A sugar that can bind over 1,000 times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid is commonly used as an injectable filler for wrinkles in fillers such as Restylane, Juvéderm, and Perlane, are typically injected.
However, in topical skincare, hyaluronic acid is another story. It cannot enter the dermis when applied topically, and may make the skin drier in very dry climates! For more, read on.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid (which also goes by the names hyaluronan or hyaluronate) is a sugar. It is not be confused with other acids like salicylic or glycolic acids, which exfoliate away dead skin cells. Instead, hyaluronic acid is a sugar. When found naturally within the body, it provides cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin and eyes.
Hyaluronic Acid Makes an Excellent Injectable Agent
In the past decade, hyaluronic acid has replaced collagen as the ingredient of choice for restoring lost volume. Popular fillers like Restylane, Perlane, and Juvéderm work like sponges once they’re injected, swelling up with water to create a plumper look. Over time, the hyaluronic acid gets absorbed by the body and disappears.
However, hyaluronic acid looks more natural and lasts longer than collagen. Hyaluronic acid is also less likely to produce a reaction, since the body does not recognize it as a foreign substance. And if you’re not happy with how it looks, a dermatologist can administer an enzyme called hyaluronidase can disperse the HA even before it naturally dissolves.
Hyaluronic Acid Makes a So-So Skin Care Ingredient
Hyaluronic acid molecules are simply TOO BIG to pass through the epidermis, or the uppermost layer of the skin. Instead, it forms a barrier and gives a brief, smoothing effect, but it is almost all cosmetic.
You also should avoid hyaluronic acid altogether if you’re living in a very dry climate. Under these conditions, hyaluronic acid can’t draw moisture from the environment, so it may actually start to pull moisture out of the deeper layers of your skin.
What to Use Instead
Sodium hyaluronate is a particularly effective humectant because it is effective in both high and low humidity conditions. When sodium hyaluronate is protonated, or made acidic, it is called hyaluronic acid. But sodium hyaluronate has greater chemical stability than hyaluronic acid and does not pull moisture out of the deeper layers of your skin under particularly dry conditions.
Hyaluronic acid is a fantastic filler found in Restylane, Perlane, and Juvéderm. It is lightweight, easily absorbed, not commonly rejected by the body, and looks natural.
However, as a moisturizer, I’m less enthusiastic about hyaluronic acid. On the one hand, it is super light and can temporarily fill in fine lines and wrinkles. But on the other hand, hyaluronic acid is too large to penetrate beneath the top layer of the skin, so any “plumping” action is truly going to wear off after a few hours. In addition, hyaluronic acid may pull moisture out of the deeper layers of your skin under particularly dry conditions — not something to wish for in a moisturizer!
Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through Derm.net.