If you are a skincare junky, it is almost certain that some of your favorite products contain an ingredient called hyaluronic acid (HA) because it is an effective substance that gives the skin a dewy appearance. But what is it and why does it benefit the skin?
Technically speaking, Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan (long unbranched carbohydrates, or sugars, known as polysaccharides) that is found through the body’s connective tissue. HA helps to bind water to collagen the skin keeping it in the skin to give it a more youthful appearance while increasing the skin’s hydration.
As we begin to age, our bodies lose collagen and hyaluronic acid that leaves the skin less hydrated. This is where HA products come into play because the substance can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water. Hyaluronic acid functions as a humectant, attracting and holding water molecules to the surface of the skin leaving it looking and feeling hydrated. There have also been studies that show that hyaluronic acid can be helpful in wound healing.
When skin is considered moisturized, it mainly refers to skin having a lot of water content. To determine how much water the skin has lost through evaporation, there is a scientific term known as transepidermal water loss (aka. TEWL) that measures how much water has evaporated from the skin. When used in topical products like serums and creams, hyaluronic acid brings moisture to the skin that can help strengthen the skin’s barrier and keep it protected from becoming dehydrated. A few other benefits of using products with HA include increasing elasticity in the skin, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, decreasing redness in the skin, and it may be beneficial at treating eczema.
Not only are there a variety of topical products that contain hyaluronic acid, the substance is also used in injectable fillers. When injected, a gel form of the HA is used to add volume to the dermal layer of the skin and keep it in place at the injection site. Hyaluronic acid creates volume in the face because it draws water to the injection sites and creates a filling or plumping effect. Injectable HA can be used to minimize the appearance of existing fine lines and wrinkles, facial folds, and also create a framework to add volume to the face and lips.
Currently, the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved hyaluronic acid fillers are Restylane, Restylane Silk, Restylane Lyft, Restylane Refyne, Restylane Defyne, Restylane Kysse, Belotero, Juvéderm, Juvéderm Voluma, Juvéderm Volbella, Juvéderm Ultra, and Juvéderm Vollure. But each manufacturer can vary slightly, so it is important to talk to your dermatologist or skincare professional to see which one is right for addressing your skin concerns. While they have the same main ingredient, depending on the size of the formulas’ molecules and how they are strung together, each product can vary in density, lift-ability, and longevity.
There are also risks with HA injectables like bruising and swelling. An additional risk is if there is unintentional injection into a blood vessel, which could result in tissue death, scabbing and scarring. This is all of the more reason to have a medical doctor or licensed skincare professional who is highly trained at hyaluronic injections perform this cosmetic treatment.
If you aren’t happy with the results after you have HA injected into your face—don’t worry. Your dermatologist can insert an enzyme known as hyaluronidase that dissolves the filler in a matter of minutes and completely removes it in 24-48 hours. However, those with allergies to bees should be careful and talk to their doctor first before using the enzyme since it is highly prevalent in bee venom.
This naturally occurring substance is found throughout the body so HA is generally good for all skin types because it is non-irritating and doesn’t trigger acne. Since our bodies produce less collagen and hyaluronic acid as we age, those with mature skin or dehydrated skin will benefit the most from topical or injectable hyaluronic acid. Despite having the word “acid” in its name, individuals with sensitive skin can use hyaluronic acid. This is not to say that there aren’t side effects that can occur, but typically these are caused by another active or inactive ingredient in the formulation.
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found within our bodies. It can be used both in a topical form with creams and serums or in an injectable form to smooth out wrinkles and add volume to the face. Long-term use of hyaluronic acid serum on your skin can help to improve overall skin flexibility and elasticity, giving it a smooth, bouncy appearance.