What is Hyaluronic Acid?
First things first, hyaluronic acid (HA) is NOT your typical acid. In fact, HA is a type of sugar found naturally in our bodies (50% of our HA is found in our skin). It binds with water to create a substance that acts like a cushion between proteins in the skin (hello collagen and elastin), skin fibers and tendons, and muscles.
What is HA's responsibility in the skin?
HA maintains the proper moisture balance in the skin (retains water).
With low levels of HA in your body, it speeds up elasticity loss and skin-drying (Hello wrinkles). Due to the moisture that HA provides, skin cells can survive longer. The epidermis becomes thicker and reduces the buildup of dead skin cells. To give you an idea of how good HA is at retaining moisture: one gram of HA can hold up to six liters of water...YES, AMAZING. Increasing the skin's internal hydration levels will keep your external skin looking plump and smooth.
HA's molecular weight: AHHH, a chemistry term! All you really need to understand is that the mass of one particular molecule of HA determines how deep the HA will penetrate the skin. HA with HIGH molecular weight (larger size) sits on top of the skin (the molecule is too big to get deep into the skin layers) and captures water to hydrate the skin. In comparison, LOW molecular weight HA (smaller size) goes into the skin's dermis and restocks the lost HA (most commonly don't through cosmetic HA fillers done by a dermatologist). One is not necessarily better than the other - look for both high and low molecular weight HA in your products for both benefits!
HA as we age: like most other molecules in the body and skin, HA declines as we age, both naturally and due to free radical damage. As we get older, our cell's power to create HA (which is a complex process and takes a lot of cellular strength) progressively worsens. This means that it becomes harder for our bodies to make our natural HA.
Secondly, all those activities you love to do, like sitting in the sun, smoking, and drinking alcohol, break down the HA in your body. With reduced levels of HA, our skin cant hold onto water, and we age dramatically.
HA in your skincare routine:
The great thing about HA is that it is incredibly gentle and great for any skin type, even if you are extra sensitive. Also, you can use it morning or night (max up to twice a day)!
HA comes in many different skincare products like cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and masks. In my opinion, using HA in a serum is the best way to deliver its effects to the skin (it will be the most potent).
- Apply an HA serum on damp skin (cleanse, lightly pat dry, and then add HA serum) - remember HA binds to water and will hydrate the skin this way.
- HA pairs well with other ingredients because it is so gentle: try layering with glycolic acid or retinol (add the HA first to the skin, let it absorb, and then add next step) - the HA can prevent irritation from the more potent actives
- In the ingredient list, look for high molecular weight HA and low molecular HA (will be hydrolyzed HA)
- If you want extra hydration, look for both HA and Sodium Hyaluronate in the ingredient list (the two are BFFs)
Some great HA products:
- @TheOrdinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
- @aN-Hydra Hyaluronic Hydrator
- @La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Serum
- @NIOD Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex
- @Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 gel
- @Paula's Choice: Hyaluronic Acid Booster