Hyaluronic acid (HA) is naturally occurring in the human body. Also known as hyaluronan, HA is a molecule made up of sugars that our body naturally produces. It’s a clear gooey substance that’s present in all tissues and fluids, with the highest concentrations located in the connective tissue, eyes and most abundantly in the skin, where around 50% of it is found. Biologically synthesised by the cells in the body, it serves multiple vital functions such as lubricating and cushioning the joints, keeping the eyes moist and speeding up wound healing.
Hyaluronic acid’s main function is to retain water, to keep our tissues moist. A crucial part of the skin’s youth-supporting matrix, HA draws in moisture and retains it in the skin (and wherever else it’s found in the rest of the body). Renowned for its amazing ability to absorb up to 1,000 times its molecular weight in water, HA is an invaluable (and totally incredible!) hydrator that plumps and smooths the cells, and helps to reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles.
When the skin is young, it’s supple and elastic due to the high production of hyaluronic acid – the skin is hydrated and protected, collagen is moist and cells are healthy, plump and smooth. HA has a speedy turnover, lasting less than 24 hours in the skin. As we get older, HA’s production decreases, but the levels of the enzyme that break it down remain the same – meaning that it’s not replaced as quickly nor completely as it once was. On top of that, HA is sensitive to free radicals – caused for example by UV and pollutants – which leads to degradation. The result… skin is less capable of holding water and cell turnover becomes sluggish – which in turn leads to loss of elasticity, volume and firmness, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Why you need to include hyaluronic acid in your skincare regime. Not to be confused with alpha hydroxy or beta hydroxy acids that impart an exfoliating action, hyaluronic acid’s role is to deliver a surge of H2O to where the skin needs it the most. As a humectant hydrator, HA reduces the loss of moisture and fortifies the lipid barrier. Because it’s a substance that the body already makes, it absorbs easily into the skin. It’s beneficial to all skin types – including sensitive, oily or breakout-prone – and, if that isn’t enough – it can offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits too.
Size matters. Until the early 2000s, hyaluronic acid products were nowhere near as effective because the molecules were too large, which meant penetration into the skin was impossible. Now however, chemists are able to blend molecules of varying sizes for maximum effect. Smaller molecules are able to enter the skin, store water in the connective tissue and offer a long-lasting, deeply penetrating, firming anti-wrinkle effect. Larger molecules offer a more visible effect by forming a superficial moisturising film that improves elasticity and plumps the skin’s surface, but the results are shorter-lasting.
Tips for optimum efficacy:
- If using a serum with hyaluronic acid, apply it to damp skin and use your moisturiser straight after. By doing this, you are both sealing in moisture and providing moisture for the HA to absorb.
- For specific skin concerns, look at the other ingredients included in the product. For example, if skin is uneven or pigmented, choose a product that offers both HA and resurfacing benefits. If the skin is particularly dehydrated, choose a product with a super-high concentration of HA.
- If your skin is oily, you might prefer not to use both a serum and moisturiser, so use the serum alone.
- Whichever HA product you use, be consistent with application. The results will be worth it… visibility of wrinkle depth will be reduced, elasticity will be improved and the skin will be petal-soft, plump, smooth and dewy-looking.
We love. Below, we highlight some of our favourite products containing this ultra-hydrating miracle worker that goes the extra mile: