When it comes to skin moisturization, hyaluronic acid works wonders. This is a molecule of sugar that is found naturally in the human body, in all the connective tissues. Made with a chain of polysaccharides, the primary function of hyaluronic acid is to retain the structural integrity of the skin. This is achieved because of the humectant property of hyaluronic acid which keeps the moisture locked into the tissues.
For this reason, hyaluronic acid is used in many moisturizers, particularly those directed at mature skin.
History Of Hyaluronic Acid
The first-ever record of hyaluronic acid was made in 1934 by John Palmer and Karl Mayer. They isolated a polysaccharide from bovine eyes and published their findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The most important property of this sugar molecule was that it had a high molecular weight.
It was not until the period between 1948 and 1951 that deeper research was carried out to determine the structure and function of hyaluronic acid. Because of its gel-like texture, the molecule was often referred to as the ‘goo’ molecule. It was in the 1970s that the name hyaluronic acid was coined. Then, it was discovered that most vertebrates carry this molecule in their tissues.
The various benefits including improving the safety of eye surgeries, treating joint issues, and improving immune response were discovered. When its benefits in aesthetic medicine and cosmetology were discovered, hyaluronic acid became extremely popular.
Properties Of Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid has some important properties that have made it a staple in most skincare products today:
- Works as a humectant: This is one of the most important properties of hyaluronic acid. It draws moisture from the surroundings into the tissues. Therefore, it helps keep the skin feeling supple and moisturized for longer.
- Anti-inflammatory agent: Although the exact anti-inflammatory function of hyaluronic acid is unknown, there is evidence to show that it has these properties. Studies related to joint-related issues, especially, show that hyaluronic acid is very useful in reducing inflammation. The most common suggestion is that it speeds up the anti-inflammatory processes of the body by triggering the response.
- Anti-aging properties: As mentioned before, hyaluronic acid locks in moisture in the tissues of the skin. This helps prevent any dryness of the skin and also improves the quality of the cells, giving you younger and plumper-looking skin.
- Wound healing properties: The anti-inflammatory properties of hyaluronic acid help in reducing any pain and inflammation around the affected area. Additionally, hyaluronic acid signals the body to supply more blood to the damaged area. Cell migration also improves when there is ample hyaluronic acid in the tissues. This helps improve the wound healing process and also decreases the size of the wound faster.
Sources Of Hyaluronic Acid
The connective tissues contain hyaluronic acid. There are other natural sources like carrots, potatoes, turnips, and other root vegetables. Including them in your diet keeps your skin, eyes, and joints healthy by improving the hyaluronic acid content.
Commercially, both plant and animal sources are used to harness hyaluronic acid. The plant sources are treated through microbial fermentation. Certain strains of bacteria are used with plants, mostly gluten-based, to improve the natural hyaluronic acid content in the bacteria. In the case of animal sources, rooster combs are normally used. However, most products today are made with hyaluronic acid derived from natural sources, to make them cruelty-free.
Different Forms Of Hyaluronic Acid
There are three more forms of hyaluronic acid that are used in skincare ingredients. Hyaluronic acid is usually found in the following forms in any skincare product.
- Sodium Hyaluronate
- Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate
- Nano Hyaluronic Acid/ Hydrolysed Hyaluronic Acid
Differences Between Different Types Of These Ingredients
Each form of hyaluronic acid is unique in its function and usage as mentioned below:
This salt of hyaluronic acid is preferred for two reasons. It has a lower molecular weight in comparison to hyaluronic acid. This makes it easy for the skin to absorb it. Second, it is more stable in nature. Sodium hyaluronate is retained on the surface of the skin for longer. It also improves the penetration of other active skincare ingredients such as Vitamin B3.
Sodium acetylated hyaluronate
This molecule is smaller than sodium hyaluronate, making it a preferred choice in skincare. The small size improves the affinity to the skin and lets the molecule stay on the skin for a higher duration. However, this form of hyaluronic acid also penetrates the skin up to the surface.
Nano hyaluronic acid/hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid
This is a new form of hyaluronic acid where the size of the molecule is reduced using chemical processes. This makes it get deeper into the skin to provide better skin hydration even in case of severe skin-related issues like rosacea.
Benefits Of Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic Acid offers several skincare benefits such as:
- Improved skin hydration
- Strengthens lipid barrier
- Higher skin elasticity
- Reduces wrinkles and fine lines
- Faster skin regeneration
- Effective Acne treatment
How Hyaluronic Acid Functions For Each Skincare Benefit
There are various processes that hyaluronic acid initiates in the skin along with its natural beneficial properties that give you the above-mentioned results.
- Improved skin hydration: Hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant. It can draw water from its surroundings and hold up to 1000 times its own molecular weight. This property allows better skin hydration for a longer duration of time.
- Strengthens lipid barrier: the epidermal layer of the skin suffers extensive damage due to toxins and chemicals. This is the result of chemical-based products and other environmental factors like sun damage and pollution. The lipid barrier that protects the skin from these toxins deteriorates with age, making the skin more vulnerable to issues like wrinkles and fine lines. Hyaluronic acid hydrates and strengthens the lipid barrier of the skin to offer better protection.
- Higher skin elasticity: As you age, the level of hyaluronic acid in the connective tissues reduces. This can compromise the structure and elasticity of the skin. Using hyaluronic acid topically on a regular basis can prevent this deterioration. Additionally, the hydrating property of hyaluronic acid improves the quality of the skin cells, making your skin tighter.
- Reduces wrinkles and fine lines: Skin dryness and toxin damage are the primary causes of wrinkles and fine lines. Hyaluronic acid not only moisturizes the skin effectively but also improves the lipid barrier to protect the skin from toxin damage. These properties of hyaluronic acid also help prevent and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
- Faster skin regeneration: Hyaluronic acid does not help in the process of regeneration per se. However, it reduces the damage, to begin with by hydrating the skin and improving the lipid barrier strength. It also offers a higher level of hydration that helps the skin produce healthier cells that give you a radiant glow.
- Acne treatment: Even individuals with oily skin need ample hydration to prevent excessive production of oil from the glands. Hyaluronic acid helps prevent extra oiliness of the skin, thereby preventing and reducing acne in oily skin.
What Skin Type Is Hyaluronic Acid Used For And Why?
Hyaluronic acid is a mild ingredient that can be used on all skin types. The concentration of hyaluronic acid plays an important role, however. Using products with up to 1% concentration of this ingredient is the safest option. Overall, the high molecular weight and size of this molecule make it harder for it to penetrate into the skin, preventing any serious damage. This property also makes it compatible with most ingredients that are used in skincare products.
What time of the day should this be used?
For best results, use products with hyaluronic acid twice each day.
- As a daytime skincare product: It is best to use hyaluronic acid on the skin right after cleansing or washing it. This allows better penetration of other products and also gives you all-day hydration for the skin.
- As a night-time skincare product: Hyaluronic acid helps treat skin dryness, improves cell regeneration, and even treats acne in some cases. This repairing quality of Hyaluronic Acid makes it a great nighttime skincare ingredient. Additionally, it also helps improve the absorption of other protective skincare ingredients that you use as part of your nightly skincare regime.
- Why use twice a day: Hyaluronic acid protects and repairs the skin, making it a good option to use as an AM/PM ingredient. It is safe to use as it remains on the surface of the skin, giving you several benefits like reduced pigmentation, better moisturization, and faster wound and acne healing.
What quantity is suitable to use to show results?
Apply 3-4 drops directly on the forehead, cheeks, and neck and massage it in. Choose a product with up to 1% concentration of hyaluronic acid for best results for all skin types. You may use higher concentrations. However, they may irritate sensitive skin.
Duration of usage for results
Like any other skincare product, Hyaluronic acid also shows results after continuous use for at least 8-12 weeks.
- Week 2: Dry spots become moisturized and supple. Skin feels softer to touch.
- Week 4: In the 4th week, common skin issues like blemishes and acne reduce because the skin is hydrated. Fine lines and wrinkles also disappear visibly.
- Week 8-12: When used for 8-12 weeks consistently, hyaluronic acid improves skin hydration by up to 96%. Skin becomes radiant and fine lines and wrinkles are smoothened.
What skin types are this ingredient not suitable for and why?
Hyaluronic acid can be used for all skin types. If you have particularly dry skin, the humectant property of this acid must be kept in mind. Since it draws moisture from its surroundings, it can make your skin even drier as it draws water molecules from the inner layers of the skin. So, apply it to damp skin to prevent this negative effect.
Combinations And Conflicts
You can safely use hyaluronic acid with the most active skincare products. While most are beneficial, there is one conflicting combination that you should be aware of, although the effects are very mild.
What other Ingredients can Hyaluronic Acid Be Used With?
The best combinations with hyaluronic acid are:
- Hyaluronic Acid + Retinol: Retinol is known for its ability to exfoliate skin deeply. For this reason, it is used as a chemical peel. It tends to leave the skin feeling dry. As a result, pairing it with a powerful moisturizer like hyaluronic acid is highly beneficial.
- Hyaluronic Acid + Niacinamide: Niacinamide, when combined with hyaluronic acid is a very effective acne-preventing combination. The moisturizing action of hyaluronic acid reduces dryness and eventually, excessive oil production which is the primary cause of acne.
- Hyaluronic Acid + AHAs/BHAs: Acidic skincare products like AHAs and BHAs also make the skin dry as their primary function is skin exfoliation. Using hyaluronic acid along with AHAs and BHAs helps prevent dryness and makes the skin more radiant.
What ingredients should not be used in combination/ succession with Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid mixes well with most skincare ingredients. However, when using forms of hyaluronic acid like nano hyaluronic acid, the effect of strong ingredients like AHAs, BHAs and retinol increases. This is because nano hyaluronic acid allows them to penetrate deep into the skin, causing dryness. When choosing these strong active ingredients, combining them with sodium hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid is a better option.
Hyaluronic acid provides maximum benefits when used in the following formats:
- Lotions: The water-soluble nature of hyaluronic acid makes it the best ingredient for body lotions and face lotions that can be absorbed by the skin easily.
- Face serums: The mild nature of hyaluronic acid and its ability to combine with most skincare ingredients makes it ideal for face serums.
- Moisturizer: With its powerful humectant property, hyaluronic acid is a popular choice for moisturizers.
- 3 Sources
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