking at people on Accutane or isotretinoin. One of the main side effects of that medication is extreme dryness and irritation of the skin.
There was a small study and it looked at using a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid in people on Accutane versus a placebo moisturizer with no hyaluronic acid.
At the end of the study, the people using the moisturizer that had hyaluronic acid in it had improvement in skin dryness, they have less acne and they also had a decrease of what’s called transepidermal water loss from the skin, in comparison to that placebo moisturizer.
This suggests that moisturizers with hyaluronic acid as an ingredient are a good choice for people on Accutane or isotretinoin.
That suggests benefit to this ingredient in your skincare products.
But outside that, we don’t really have much to point us in the direction of saying that hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that you must have.
But we really like because it’s a great skin hydrator and that it’s easy to tolerate by all skin types.
When you use a product though that has hyaluronic acid in it, do you know that the results that you see – the improvement in hydration, the water binding capacity, the improvement in wrinkles and fine lines that you might see through plumping up of the skin – that’s only going to be as long as you are using a product with hyaluronic acid.
This is something that has to be built into your skincare routine and maintained. It’s not something that you can do a few nights a week, it’s something that has to be done on a consistent basis, like at your nighttime skincare routine to really have ongoing and sustained benefit.
How to Use Hyaluronic Acid
How do you use hyaluronic acid and what products to use?
There is a very good chance for using it. Most moisturizers on the market have hyaluronic acid. If you look at the ingredient list, it’ll either be labeled hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate or potassium hyaluronate. These are just the salts of hyaluronic acid. It does the same thing.
It is in many moisturizers and moisturizing sunscreens. But you’ll also see it in serums and sprays and a variety of other things.
I’ll get into a few caveats of using hyaluronic acid that you should know about.
Incorrect Use of Hyaluronic Acid
The first is whether it be a hyaluronic acid in a moisturizing cream or whether it be using a true hyaluronic acid, the way to use it is after you cleanse your skin, while the skin is still damp. That’s when you want to apply it because hyaluronic acid wants to bind up all that water and hold it there and get the water to hang out in your skin and not evaporate out.
The next point is if you are using a moisturizing cream that has hyaluronic acid in it, you’re done, just let it dry and you go on your way.
But if you’re using a product like a serum that is just largely hyaluronic acid and it’s really runny and liquidy, or a spray, then what will happen is that while the hyaluronic acid will bind up all that water like a sponge, but if you don’t have the other ingredients of a moisturizer that make a seal there, that water will just evaporate right out of your skin.
It actually can pull more water out of your skin and when that happens you can get more dryness. So it takes you several steps back in your journey to improving skin hydration.
If you don’t use an occlusive ingredient on top of that hyaluronic acid, it’s just gonna evaporate right out and pull more water out of your skin.
That’s a really important part of using hyaluronic acid.
One way you can screw up using hyaluronic acid is using sprays. The sprays are really just water and hyaluronic acid. You spritz it on your face, maybe throughout the day, but if all you do is spritz that on your face then that water in the spray and whatever water is on your face, very quickly will start to evaporate off of your skin.
If you’re using a spray like that, you got to follow it up with a heavier moisturizer on top.
That’s one way to fail with a hyaluronic acid product – you don’t seal it in and you can get more dryness and irritation.
The other way to fail with a hyaluronic acid product is if you use it alongside irritating ingredients. You may think it’s the hyaluronic acid causing the irritation, but it could be some of the other ingredients in the product.
In fact it’s probably more likely that it’s another ingredient in your product rather than hyaluronic acid.
For example, say you’re using a spray or serum with hyaluronic acid. You put it on your face, you don’t seal it in with an occlusive, you allow it to evaporate, which pulls more water out and increases dryness, if that particular product has an irritating ingredient, like fragrance or an essential oil, that irritating ingredient, as the water is evaporating out, that irritating ingredient can get sucked back into your skin.
You have increased penetration of that irritating ingredient, so you have more irritation.
That is another way you can have issue with hyaluronic acid in your products.
If you live in a drier climate and you don’t use an occlusive over hyaluronic acid, the rate at which that water evaporates is even faster than if you live somewhere where it’s very humid.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.