What Is Hyaluronic Acid? (And Why Does Your Skin Need It?)
Our Chemical Info series helps you decipher the ingredient lists of beauty, personal care, baby, and home products so you don’t have to worry about the chemicals you’re bringing into your home — and into your body.
This week, we’re taking a look at hyaluronic acid, which has popped up as a star ingredient in so many natural skincare products and even in makeup. It has been touted as a skin hydration hero and is said to moisturise skin and plump up wrinkles like no other.
But what does hyaluronic acid actually do? And will it work for you?
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid isn’t actually an acid. It’s a sugar that naturally occurs in the human body. The viscous substance is an essential component of our skin, connective tissues, joints, and eyes.
Hyaluronic acid burst onto the beauty and skincare scene as a dermal filler in cosmetic surgery. It’s the main ingredient in the popular derm fillers Restylane and Juvederm. When injected into skin, hyaluronic acid fills in fine lines and wrinkles from inside. It has also been used to treat burn victims, heal atopic dermatitis, and create artificial tears for the treatment of dry eyes.
Hyaluronic acid used to just sit on top of skin, where its moisturising effect didn’t last long. But because science has found a way to offer hyaluronic acid with lower molecular weights, today’s version can hydrate the surface layers and plump your skin.
For use in natural skincare products and makeup, as well as in medical applications, hyaluronic acid can come from animal, plant or synthetic sources. It can appear in product labels as hyaluronan or hyaluronate.
Don’t be fooled by the “acid” in the name. Hyaluronic acid is actually very gentle and non irritating.
Why is it good for skin?
Hyaluronic acid is a hydrating powerhouse. It’s a humectant, which means that it pulls in moisture from its surroundings and holds it to your skin. It can bind up to 1,000 times its weight in water, to be specific. This is why it’s such an amazing moisturiser for those with dehydrated or ageing skin, and why it’s often prescribed for those who have undergone procedures such as chemical peels or laser treatments.
Though hyaluronic acid is a natural component of skin, our ability to produce the substance decreases as we get older. Fortunately, hyaluronic acid is an active ingredient in many natural skincare products today. As part of a skincare routine, topical treatments with hyaluronic acid firm up skin, even out rough patches, soften fine lines, and prevent sagging.
Which skin type is it good for?
Hyaluronic acid will do wonders for any skin type. Here’s what it can do for you.
- Dry and dehydrated skin
Hyaluronic acid acts like a big drink of water for parched skin. According to a 2014 study, just one gram of hyaluronic acid can hold approximately six litres of water. That is insanely hydrating! Aside from alleviating dryness, hyaluronic acid also smoothens out coarse patches and gives skin a more supple, healthier look.
- Oily and combination skin
Oily skin still needs moisturisers, but not the rich and heavy kind that can clog pores and make skin look even shinier. One of the best things about hyaluronic acid is that it’s super hydrating and yet lightweight. It’s perfect for those who can’t use creamy or oily moisturisers, like those with acne prone skin.
- Mature skin
Hyaluronic acid is godsend for ageing skin. Aside from erasing fine lines and wrinkles by plumping them up from within, it also replenishes the skin’s diminished hyaluronic acid content, leaving it looking younger, smoother, and softer.
- Sensitive skin
If your skin tends to react to skincare and beauty products, hyaluronic acid could be your new best friend. Because hyaluronic acid is naturally found in our skin, it’s less likely than other skincare ingredients to trigger allergies or sensitivity.