If we had to name the most popular active ingredients found in skincare products, hyaluronic acid would definitely make the top 3. And not without a good reason. This superingredient does not only ensure optimal hydration, it also makes the skin smooth and supple, fights fine lines and wrinkles, strengthens the protective barrier, encourages healing processes, and fights premature aging on a cellular level.
How does hyaluronic acid work
Hyaluronic acid or hyaluronan is a polysaccharide that is naturally produced in our bodies. Most of it resides in the skin (about 50% of the entire HA that is found in the body), eyes, joints, and connective tissue. The main function of this superingredient is to retain water and ensure that the tissues remain moist and fully lubricated.
The way hyaluronic acid works is truly unique. It attracts the water molecules around it and holds on to them. HA can sustain up to 1000 times its weight in water. That water goes to the skin cells that surround it and need it in order to function normally.
Hyaluronic acid in skincare products
When we look through the ingredient lists of cosmetic products, instead of hyaluronic acid, we normally find sodium hyaluronate. Why is that? Short answer: stability. Sodium hyaluronate is a water-soluble sodium salt HA that can also hold on to these enormous amounts of water that we mentioned above. Yet, it is a lot more resistant to oxidation, therefore, more suitable for products that inevitably face oxygen before getting onto our skin.
Also, the sodium hyaluronate molecule is a lot smaller and lighter, therefore it can penetrate into deeper levels of the skin. However, since sodium hyaluronate is a type of salt, in skincare products, it is mixed with water. So, even if the label of the product states that the product contains 90% hyaluronic acid, the actual percentage is only 2-3%. The rest of the solution is water. A 90% sodium hyaluronate product would simply be a solid block of salt.
In the skincare world, we usually come across HA 0,serums or moisturizers. Both types of products can be useful and replenish hydration to the skin, but there are some differences. Serums are formulated with low molecular weight HA molecules and therefore they can penetrate into the deepest layers of the skin. Meanwhile, moisturizers are “heavier” so first and foremost they take care of the outer layers of the skin and have a positive effect on its protective barrier.
Hyaluronic acid vs. aging
The main reason why the beauty industry absolutely adores hyaluronic acid is exactly its unique ability to retain moisture. Especially considering that the lack of it is one of the main reasons for premature aging of the skin.
In general, the aging of human skin is a very complex biological process that is not yet completely understood. However, we know that it is the result of two biologically independent processes. The first one is “innate aging,” which is unavoidable and affects the skin just like it does other organs. It is caused by many processes that happen in the body, such as, for example, hormonal changes. The second one is “extrinsic aging,” that is usually caused by UV rays. This type of aging is commonly referred to as photoaging.
Even though both of these processes are different, they share similarities when it comes to molecular mechanisms. One of the mechanisms is the operation of the molecules that provide moisture. As mentioned above, the main role in skin hydration is played by hyaluronic acid molecules that are located in all of the layers of the skin in between the skin cells and helps them maintain their function. Sadly, in time (thanks to both types of aging processes) the number of HA molecules (as well as many other intercellular molecules such as collagen, elastin, etc.) diminishes so in order to maintain the optimal state of the skin, we need to replenish the resources ourselves.
We do that by using hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers. Yet, serums allow the HA molecules to reach the dermis – the deep layer of the skin that is naturally richest in hyaluronic acid and the hydration of which determines the health and the looks of the skin. Therefore, by adding HA serums to our skincare routine, we can quickly notice visible results:
- The skin becomes more supple, more elastic, and more radiant;
- The fine lines diminish;
- Small skin injuries and cracks heal better;
- Acne scars become brighter and a lot less noticeable;
- The skin “calms down” and its redness diminishes;
- The protective barrier of the skin is strengthened.
Also, hyaluronic acid is very user-friendly since it absorbs quickly and easily. It is not irritating and therefore suitable for all skin types, even for sensitive and redness-prone skin. Finally, it is important to mention the feeling that hyaluronic acid products provide – The incomparable lightness without any stickiness, without that stretchy feeling, and without the annoying dryness sensation. The skin feels soft and supple. And that is all because after filling up on hyaluronic acid, the skin goes back to what it does best – maintaining its optimal health that can be truly timeless.