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Hyaluronic acid: the benefits in skincare.

Hyaluronic_Acid_formula

Hyaluronic acid: the benefits for the skin - The definitive guide.

If you formulate skincare products for a living, but also if you just like to research ingredients before making a purchase, you probably face an overwhelming number of information.

FACT: There’s a plethora of cosmetic ingredients.

How do you decide what to focus on?

There’s no univocal answer to this question, but I can share what I do.

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 the formulations I develop for my clients.

Hyaluronic acid is a staple ingredient in skincare. You can find it in serums, eye creams, lotions, and even rinse off products.

As a cosmetic chemist I know how some ingredients get the hype and then disappear after a few months.

On the other side, there are ingredients that never lose their popularity.

 Hyaluronic acid is one of these winners. It’s a safe and effective ingredient. SAFE as it has a low irritation potential. EFFECTIVE as several scientific studies confirm.

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

What is Hyaluronic acid?

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

A polimer 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.

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

How does Hyaluronic acid work?

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.


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 based on HA are just a waste of money?

Actually, hyaluronic acid 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 a plumper and hydrated 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. 

HA 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 a *plumper, softer and smoother skin*.

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 dry skin.

dry skin
1

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. The moisturizer should be very rich in ingredients such as Ceramides, urea, and cholesterol. An excellent moisturizer is the Clinique Dramatically Different lotion ($28 for 4.2 oz).

3

At night, before going to sleep apply a nightly moisturizer. The more occlusive, the better. So for instance even basic petrolatum will do. If you can’t tolerate Vaseline, these are 2 other options.

Remember that if you have dry skin you should limit alcohol intake and drink plenty of water.


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.

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Best skin care products in the world: how to choose cosmetics that work

Best skin care products in the world: how to choose cosmetics that work.

Best skincare products-how to find them

Best skincare products in the world: how to find and pick them

When I was 23, I didn't know anything skincare except that it was expensive.

I was chubby, and I had some acne issues. I didn't feel good about myself , but I was too ashamed to ask for help.

Luckily, help came without me asking. 

I was doing my internship in a pharmacy and there was this lady, Manuela. She was working at the skincare aisle.

Manuela is a very direct person. She told me that I was pretty except for my chin where the acne was. Manuela suggested that I start using some skincare products, and she sold me a bunch of them. 

My acne didn't improve much with those products alone.

But since that day, I became passionate about skincare  so I guess my money was well spent anyways.

By the way, my acne finally improved when, besides using cosmetics, I started to eat well and cured the hormonal unbalance I had. 

This is the foundation of everything I do.

If I could tell you ONE thing only it would be that:

Recently I have come to the conclusion that the beauty industry is populated by three different kinds of experts:

  • “Experts” who swear wonders of any skincare product they try (because they get commissions).
  • Experts who acknowledge the beauty industry has a transparency issue; these people are aware most cosmetic products are just marketing, yet they don’t do anything to address the issue or change the situation.
  • Experts who acknowledge the problem and try their best to fix it. 

I proudly say I belong to this 3rd category: every formula I develop is specifically designed to bring some sort of results. Some might be as simple as cleaning your skin in a gentle way and that’s okay. I abhor the use of the so called “marketing ingredients.”

I want to make a revolution.

I want the beauty industry to adhere to strict standards of quality and performance. 

1% Hyaluronic acid serum.

 Perfect hydration in just one step.

Formulations should promise one thing and deliver it. As simple as it sounds, I truly believe this is the direction the beauty industry should turn to.

I feel for consumers: with the plethora of products the industry offers, it's hard to know what to buy to make the most out of hard-earned bucks…

So I decided to write this short guide to help YOU navigate the beauty industry. I want you to spend money on products that are really worth it!

You need to become what I call an “educated consumer". Educated doesn’t mean you need to know everything about skincare. You only need to be able to make an informed decision when purchasing. 

Best skin care products- The #1 misconception you need to know

Quality of cosmetics

Cosmetics should adhere to high quality standards.

A very common misconception is that expensive products are better than average priced/cheap ones. This is not always the case, alas. When buying high end cosmetics you’re not only paying for the product itself (ingredients, packaging, manufacturing, etc.); you’re also paying for advertising, retail locations,  research that has been sustained on certain ingredients, and so on.

Some brands can charge more because of their brand positioning. 

To help you understand this concept, think about Mc Donald’s coffee ($1) and the Blue Bottle coffee (don’t know the exact price for a cup, but I do know it’s expensive). Coffee quality is not the same, indeed. However, the difference is not so prominent to justify such price gap. Clearly, when you decide to sip Blue Bottle coffee you’re paying for the overall experience, not for the coffee itself. Blue Bottle doesn't target the same kind of customers as Mc Donald's. Their brand positioning is completely different. The same concept applies to skincare. 

Does this mean you shouldn’t buy expensive products? Not at all. 

High-end products are usually very appealing and give you a remarkable experience. Fragrances are pleasant and not overwhelming, which is important as well. As a general rule , expensive products are more polished and sophisticated.

Luckily ,if you cannot afford such expensive products, you can still find high quality cosmetics. So the real deal is learning how to differentiate a high quality product from a bad one. This is crucial when making skincare choices; in fact, some formulations out there contain more than 80% water, which basically means they won’t do anything for you, no matter what they claim on the packaging.

Best skin care products in the world- What really makes products work

The first thing you need to know is that what makes a product working is a combination of the following factors:

  • What ingredients are in the product
  • The amount of these ingredients
  • How the product is formulated (crucial!)

I used the word combination because you need all these 3 for the product to work. If one element is missing, there would be a substantial decrease in the performance. 

The first thing you want to do when selecting a product is to analyze the ingredients list. A basic understanding of how cosmetic labeling works will definitely help you choose the best skin care products. Remember that ingredients are listed in descending order. 

Analyze_ingredients_list

Learn how to read cosmetic labels


What are the active ingredients in this product? 

With “active ingredients,” I mean ingredients that have a proven record of being able to address a particular skin concern. For example, we know that hyaluronic acid , vitamin C, niacin, Retinol, Kojic acid among others are effective. We know because they’re backed by science. 

If you can’t identify any active ingredient, there could be 2 scenarios:

  • scenario #1: the product is of a very poor quality one, mostly composed of water and glycerin. 
  •  scenario #2: the product does not address a particular skin concern, yet is intended to preserve a skin that is already in good condition.  If this is the case, the product won’t do much for you. It might experience a very pleasant initial feeling right after application, but that’s it. Be wary of natural extracts as well. Most of the times, they’re so diluted that it's impossible to notice any benefits (same principle as homeopathic remedies).

Where are the active ingredients located in the list? 

Are they towards the beginning or the end? If they are towards the end, it’s not a good sign. The worse sign is reading something like /water, glycerin, dimethicone, etc. (in this order). Don’t get me wrong, glycerin is an excellent humectant for the skin , but it’s also very tacky. This is why its percentage must be limited in a formulation. Glycerin is also a very cheap ingredient (along with dimethicone); to make myself clear, if you see a product with that composition that costs more than $10.99, it’s probably not worth the money. 

Big brands are becoming increasingly aware that the order of the ingredients in the list counts; for example, the Aveeno Shampoo proudly claims that oat extract is the first ingredient. This is very important; however, we don’t know how diluted is that extract…

Some indie brands are making a difference by using hydrosols or floral water as first ingredients and/or avoid free glycerin (it means they use natural extracts in glycerin instead of just glycerin). This is definitely an improvement and something to look forward to.

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How many ingredients are there? 

As a general rule, the more the ingredients, the lower their relative % , the lower the benefits. Steer away from products that have a super long ingredients list. In this case, less is more.

Is the majority of the ingredients cheap? 

Clearly, not all ingredients are priced the same. While some companies genuinely care about consumers, others make decisions with profit in mind. There was a “moisturizing” cream on Amazon which was composed of water , glycerin, and a bunch of different silicones. Silicones are emollient, indeed. Moisturizing? Arguably. Some may say they are because of the film formed on the skin that prevents moisture loss. 

My point is that you shouldn’t be paying $60 (or more) for products that are made with cheap ingredients overseas. Because you’re not paying for the product! You’re mostly supporting the company’s by helping cover the costs for advertising, locations, testimonials, etc. (see above). You can get the same quality for $5 . An example is petrolatum. So (too) many products have a high percentage of petrolatum and are sold as they were something miraculous when you can have the same result by buying the Vaseline brand. An example of this is the La Mer lip balmretailing for $60; it claims to contain a “Miracle Broth”, yet the first ingredient we read on the label is …petrolatum! The miracle broth is probably present at 0.001%. Guess what? You wouldn't even notice if it wasn't in there.  

Analyzing the ingredients list can give you a pretty clear understanding of the /overall quality/ of a product, but there’s more to consider. Let's jump to point 3 

How has the product been formulated? 
how_cosmetcs_are_formulated

Formulation affects the quality and the performance of a product

Unfortunately, consumers have no way of knowing how a product has been formulated , and this is a big issue. In fact, while the presence of active ingredients is certainly beneficial, the presence itself is not enough. The formulation plays a huge role. For example, there are some ingredients that are active only within certain pH level. If you make a mistake with the pH, the active ingredient is not going to work.

This is why I always suggest to avoid purchasing from DIYers, at least when it comes to skincare. You want someone with a strong chemistry background AND years of experience to be formulating cosmetics. Certain skills cannot (and should not) be improvised. 

Has the company performed some kind of *independent* clinical testing on the product? 

90% of the time , the answer is a sound no. There are either no data at all or, if you’re lucky, only some small studies performed on 4/5 subjects (family and friends).

It’s also important to point out that, when present, these studies have been designed by the company itself. Clearly, no Government research entity will ever set up a double blind placebo study to make sure claims are substantiated. Still, it's a good sign!

The best brands are those that not only perform clinical studies but also share the results publicly. 

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Let me ask you something: when was the last time you read on a magazine about a beauty product that doesn’t work? I’m serious. Truth is, it never happens. Conversely, you’ll find tons of vaguely alleged values.

Don’t even make me start on posts you see on social media because those are the worst: fake reviews, influencers who get paid to endorse products they don’t even use, celebrities who dare to swear their flawless visage is due to a miraculous serum.

The only way to know if a product really works is to conduct clinical studies. Ideally, these studies should highlight a noticeable difference between the “before” and “after”. 

When I mention clinical studies, I’m only referring to skincare products whose promises seem a little bit “too much”. No need to perform clinical studies for products that only claim to be gentle on the skin or to leave it soft and supple. Nobody would ever perform a test to prove that a detergent really cleans.

You shouldn't trust online reviews and, at the same time, from a consumer’s prospective, statements such as “clinically proven” or “dermatologist approved” are misleading. They could refer to almost anything. You need to investigate what studies have been performed and what conclusions were drawn from them. 

Best skin care products in the world-Make a difference with your brand

If you own a beauty brand or planning to start one, make sure to adopt a real approach of transparency.

Transparency seems to be a buzzword nowadays.

You need to make it a reality for your brand.

People don't trust companies like they used to. Brand loyalty is going down as well. You need to give your customers a reason to buy from you and one to come back. Creating simple yet effective products is always a damn good strategy.

#1 Make sure you're able to substantiate the marketing claims you make; if you aren't, don't make them. Simple as that.

2# Don't fool customers into believing they'll obtain some instant anti-age effect or they'll look 10 years younger. They won't. 

3# Do your homework and apply the transparency rule. For example, if you claim your ingredients are natural, make sure they really are. This seems obvious, however you have no idea how many products I see that are not 100% natural yet they claim they are. Truly disappointing.

I hope this "small guide" on how to choose the best skincare products was useful. If you have  specific products to analyze or questions,  write me in the comments section.