If you’ve been paying attention to skin care ingredients lately, you’ve likely noticed that hyaluronic acid is everywhere. No clue exactly what it is, what it’s used for or who it’s best suited for? You’re not alone. Ditto if you find the word acid alarming.
What exactly is hyaluronic acid?
“While this ingredient isn’t new by any means, it’s become popular because of its seemingly endless list of benefits and the fact that it works well for mostly anyone,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of DermWarehouse Dr. Alan J. Parks. “Hyaluronic acid (HA) has powerful anti-aging properties and is one of the preeminent hydrating ingredients for skin, regardless of your skin type. HA is something that’s naturally found throughout the body and more than 50 percent of the body’s HA is found within the skin tissue. Its most unique characteristic is that it’s able to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, making it tremendously hydrating.”
If we already have hyaluronic acid in our body naturally, why do we need to buy products that contain it?
Sometimes more is more! “Hyaluronic acid is responsible for keeping skin hydrated and soft. It also helps to prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin. When it’s performing these functions at its maximum capacity, it keeps us looking young. As we age, however, the HA levels in our bodies begin to decrease,” explains Parks. “Once this happens, you’ll begin to notice the visible signs of aging, including dryness and loss of moisture, fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin texture and loss of firmness.”
What’s the best way to deliver hyaluronic acid to the skin?
The good news is that even though natural hyaluronic acid production will begin to slow, you can incorporate HA into your skin care regimen to make up for this loss either topically or through injections. Using a topical product containing this star ingredient (via hyaluronic acid creams or serums) will keep skin hydrated and plump, prevent visible signs of aging (such as those pesky fine lines and wrinkles) and generally make skin look younger and feel smoother and firmer.
According to Parks, HA also protects from environmental damage and the sun’s harmful UVB rays, which can cause sunspots. “Topical HA products will have lower molecular weights to enable them to make their way through the skin’s layers while also moisturizing the top layer of the skin. If you are using a topical HA product, it’s best to avoid those that also contain alcohol, parabens, sulfates or other ingredients that are harmful to the skin.”
As far as hyaluronic acid injections, also known as dermal fillers (think JUVÉDERM and Restylane), these are very popular for the face (around the mouth, eyes, lips and cheeks) as they look natural and are also safe. Parks says that results from HA injections can last up to a year, however, they need to be repeated every 3 to 12 months in order to maintain results. “HA injectables are much safer than collagen injectables as they last longer and don’t require any allergy testing to be done prior. Using a hyaluronic acid injectable will plump up your skin, but in a very natural-looking way.”
Is hyaluronic acid safe for everyone?
What makes HA relatively unique is that it’s not only a powerful anti-aging ingredient, it’s good for all skin types and is safe for almost anyone to use. “If you have combination to oily skin, a hyaluronic acid serum would be best for you as these are lightweight and will give you the hydrating benefits without adding any extra oiliness to the skin. Hyaluronic acid can be used on even the most sensitive or redness-prone skin. It’s calming and soothing, making it perfect for skin prone to irritation or even acne,” says Parks.
For those who haven’t yet incorporated this ingredient into their regimen, we asked Parks to share a few of his favorite hyaluronic acid product recommendations.