Table of Contents
- 1 What is Hyaluronic Acid?
- 2 How does Hyaluronic Acid work?
- 3 What are the Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid?
- 4 The 3 Types of Hyaluronic Acid
- 5 What is the Science behind Hyaluronic Acid?
- 6 How does Hyaluronic Acid benefit each skin type?
- 7 How to choose the best hyaluronic serum?
Have you noticed how often the word Hyaluronic acid (HA) pops up when you're shopping for skincare products? Whether it's hyaluronic acid serum, moisturizers, supplements, night creams, sheet masks, or even lip products, hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that has taken the beauty industry by storm.
So, what is hyaluronic acid? What are the benefits of this skin care ingredient and why is it recommended by most, if not all aesthetic doctors and dermatologists? In this article, we'll try to decode the hype surrounding hyaluronic acid as well as the best ways to effectively use this powerful ingredient.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid isn’t just your ordinary skin care ingredient, it is a type of humectant, which retains moisture and can bind over 1000 times its weight in water. This substance is naturally found in many areas of the human body, including the skin, eyes and synovial fluid of the joints.
Hyaluronic acid is also synthesized in laboratories for use in the beauty and skincare industry. Based on their sources, synthesized hyaluronic acid is classified as animal-derived or non-animal derived. However, HA is most commonly derived from a plant fermentation process known as bio-fermentation of Streptococcus bacteria.
Unfortunately, the production of Hyaluronic acid and other key substances (along with collagen and elastin) begin to decrease as we age. The decline in Hyaluronic acid levels in the body leads to a loss of hydration, volume, and plumpness of the skin, resulting in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dryness. External environmental factors such as smoking and air pollution also accelerate this process¹.
How does Hyaluronic Acid work?
When it comes to hydration, hyaluronic acid reigns supreme. This powerful humectant or moisture-binding substance has the capacity to hold more than 1000 times its weight in water. The abundant negative charges in hyaluronic acid allow it to absorb large amounts of water and expand up to 1000 times in volume, forming a loose hydrated network. Therefore, hyaluronic functions as a space filler, lubricant, and osmotic buffer in the native extracellular matrix².
Thanks to their superb water-holding capabilities, the HA molecules act as a very effective mean for hydration to the skin and help it retain moisture. By boosting the water content in skin tissues, HA helps to plump up the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Aside from the anti-aging benefits, this exceptionally hydrating substance can also benefit oily and acne-prone skin, as it provides the necessary moisture without clogging the pores or causing breakouts.
What are the Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid?
The key benefit of hyaluronic acid is its amazing ability to retain moisture. To understand how important moisture is for the skin, you have to first understand that dehydrated skin – when the surface of the skin doesn’t have enough moisture, it tends to appear dry, rough, and flaky.
This is not a matter of aesthetics – poorly hydrated skin is unable to maintain an appropriately intact skin barrier, leaving the skin more vulnerable to damage from external and environmental sources. Hyaluronic acid does more than keeping the skin moisturized, it actually prevents the skin’s transepidermal water loss. This means that it keeps the skin hydrated by making sure water does not escape from the surface of the skin.
Some of the other benefits of Hyaluronic acid include:
Anti-aging – minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
Contains antioxidants – protects the skin from environmental damage
Prevents premature aging
Improves skin recovery
Provides relief from eczema
- Reduces inflammation or redness
- Non-comedogenic – does not exacerbate acne-prone and oily skin.
The 3 Types of Hyaluronic Acid
Even though it is present in several forms, there are three main types of hyaluronic acid that are commonly used in most of the skincare products that we use nowadays. Check the ingredients list of any hydrating skincare product and it is likely that it contains one of the following three types of hyaluronic acid:
Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid: Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid is a modified form of hyaluronic acid that undergoes a process called hydrolysis. During hydrolysis, the large hyaluronic acid molecules are broken down into smaller fragments. The smaller fragments and lower molecular weight allow for its gradual absorption by the skin where it can effectively deliver the much-needed moisture.
Sodium Hyaluronate: As a water-soluble salt derivative of HA, sodium hyaluronate is known for its longer-lasting effects due to its ability to penetrate deeper into the skin, and relatively higher stability.
Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate: This acetyl ester of sodium hyaluronate is produced by replacing some of the hydroxyl groups in hyaluronic acids with acetyl groups. This exchange of groups improves bioavailability and stability levels, resulting in deeper long lasting penetration into the skin.
What is the Science behind Hyaluronic Acid?
The effectiveness of hyaluronic acid is primarily linked to factors such as its molecular weight and concentration. In this case, the molecular weight refers to its size, or how big the HA molecule is. This is measured in what is known as unified atomic mass units – Daltons, or Da for short.
So, different types of HA have different molecular weights. Based on its molecular weight, the most effective hyaluronic acid are the ones with the ultra-low molecular weight of less than 600Da which can penetrate into the skin. Higher-molecular weight HA has very limited permeability through the skin and primarily stays on the skin’s surface, forming a thin hydration layer, while lower-molecular weight HA can penetrate the stratum corneum, epidermis and deeper dermal layers³.
Ultra-low molecular weight HA is made of sodium hyaluronate with an average molecular weight of less than 6000 Daltons. The ultra-low molecular weight penetrates into the skin, where studies observed changes in the depth of wrinkles, increased moisture, increased elasticity around the eye and absorbed into the skin barrier.
How does Hyaluronic Acid benefit each skin type?
As HA naturally occurs in the body, it is uncommon for an individual to experience any allergic reactions to it. However, using a product with more than 4% of hyaluronic acid may have an effect and dry the skin out, but other than that the side effects are minimal. It is one of the most efficient and safest ingredients that is suitable for most skin types⁴.
Hyaluronic acid can prove useful for people with dry skin by enhancing their skin’s moisture retention capacity.
Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is particularly useful for people with oily skin because it helps retain moisture even as it leaves a light, non-greasy sensation on the skin and is also non-comedogenic.
Hyaluronic acid can help calm the skin and protect the skin with its anti-inflammatory properties.
However, for those who want to avoid the potential drying effects of high-percentage hyaluronic acid solutions should check the ingredients of their product to make sure it contains hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, that is lower than 4% smaller than 6000 Da. This is the best ingredient for sensitive skin.
Hyaluronic acid also has anti-aging properties that can help people with mature skin improve the appearance and suppleness of their skin.
How to choose the best hyaluronic serum?
Hyaluronic acid is a crucial component of our skin and helps in keeping it looking and feeling youthful and vibrant. Using skincare products containing HA can certainly boost the dwindling amount of this crucial component in your skin.
The best part about HA is that it is relatively safe for all skin types. But as all skin types differ from each other it is best that you consult a doctor for advice on the best hyaluronic acid serum or product for your skin concerns.