Hyaluronic acid: the benefits in skincare.

This post will make clarity on the benefits of hyaluronic acid for the skin and help you understand what kind you should be buying.

If you like to research ingredients and facts before making a purchase, you’re probably facing an overwhelming number of information.

What I do when I feel overwhelmed? 

Absolutely nothing. 

I don’t take any action which can worse than making a temporary wrong decision.THIS IS THE PROBLEM: too many options to choose from– a plethora of cosmetic ingredients. 

Each one of them promises wonders.How do you decide what to focus on?There’s no univocal answer to this question, but I can share what I do as both cosmetic chemist and skincare junkie.I focus on ingredients that

1) have scientific evidence supporting their action and

2) have a long history of usage with relatively no side effects.This is why I ALWAYS include hyaluronic acid in my own formulations and in most of the formulations I develop for clients.

What skincare products contain hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a staple ingredient in skincare.

You can find it in serums, eye creams, lotions, and even rinse off products.

There are also hyaluronic acid supplements to be taken orally.  

You can recognize it from the names  hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate.

WHY HYALURONIC ACID IS YOUR SKIN BEST ALLY?

As a cosmetic chemist I know how some ingredients get the hype and then disappear after a few months. But I’m also aware that there are ingredients that never lose their popularity.

Hyaluronic acid is one of these winners. 

Here’s why.

It’s safe and effective.

SAFE as it has a low irritation potential.

EFFECTIVE as several scientific studies confirm its activity.

If you’re interested in discovering the amazing properties and skincare benefits of hyaluronic acid, keep on reading.

(OR if you don’t feel like reading, watch this video below which is a short summary of the article).

What is Hyaluronic acid?

From a chemistry stand point, hyaluronic acid is a polymer. 

A polymer is a structure that consists in a large number of similar units bonded together.In the case of hyaluronic acid the units are glucuronic acid linked to N-Acetyl- Glucosamine. Hyaluronic acid is usually sold as sodium salt (sodium hyaluronate-powder), which releases hyaluronic acid in water.  I want to point out that hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate are the same thing because of what stated above. The reason why sometimes the sodium salt is used is merely solubility. Salts are always more soluble in water than the correspondent  acids or bases.The most important take home message is that Hyaluronic acid comes in different forms which have different molecular weights. In fact, polymers have different weights, just like people. Molecular weight is determined by the number of units present in the polymer. The more, the heaviest.

  • High molecular weight HA ( 1.5 MDA). DA means Dalton which is a unit measure for weight. It’s the equivalent to oz for very small weights such as molecules.
  • Low molecular weight HA (50kD).
  • Extra Low molecular weight HA.
  • Crosslinked HA (rare in skincare).

In the skincare industry, hyaluronic acid is considered a *humectant moisturizer.* It’s also useful for scars and wound healing.

When I write about Hyaluronic acid on Quora, people ask me all the time why I’m a strong proponent of high molecular weight and why I did not include medium or low molecular weight hyaluronic acid in the serum I developed.

Hyaluronic_acid_moisturizer

Does Hyaluronic acid really work ? How does Hyaluronic acid work?

Let’s answer these two questions.

Hyaluronic acid is naturally present in the skin.However, its content decreases with aging, and the most visible effects are *the loss of facial skin hydration, elasticity and volume, which are responsible for wrinkles.* This is how HA works as anti-age agent. If you’ve been following my content, you should know that I’m always radically transparent; therefore, I must point out that *the anti-age activity has not been proven in clinical trials yet. However, when applied topically on the face, you’ll definitely note a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This is mostly due to the fact hyaluronic acid is able to  draw and retain moisture from the environment and give it to your dehydrated skin. Over the last few years, HA has been widely used as a biomaterial to develop dermal fillers (DFs), which are medical devices that, injected into or under the skin, restore lost volumes and correct facial imperfections such as wrinkles or scars. This is the most effective way to take advantage of HA anti-aging properties.Does this mean that skincare products that contain HA  are just a waste of money?

​Actually, hyaluronic acid moisturizers and serums , when properly formulated, are among the simplest yet most effective products.Here’s why.

HIGH MOLECULAR WEIGHT HA works as a *film-forming polymer:* it reduces water evaporation, with an occlusive-like action. Unlike other occlusive agents, though, it creates a cosmetically elegant film , rather than an oily thick and sticky barrier. The feel is light on the skin, the serum promptly absorbed so that you can apply a moisturizer right after it. 

 This is the main advantage of using it.On the other hand,*MEDIUM and LOW MOLECULAR WEIGHT HA*mainly work by binding moisture from the environment meaning they act as humectants rather than moisturizers. In some cases, this capacity may reverse HA’s expected hydrating activity as at a high concentration, HA may even extract humidity from the skin, leaving it even more dry.

Furthermore, as this brilliant article explains in details, medium and low molecular weight HA are pro-inflammatory. These two forms of hyaluronic acid should be avoided especially when the skin barrier is already damaged and fragile.

The importance of the skin barrier.

Do you know what determines the overall appearance of the skin?

Water content.

“Barrier function,  skin elasticity, and resistance are all dependent on water content“.

We all use moisturizers because we tend to have dry skin, right? As we age, barrier function tends to become compromised. The worsening of the barrier function manifest itself with an increase in *TEWL* which stands for trans epidermal water loss. This basically means the skin loses more water than it is supposed to, thus becoming dry and dehydrated.

Hyaluronic acid is an humectant meaning it is able to draw water from the dermis (deep skin layer) to the epidermis (the portion of the skin that we can touch- the most external one).

This is why the immediate effect of using it is a plumper and hydrated skin which basically means nothing but a healthy skin. 

Another approach to tackle dry skin is the use of creams that contain humectant ingredients; the most common humectants are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol. urea, propylene/ butylene Glycol and its natural version propanediol.

 However, when the skin barrier is damaged creams that only contain these ingredients not only can’t help, but they actually draw even more water from the skin, especially when used in very dry climates.

The best approach to tackle dry skin is the use of creams that contain *occlusive ingredients* (for example petrolatum a.k.a vaseline or lanolin). The problem is these creams are usually greasy, and therefore, not well tolerated, especially on the face. Furthermore, petrolatum and lanolin have raised health and environmental concerns.

The way these barrier creams work is by forming a hydrophobic (= water repellent) layer on the skin surface. This *mechanically* prevents water loss.Instead of improving the situation, they actually make it worse.Emollient ingredients help with dry skin, too, by improving softness, smoothness, and elasticity. Examples of emollients are fatty acids and alcohols or *vegetable oils.*

Extra dry skin benefits from the application of both , creams and oils.

Where does Hyaluronic acid stand?

As stated above, hyaluronic acid is an humectant moisturizer ingredient. But we have seen not all hyaluronic acids are equivalent. High molecular weight HA is the only form that work as both, *humectant AND occlusive.*This is a huge advantage.Using a product with high molecular weight hyaluronic acid allows you to have the benefits of occlusive ingredients without their downsides (“heavy” formulations that are tacky and greasy) AND an dramatic increase in moisture due to its humectant properties.

Skincare products based on hyaluronic acid- The benefits. 

Topical hyaluronic acid represents a moisturizing active ingredient widely used in cosmetic formulations (gels, emulsions or serums) to restore the physiological microenvironment typical (and the look, of course) of youthful skin.HA’s hydrating effect largely depends on its molecular weight.If you start including Hyaluronic acid in your skincare routine, you’ll notice skin looks plumper, softer, and smoother .However, please remember that the skin is an organ and skincare products are no magic bullet, no matter how good they are. If you don’t sleep enough, your diet is off , and you rarely exercise, nothing will work. Sadly you’ll end up switching from one product to another without any improvement.This is why some people claim hyaluronic acid actually made their skin worse. 

Hyaluronic acid : skincare routine for dehydrated skin.

dry skin1

Avoid drying harsh cleansers. If it’s a face related issue, use micellar water or an oil based product rather than foaming cleansers. In particular, avoid all cleansers that contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and other anionic surfactants . These have an excellent cleaning and foaming power, yet tend to be aggressive. As a general rule, look at the foam. The more foam a product makes, the more aggressive it is.

Do not wash more than twice /day (face) and once / day body. If you don’t wear makeup, cleaning the face once /day is more than enough. If you feel you need to refresh it throughout the day, spray some water 

A great micellar water is the Bioderma Sensibio

2

In the morning , after you clean, apply a hyaluronic acid serum and layer it up with a moisturizer . 

3

At night, before going to sleep apply a moisturizer. The more occlusive, the better. So for instance even basic petrolatum will do. Our moisturizer does a great job in tackling dry skin. Remember that daily moisturizers can be used at night as well. 

If you have dry and dehydrated skin you should limit alcohol intake and drink plenty of water. 

June 2020 update. During summer the skin tends to produce more oil. For this reason, you might have to slightly change your skincare routine. A moisturizer might not be necessary during these months.

A high molecular weight hyaluronic acid serum is one of your skin’s allies during summer. Not only it tackles skin dehydration and dryness, it also helps to repair sun damaged skin. 

By now you should feel quite enthusiastic about hyaluronic acid! 

​It should definitely belong to your skincare routine. 

Have questions? Leave them in the comments below.

56 thoughts on “Hyaluronic acid: the benefits in skincare.

  1. Chris Evans says:

    Great article – but don’t believe I’ve ever seen a manufacturer put molecular weight on a product, so how would we know?

  2. Megan Adler says:

    Thanks for helping me learn more about hyaluronic acid and the benefits we can obtain by using it. Lately, my skin has been very dry and I’ve used a couple of products but none seem to help. I’m going to add an HA cream to my beauty routine and hopefully, this will do the trick.

  3. lucy says:

    Hello! Could you please tell me how an “occlusive” moisturerizer can help my skin? I would think that anything “occlusive” would prevent absorption. Thank you

      • Cam says:

        Thanks for the reply Luisa! I just ordered your products! Excited to receive it.

        What is Vit C for?
        Also, do you have eye creams that you sell? If not, what do you recommend for dark circles, dry and aging eye area and just wanting general maintenance. At the moment Im using Dermalogica products.

        • Luisa says:

          Hi Cam, vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant that can help fighting aging. At higher percentages (at least 10%) also works as lightening agent. It’s impossible for me to recommend you a product without having more information about you, but in general I think one of the best brands out there is Paula’s Choice.

  4. Melissa says:

    Hi, I am in my mid 40s and inherited very oily skin, and it has been a lifelong struggle. What products would you suggest to help reduce oil production? I cleanse once daily with a non-foaming gel that contains activated charcoal and marine algae. My skin feels very pleasant afterwards. I don’t wear makeup because it slides off, so at night I only splash cool water on my face, and pat dry. I live in a subtropical climate, so sweating is a daily event. Thanks so much, I look forward to your response!

  5. Patty says:

    You mention above “these are 2 other options”. But there is nothing there. Can you recommend a moisturizer for night? Thank you

  6. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for the article and all of the details and work you put into this. What is your opinion on Juice Beauty products? More overpriced hype or beneficial? I do like the idea of more natural ingredients, but I also want them to work.

    • Luisa says:

      I really like the concept behind Juice Beauty. However, I wonder how effective are the products. This is because instead of using the active ingredient, they use all natural extracts. Natural extracts vary a lot in terms of concentration of active ingredients depending on many different factors such as how the plant has been grown and harvested, how the extract has been made etc etc. As usual, it something works for you, stick to it.

  7. Debbie says:

    If using the all over body spray that you manufacture , together with your Hyaluronic acid , would you still suggest using a moisturizer such as clinique?

  8. Nikki Smith says:

    Hi Luisa,

    I am trying to buy high molecular HA Hyaluronic Acid to put into a formulation I am making at school. Where can I find it in its purest form? Is hyaluronic acid unstable on its own? Will I need to put in additives to make it stable? I am trying to make a natural product. Thank you for your help!

    Best,
    Nikki

  9. Diane says:

    I have been researching microneedling with a derma roller at home. Do I apply your hyaluronic acid 1% gel before or after I use a derma roller? Do I also need to apply vitamin C at the same time?

    • Luisa says:

      I would use it AFTER. But you need to make sure it’s the high molecular weight one. Low and medium weights have a pro-inflammatory action which can be exacerbated by the use of a derma roller. Conversely, high molecular weight HA hydrate and accelerate recovery. You can apply vitamin C at night.

  10. Muriel says:

    Hi Luisa. I am interested in buying your Hyaluronic acid. I have rosacea which is exacerbated by any oils used in skincare. I see your HA has only 3 ingredients but they are not listed. Would you mind sharing those three ingredients or let me know if it contains oil? Thanks very much!

    • Julia says:

      Should Hyaluronic acid be avoided in dry climates with very low humidity like Arizona? If it should be avoided then what should I use instead of Hyaluronic acid for dehydrated skin ?

  11. Suzie M says:

    Hi Luisa,
    I’ve been using 0.025% retinA cream for a while and works for me, but I still see a few lines that I feel can improve and I’m about to try retinA 0.05% …would hyaluronic acid make my skin more sensitive and how can I add hyaluronic acid serum to my routin?

    • Luisa says:

      You can and should use Hyaluronic acid in the morning and retinoids at night. Using them together will further reduce the appearance of your wrinkles.

  12. RoseAnn Pacheco says:

    I have just recently found your posts on skincare and I have to say that I am hooked on your great information and advice.. thank you so much for giving us the facts and more facts. I know I will be continuing to enjoy and learn from your posts.

  13. terrassie says:

    Luisa, do you just do formulation only? I want to buy yr formulation and get it done by a manufacturer in my country in Malaysia. I intend to start my own skincare business. Our country is tropical and is hot and lots of sun. I am trying to get a formula for skin repair, hydration and improving on wrinkles and lifting.

  14. ashley kidney says:

    I just recently found this article – I just started using loreal hyaluronic acid 1.5% and apply it at night before moisturizer and in the morning after cleansing my face and then wait until dry to apply HA then use a Cerave daily moisturizer (which does contain some HA). I have noticed that my skin looks a little blotchy, and my under eyes feel like they are burning a bit. My pores also appear larger. Is this normal? I live in Rochester NY and have combination skin.

    • Luisa says:

      You may want to try to suspend the use for a bit and see if the problem is solved. If it is, then it was the L’Oreal HA serum. But I don’t think it has do to with the hyaluronic acid. It’s probably because the serum contain other ingredients your skin doesn’t like. Try our hyaluronic acid which has only 3 ingredients and see the difference!

  15. Kae G says:

    If high molecular hyaluronic acid also functions as an occlusive, and if it’s applied first after cleansing, can skin still absorb the next serum you put on top of it ? it forms a film on top of skin is that right?

      • Kae G says:

        Is it okay too if you apply the hyaluronic acid last? Like after applying exfoliant. Because they say it is best applied immediately on damp skin after cleanser.
        Thank you so much for answering and giving educational content! More power to you!

  16. Golda says:

    I’ve been using Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench. It says 30% hyaluronic acid complex.

    Yours is 1%. What is the difference.
    thank you.

    • Luisa says:

      Hi Golda, they say 30% but it’s not. What they mean is that they use 30% of a 1% solution which makes the actual % of HA 0.3%. This misleading information is very common. You might wonder how I know that. The reason is that HA powder forms a thin gel at 1% and because of that it’s basically impossible to go over 1,5% – 2% (for the low molecular weight HA). After 2% you only get a super sticky gel that definitely can’t be used as skincare product.

  17. Diana Schultz says:

    Hi Luisa,
    First..thank you for this post and such good information. I am a 68 year old woman with very dry skin and starting to get dark round raised moles on my skin. My skin on my face is so dry that makeup just sits on top of my skin and looks horrible. Will the HA help this? Do you sell other skin products? I too have the rollers I use on my face but not strong enough collagen to put on my face after done. Thank you again for reading my questions!

    • Luisa says:

      Hi Diana, first of all make sure you have those moles checked by a dermatologist. The hyaluronic acid would help, but if your skin is super dry you also need a moisturizer. check them out and let me know what you think!

  18. Lisa says:

    I would like to know your opinion of The Ordinary HA + zinc product. After applying it feels slightly tacky and pills a bit on my skin making it difficult to apply foundation.

  19. Janet Peterson says:

    Hi Luisa. First I want to say thank you for the information on this site. I love the transparency.
    I am 62 and have tried many facial beauty routines over the years. I will try your HA product, but am wondering if there is a product you can recommend that will help with acne scarring. I have dealt with this issue since age 13. Thank you.

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