Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a molecule that occurs naturally in the skin. Added to your serums, face creams, or face masks, it can give your skin a dramatic boost in moisture and hydration.
Of course, as with any skincare ingredient, there’s a right and wrong way to use hyaluronic acid.
This guide from Nourishing Biological breaks down everything you need to know about hyaluronic acid, including its mechanism of action, its many benefits, and ways to incorporate it into your skincare routine.
What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring molecule found throughout the body. HA is found in the joints, blood vessels, brain, and eyes. However, the most hyaluronic acid is found in the skin, which is responsible for keeping it plump and smooth.
Hyaluronic acid has many other functions in the body, such as:
- Lubricating the joints
- Filling space between cells
- Providing structural support to proteins like collagen and elastin
- Supporting tissue repair after injury
Hyaluronic acid is essential for skin health and appearance. However, the body’s natural stores of hyaluronic acid begin to decline over time. Some of the common reasons include aging, smoking, poor diet, and environmental pollution – all of which have a major effect on the skin.
Fortunately, it is possible to replenish some hyaluronic acid lost from the skin by applying it topically. Let’s go over the different types of hyaluronic acid that can be used on the skin.
What Are the Different Types of Hyaluronic Acid?
There are three types of hyaluronic acid that can be used in cosmetic formulations. These include:
- Hyaluronic Acid: This is the original hyaluronic acid with a large molecular size and water-retaining capabilities. Hyaluronic acid acts as a natural occlusive when applied to the skin, forming a protective barrier over the skin to stop moisture loss.
- Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid: This type of hyaluronic acid has been broken down into small elements that penetrate the skin barrier, providing superior hydration. However, it is still not small enough to go beyond the epidermis or the surface level of the skin. When topically applied to the skin, these molecules sit on top of the skin, offering hydration only at the surface.
- Sodium Hyaluronate: This version of hyaluronic acid has the smallest molecular size. This ingredient can reach as far as the dermis – the middle layer of the skin – to penetrate the skin and provide deeper hydration.
Hyaluronic acid is also available as a supplement. One study found that supplementing with hyaluronic acid for just 40 days can significantly improve skin hydration and reduce wrinkles, laxity, and roughness.
Hyaluronic acid is commonly sold in combination with hydrolyzed collagen supplements.
What Are the Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid?
1. Increased Hydration
Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule that binds to a large amount of water. Hyaluronic acid can draw water from other sources, making it a humectant — a type of skincare ingredient that acts similar to a sponge.
Hyaluronic acid can draw water molecules into the atmosphere. It can also draw out water from deeper layers of the skin, bring them to the outer layers of the skin, and increase surface-level moisture.
2. Protected Skin Barrier
Hyaluronic acid strengthens the lipid barrier, which is made up of fatty acids on the surface of the skin. The lipid barrier protects the skin from environmental toxins, such as air pollution, while locking in moisture.
Over time, the lipid barrier can degrade due to harsh cleansers, excessive use of exfoliating products, and extreme environmental conditions.
Hyaluronic acid can help to support the skin barrier. By drawing water to the skin’s surface, HA can help to defend the skin against harmful pollutants, UV rays, and other damaging factors.
However, some products containing hyaluronic acids may come with added harsh ingredients, which can compromise the integrity of your skin barrier.
To avoid this, look for hyaluronic acid products with gentle ingredients, such as our Miracular Face Serum.
3. Smoother Skin Texture and Appearance
Hyaluronic acid can create a plump-like appearance by drawing moisture to the skin’s surface. This can make your skin not only take on a smoother appearance but also feel smoother.
Because of its smoothing effect on the skin, hyaluronic acid can be used anywhere skin texture is an issue. While it’s popularly used as a face serum, hyaluronic acid can also be an effective ingredient in serums and face creams.
4. Younger-Looking Skin
With age, sun exposure, and poor lifestyle habits (which we all have), our skin can lose its firmness. Skin laxity is one of the determining factors in perceived skin age, with many invasive and non-invasive procedures to help manage it.
In addition, some researchers have found hyaluronic acid to have skin-rejuvenating effects, which can lead to a more youthful appearance both on the face and body.
What Are the Side Effects of Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is safe to use when the instructions are followed correctly. Because hyaluronic acid is naturally found in the skin, it may be safe for all skin types, including oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, and skin that’s prone to breakouts.
When applied topically, pure hyaluronic acid has not been found to produce adverse side effects. However, some side effects may likely occur.
Here are some of the most common side effects to consider:
HA Combined With Other Ingredients
Some products combine hyaluronic acid with other ingredients, which may irritate some people. Some of the most common culprits include preservatives such as parabens, isothiazolinones, and formaldehyde.
In addition, if you are allergic to certain skincare ingredients, it’s essential to check for them on any products you may use.
Lead To Dryness
Because hyaluronic acid draws moisture from other sources, those living in dry climates should be cautious. If there aren’t enough water molecules in the atmosphere, then applying hyaluronic acid to the skin can cause it to draw even more moisture from deeper layers of the skin.
Those with dry skin who use hyaluronic acid as their only source of moisture may not experience the best results. Instead, combining hyaluronic acid with a hydrating moisturizer is better to experience its full effects.
How Do You Use Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is most commonly found in face serums or creams.
Face serums containing hyaluronic acid tend to be fairly thin in consistency. In addition, when used on their own, they may not provide dry skin with the moisture that it needs. Serums with hyaluronic acid should be applied on damp skin after cleansing and followed by a moisturizer for the best results.
If you’re using a moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid, such as our Miraculous Skin Essence, it does not need to be followed by another skincare product. The only exception is if you’re spending the day outside. Even though hyaluronic acid doesn’t increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, always wear SPF to protect your skin from sun damage.
Hyaluronic acid can be combined with other skincare ingredients without diminishing their effects. If you already have a skincare routine that works for you, you may be able to add hyaluronic acid without changing anything.
Hyaluronic acid can be combined with any of the following ingredients:
- Topical antioxidants (e.g., vitamin C)
- Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)
- Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs)
- Niacinamide (or vitamin B3)
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Plant-based oils
Consult with your dermatologist to ensure that your skincare products safely work together. If you notice any signs of redness and irritation, consult your dermatologist.
Hyaluronic acid is found in many parts of the body, including the skin. It’s responsible for keeping the body’s biggest organ hydrated, smooth, and plump. However, aging — in addition to various lifestyle factors — can rapidly deplete stores of hyaluronic acid.
At Nourishing Biologicals, we provide a specially-formulated blend of ingredients to provide the benefits of hyaluronic acid — and many others — for your most radiant complexion. While it’s essential to take caution, applying topical hyaluronic acid can help improve the skin’s appearance, especially if there’s a high amount of hyaluronic acid loss.