In the world of skincare, there are countless ingredients and products promising youthful, radiant skin. Two buzzworthy compounds that often leave people puzzled are hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid. They sound remarkably similar, and they’re both celebrated for their skin-loving properties. But are they really the same thing?
In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of skincare science and explore the key differences between hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid.
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Hyaluronan and Hyaluronic Acid: A Quick Overview
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s start with the basics.
Hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid are both naturally occurring substances found in your body. They belong to a family of compounds known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which play a crucial role in maintaining skin health, among other functions.
Hyaluronic acid is a molecule composed of sugar chains and is commonly found in various skincare products. It’s known for its remarkable ability to attract and hold moisture, making it a superstar hydrating ingredient. When applied topically, hyaluronic acid can help plump up your skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and provide a dewy, youthful glow.
On the other hand, hyaluronan is essentially the same thing as hyaluronic acid but with a slightly different name. They are often used interchangeably, which can be confusing. However, there’s a nuanced difference: hyaluronan is the natural, unaltered form of this molecule that exists in our bodies, whereas hyaluronic acid is the synthetic or chemically modified version used in skincare products.
The Key Differences
One of the fundamental distinctions between hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid is their molecular size. Hyaluronan, the natural form, has a larger molecular size, while hyaluronic acid, the synthetic form, typically has a smaller molecular size.
Why does this matter? Well, the size of the molecule affects its ability to penetrate the skin. Hyaluronan, being larger, doesn’t penetrate the skin’s surface as deeply as hyaluronic acid. Instead, it sits on the outermost layer, forming a hydrating barrier, which is perfect for locking in moisture and keeping your skin plump and supple.
On the other hand, hyaluronic acid, with its smaller size, can penetrate deeper into the skin, potentially delivering more noticeable results in terms of moisture retention and wrinkle reduction.
Concentration and Potency
Another crucial aspect to consider is the concentration and potency of these compounds in skincare products. Hyaluronan, as the natural form, is typically found in lower concentrations in skincare products. It may not deliver the same immediate, intensive hydration that you might expect from hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid, being a synthetic form, can be formulated at higher concentrations, making it a powerful weapon in the fight against dryness and aging. This is why you’ll often find hyaluronic acid serums and creams that boast impressive hydrating abilities.
While both hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid can be derived from various sources, there’s a notable difference in their origins. Hyaluronan is naturally produced in the body, primarily in the connective tissues, joints, and skin. In contrast, hyaluronic acid used in skincare products is typically synthesized through a fermentation process, involving bacteria and yeast.
This synthetic production allows for more control over the quality and consistency of hyaluronic acid in skincare products. However, some people prefer naturally sourced ingredients like hyaluronan for their potential compatibility with the body’s own processes.
Compatibility and Sensitivity
Skincare is a highly individualized journey, and what works wonders for one person might not be suitable for another. When it comes to hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid, some individuals with sensitive skin may find one more compatible than the other.
Hyaluronan, being a natural component of our skin, is generally well-tolerated by most people. It’s less likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions, making it a safer bet for those with sensitive skin.
Hyaluronic acid, while generally safe for most skin types, can occasionally lead to dryness or irritation, particularly if used in high concentrations. If you have sensitive skin, it’s essential to choose products with lower concentrations of hyaluronic acid or patch-test them before applying them all over your face.
Choosing the Right Ingredient for You
Now that you understand the key differences between hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid, how do you choose the right one for your skincare routine? Here are some tips to help you decide:
- Skin Type: Consider your skin type and any specific concerns you want to address. If you have sensitive or easily irritated skin, hyaluronan might be a safer option. If you’re looking for intense hydration and anti-aging benefits, hyaluronic acid could be your go-to.
- Product Form: Pay attention to the type of product you’re using. Hyaluronan is often found in moisturizers and hydrating creams, while hyaluronic acid is commonly found in serums, masks, and specialized treatments. Choose products that align with your skincare goals.
- Ingredients List: Always check the ingredients list on skincare products. Look for formulations that suit your preferences in terms of molecular size, concentration, and potential additives.
- Patch-Test: If you’re unsure how your skin will react to a new product, perform a patch test on a small area of skin to check for any adverse reactions before applying it to your entire face.
Hyaluronan vs Hyaluronic Acid
|Molecular Size||Larger (natural)||Smaller (synthetic)|
|Concentration and Potency||Lower concentrations in skincare products||Higher concentrations in skincare products|
|Origins||Naturally occurring in the body||Synthesized through fermentation|
|Compatibility and Sensitivity||Generally well-tolerated, suitable for sensitive skin||May occasionally cause dryness or irritation|
In the world of skincare, understanding the differences between hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid is essential for making informed choices about the products you use. While these two ingredients share a common origin, their molecular sizes, concentrations, and origins set them apart.
Ultimately, the choice between hyaluronan and hyaluronic acid depends on your specific skin type, concerns, and personal preferences. Whichever you choose, the goal remains the same: achieving healthy, radiant skin that exudes confidence. So, go ahead and embrace the skincare ingredient that aligns best with your unique needs, and let your beauty shine through.
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.