How can a molecule that was long described as a “goo” molecule get so much attention? It seems it’s the answer to all kinds of skin concerns. Is it itchy? Does it feel tight? Do you see a web of fine lines around the eyes? Hyaluronic acid to the rescue!

This goo substance with a difficult name to say (say “hiya-loo-ron-nick” acid) and even more difficult to write is found in a lot of your skincare products. You’ll find it listed mostly in products that claim to boost your skin’s moisture level.

So, what is hyaluronic acid?

Even if hyaluronic “acid” doesn’t sound like it’s healthy, and something you’d want to apply to your skin, it’s a molecule that is naturally produced in your body. It’s found in many tissues and fluids, it’s especially abundant in the eyes and joints. This gooey, bouncy, and clear substance acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes.

Classified as a polysaccharide, hyaluronic acid is probably best known for its ability to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. So, it acts to bind moisture making your skin plump. Or more accurately, it draws moisture from the air and then holds it in the cells making them plump.

Last step to seal in the moisture, photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

And in skincare?

Since hyaluronic acid draws moisture from the surroundings, hyaluronic acid falls into the group of humectants. This means, when you apply it to the skin, it will not only keep the level of moisture but draw in more.

But, like a lot of things in our bodies, the amount of naturally occurring hyaluronic acid tends to take a dip with age. Lower levels mean drier, rougher, and lined skin. So, when you apply it topically, it boosts your skin’s moisture content so that

  • Your skin in its well-hydrated state feels super-soft, plump, and springy
  • The appearance of fine lines is reduced
  • It stimulates collagen production
  • With a proper moisture balance, it prevents oil over-production, which in turn prevents clogged pores and breakouts

Newer research has found that it also has antioxidant properties. This means it helps reduce or even prevent damage caused by free radicals.

In theory, skincare containing hyaluronic acid increases hydration within the skin, but it isn’t so clear-cut as it seems. And it has to do with the type of hyaluronic acid in the product. The type actually means the molecular size of the hyaluronic acid molecule.

The smaller the molecule is, the easier it is to travel from the outermost layer to the epidermis, the second layer of the skin. Even though the larger molecules can bind water better and so offer better hydration, they can’t be absorbed. When you apply skincare with this type of hyaluronic acid, it just sits on top of the skin, drawing moisture only at the very surface. This means you want to look for a product that contains molecules of different sizes. On the other hand, since it’s so powerful, you most likely don’t need to use another product in your regimen containing it.

How to use it?

For a product containing hyaluronic acid to effectively hydrate your skin and not dehydrate your skin, it needs moisture. So, if you live in a dry environment or your skin doesn’t have any moisture on its surface, it will draw the water from deep within your skin. To make sure it can work properly, always use a hydrating toner before a product containing hyaluronic acid, and then sealing it in with an occlusive – a thick moisturiser.

Who should use it?

Using a skincare product containing hyaluronic acid has many positive attributes:

  • In general, it’s well-tolerated
  • It’s safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding
  • It’s safe for all skin types (remember to patch-test if you’re prone to sensitive skin)
  • There are no known side effects (but that’s obvious when it’s produced in our bodies)

It’s particularly beneficial for those with dry or mature skin, in other words for people who are losing their skin’s natural reserves. But younger people don’t need it since their bodies keep the levels on a nice and high level.

How to combine it with other ingredient for better results?

Often, using chemical exfoliates (AHAs and BHAs) can be drying on the skin. You can counteract the drying effect by combining a chemical exfoliator with hyaluronic acid.

Pairing vitamin C with it not only boosts collagen production but protects it too, all while brightening and hydrating your skin.

Do you have any thoughts about hyaluronic acid in your skincare? Let us know in the comments.

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