A staple in a broad range of injectable and topical treatments, hyaluronic acid is without a doubt one of the most important and widely used skincare ingredients today. Speaking of which, using hyaluronic acid for skin has risen in both prominence and popularity over the past few years to the point where you'd be hard-pressed to come across a top-tier serum, moisturizer or sheet mask that does not contain HA. It is almost as if having a hyaluronic acid skin care-powered regimen is the newest fad in town. But did you know that hyaluronic acid does more than boost your skin's or face's moisture levels? Here's a comprehensive overview of a molecule that is known for its elusive glowy, dewy effect.
What is Hyaluronic Acid Made From?
For those who are less skincare savvy, hyaluronic acid can sound like the last thing that you'd want to have anywhere near your face. Which, of course, raises the pertinent question; what is hyaluronic acid made from?
Well, for starters, you'd be surprised to know that your own skin cells do in fact secrete hyaluronic acid naturally and without any external aid. This product is usually in an attempt to keep up the optimum moisture/hydration levels that is needed to keep your skin plump, youthful and fend off environmental aggressors. You see, in its most basic form, hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule that has an unparalleled chemical tendency to attract and hold on to water particles. So, if its on your skin, it will help bind water molecules to the underlying collagen meshwork that gives structure thereby making it look glowier and more hydrated. And this helps keep your face looking full, fresh and bouncy even in the hardest and most challenging of prevailing conditions.
However, due to aging, pollution, sun damage and assault from free radicals, your skin's ability to maintain these ideal levels wanes with time. Actually, this explains the tendency of senior citizens having dry and more wrinkled skin than their younger counterparts. The absence of hyaluronic acid means that their skin tends to become quickly dehydrated making the flaws and imperfections on their complexion a little more conspicuous and visible.
The solution to this otherwise inevitable declination is by supplementing your hyaluronic acid levels by throwing in a beauty product that contains sufficient levels of the molecule to your daily skincare regimen. Which, naturally, leads us to the following question; how is hyaluronic acid made industrially?
The microbial production of hyaluronic acid employs the fact that it is a linear and natural polymer that consists of repeating disaccharide components of β-1, 4-glucuronic acid interspersed with β-1, 3-N-acetyl glucosamine that has a molecular weight of at least 6 million Daltons. With excellent biocompatibility, high viscoelasticity, and an above-average moisture retention capacity, it is no wonder that hyaluronic acid in skin care finds a broad range of applications in cosmetics, medicine and nutraceuticals.
Conventionally, hyaluronic acid was extracted or harvested from rooster combs but this quickly proved to be unfeasible and impractical as soon as the demand for this humectant ballooned almost overnight. Presently, the molecule is mainly produced through a complex streptococcal fermentation process which makes use of a series of recombinant systems after experts discovered that it was possible to avoid potential toxins showing up in the end product that way.
Thanks to this, hyaluronic acid skincare reputation hinges on the fact that it is an extremely gentle, mild and balmy substance that improves the moisture-locking capabilities of a wide variety of lotions, serums and creams. If anything, it is so good that a concentration of around 1% of HA can potentially bind onto at least 99% water molecules. To put it into a better perspective, just a gram of hyaluronic acid can hold at least five liters of water. But what makes it nothing short of a genius ingredient is that it does all this without making you look drenched or lowering the osmotic pressure of your skin cells.
Exploring the Numerous Hyaluronic Acid Benefits
A majority of hyaluronic acid benefits, as you may have guessed it, revolves around its ability to effortlessly hydrate and moisturize the skin. And this should not be surprising considering that it is essentially a humectant like glycerin or panthenol, only that it is several times better. Without much further ado, here are some of the main benefits of hyaluronic acid.
1. Promotes More Supple and Healthier Skin
It is estimated that over half of the naturally produced hyaluronic acid in you is found on your skin, more specifically, the most constantly exposed parts such as the face and forearms. Here, it holds on to water and assists in the retention of moisture making the skin feel and look more supple. But as you may already know, exposure to environmental aggressors and the natural deterioration/aging process lessens the content of HA in one's body to the point that if not replenished promptly the skin starts to wrinkle and wither.
So, if you are wondering, 'What is hyaluronic acid good for?' Supplementing your HA levels is one of the best ways of preventing this decline by hydrating your cells without drowning them, which is essentially what this humectant does. As a knock-on effect, hydrated skin translates to less visible wrinkles, plumper skin and reduced redness. Studies also show that hyaluronic acid can help temper some of the symptoms associated with dermatitis.
2. Helps Smooth One's Skin Texture
A series of several studies prove that hyaluronic acid is critical for reducing or toning down the physical roughness of one's skin. This means that your skin will be less coarse to touch when your hyaluronic levels are above average and within that sweet spot or optimum window that keeps it plump and glowy. Besides, one of the main answers to what does hyaluronic acid do for your skin is that it improves your complexion's elasticity thereby making fine lines and crow's feet less prominent.
3. Aids in the Healing of Wounds
It turns out that hyaluronic acid plays a central role in the repairing process that oversees the healing of wounds. Observations show that as much as the molecule is usually present in the epidermis, its overall concentration increases sharply when there is skin damage that has to be repaired.
In this case, scientists believe what hyaluronic acid does for skin is signal your body to put up more blood vessels in the injured area and regulate the overall inflammation levels to help the lesion or laceration heal faster. In fact, topical application of hyaluronic acid has been shown to lessen the size of the wounds, in addition to toning down the pain associated with the injury. All this happens much faster compared to if no treatment was used in the first place.
What's even more impressive is that hyaluronic acid appears to have minimal antibacterial properties that could come in handy when you're trying to lessen the overall risk of infection or an open wound or acne lesion.
Besides, anecdotal evidence points to the fact that hyaluronic acid is quite effective at combating gum disease and healing mouth ulcers if used topically via oral solutions and serums. It's no wonder that it is often recommended for speeding up healing in the aftermath of tooth surgery.
4. Has an Anti-aging Effect
By now you are already aware that changes in the body's today hyaluronic acid content leads to wrinkles and fine lines. Therefore, if you are wondering; is hyaluronic acid good for skin? Yes, it makes wrinkles and creases less visible by enhancing the firmness, elasticity, and tautness of the skin. The overall depth of the wrinkles also decreases with the continuous and regular application of hyaluronic acid. One 2014 study, for instance, revealed how women who applied serums containing hyaluronic acid topically and religiously for at least 8 weeks continuously observed a 40% decrease in the depth/visibility of the wrinkles on their face and at least a 55% increase in elasticity and firmness (in direct comparison with participants of the study who applied a control placebo.)
5. Tones Down the Symptoms Associated with Dermatitis
Hyaluronic acid has been observed to aid in the improvement of symptoms associated with moderate to mild cases of eczema. Research has also revealed that HA in a foam or serum foam is several times more soothing to use than a ceramide-containing topical cream as far as relieving the symptoms of eczema goes.
6. Keeps the Bones Well-Oiled and Lubricated
Even though this is not directly associated with what hyaluronic acid does for skin, we cannot possibly overlook the role of this humectant in keeping our joints oiled, pain-free and lubricated. This is the main reason hyaluronic acid supplements tend to be quite popular among people suffering from degenerative joint ailments such as osteoarthritis that is caused by the progressive tear and wear of the cartilage tissue over years.
There's even a study that illustrates how combining HA with common medications that are used to treat the symptoms associated with joint diseases such as corticosteroids and NSAIDs ( non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can improve how effectively such treatments work.
7. Relieves Acid Reflux Signs and Symptoms
There's new research that shows how hyaluronic acid supplements can aid in the improvement of the symptoms and signs associated with chronic acid reflux. Apparently, acid reflux causes the regurgitation of the stomach contents up the throat/esophagus which damages and essentially corrodes the inner esophagus lining. If not attended to in time, it can cause unimaginable pain, not to mention the discomfort of having to withstand multiple heartburns in a day.
Fortunately, it turns out that hyaluronic acid can mitigate some of these symptoms by soothing the abraded inner lining of the esophagus and also speeding up the recovery/healing process when you manage to get the reflux under control.
8. Soothes the Dry Eye Discomfort
It is approximated that at least 1 out of every 7 adults over 40 years suffer from one symptom of dry eyes or another. Often at times this is caused by tears evaporating from the eyes too quickly or the reduced tear production that comes about with age. So, how is this related to what is hyaluronic acid for?
Well, it turns out that your eyes contain extremely high concentrations of naturally secreted hyaluronic acid. And since this humectant is extremely good at locking in moisture, it only makes sense that it is employed at treating dry eye disease. Speaking of which, eye drops that contain just as little as 0.2% to 0.4% of hyaluronic acid have been shown to be quite effective at improving one's eye health and eliminating dye eye symptoms. Presently, there are even contact lenses that contain a slow-release version of this humectant being developed to treat dry eye disease.
Such potent are the moisture-locking capabilities of this humectant molecule that hyaluronic acid drops are routinely used after eye surgery to lessen inflammation and shorten the recovery period.
9. Used in the Treatment of Vaginal Dryness and Preventing Bladder Pain
Vaginal dryness is one of the hallmarks of menopause that afflicts many women over the age of 50 years. Scientists and dermatologists have been able to show how a combination of an estrogen-based cream and hyaluronic acid serum can aid in the alleviation of the physical symptoms associated with vaginal dryness.
What's more, the researchers also discovered that hyaluronic acid was the more effective of the two creams/solutions at this. In other words, if you are wondering what does hyaluronic acid do for your skin, it may help spice up your sex life especially if you cannot use conventional hormonal treatment to counter the symptoms accompany menopause such as vaginal dryness.
In the same breath, there's also some compelling evidence that shows how introducing hyaluronic acid into one's bladder via a catheter can temper the symptoms of chronic painful bladder syndrome.
Exploring the Various Modes of Hyaluronic Acid Uses
One of the major highlights of hyaluronic acid uses is that it is available in several different forms, each of which is optimized for treating varying health issues. And this includes;
1. Oral Supplementation of Hyaluronic Acid
As unusual as it sounds, there are hyaluronic acid tablets that you can take orally to boost the overall content of this humectant in your body. These tablets are generally formulated using a synthesized version of the same polysaccharide molecule that occurs naturally in the body. Bear in mind that hyaluronic acid appears/occurs in high concentrations in the joints, skin and eyes where it sustains tissue hydration and offers lubrication. As such, taking hyaluronic acid tablets may help alleviate medical conditions whose genesis are problems that crop up from these three areas, such as
- Relieving joint pain
- Preventing dry eyes disease
- Improving the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and crow's feet
Considering that oral supplementation of any compound, mineral or vitamin is highly sensitive, you may want to speak with a primary healthcare provider before adopting this mode of usage. And if you do, ensure to follow the usage instructions from the manufacturer to the tee.
2. Hyaluronic Acid Topical Usage
Topical use of hyaluronic acid is by far the most popular, risk-free and most accessible mode of usage of this organically-produced compound. As far as this goes, topical HA can be administered as either a foam, serum, lotion or cream. Under this category, hyaluronic acid is mostly deployed as a hydrating and moisturizing agent that enhances the moisture-locking capabilities of the base cream or lotion. And this is usually possible thanks to the compatibility of HA with a broad variety of active ingredients, formulations and base solutions.
Speaking of being an excellent hydrating agent, an excellent example of how HA improves the overall moisturizing and nourishing ability of cream is in Bloommy's Day and Night Cream. Here, the hyaluronic acid combines with collagen and retinol to impart a potent dose of anti-aging properties that can potentially shed as many as two decades from your complexion if used consistently.
But one may ask, how often should you use hyaluronic acid topically? The truth is that there appears to be no hard limit on how much hyaluronic acid to use externally on your face or arms. That being said, the ideal frequency is at least twice a day to increase your chances of extracting the best results possible from the humectant.
3. Hyaluronic Acid Injectables
HA injectables are founded on the fact that since the body secretes the humectant naturally, then it is possible to introduce it under the skin with few to no chances of the receiver suffering an allergic reaction. Intrinsically, the administration of hyaluronic acid has a number of applications with most of them bordering on being cosmetic rather than medical.
Injectables like Restylane and Juvederm, for example, employ a special gel form of this humectant to add structure and volume to the underlying dermal layer of the skin. With just a few needle pricks, the added gel is able to plump up the sunken layers thereby smoothing fine lines and eliminating shadows by attracting water molecules to itself. And although these kinds of fillers will generally dissolve and their effect fades over the course of several months, the anti-aging effect is irrefutably quite impressive given the low-cost nature of this treatment. The same can also be replicated to make lip fillers whereby a dermatologist injects HA into the corners of the lips to give them a more youthful/plumper appearance.
Hyaluronic Acid Side Effects
Since HA is a compound that the body produces or secretes naturally, there are very few side effects that are associated with topical use of the humectant. It's almost safe to say that this is one of the few star skincare ingredients that seem to be compatible with nearly all types of skin textures, colors or types. Actually, most of the hyaluronic acid side effects that are linked to topical use are tied to the cream or lotion in question but not the humectant itself.
The possible side effects of hyaluronic acid in injectables and oral tablets are, however, a different kettle of fish altogether. With injectables, most of the minimal hyaluronic acid dangers that most people are often worried about are related more to the bruising or swelling that accompanies this mode of delivery. That's actually the reason it is extremely important to go to a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon if you are looking into this form of HA application. Having said that, the other risk associated with injectables is that it can be injected wrongly (too superficially) or in very rare cases, directly to a blood vessel.
Otherwise, injecting hyaluronic acid can predispose you to
- Temporary pain
- Flushed skin
As far as breastfeeding and pregnancy go, women who are looking to receive hyaluronic acid injections are advised to consult with their primary healthcare provider if they are pregnant or actively breastfeeding to minimize any risk to the newborn or growing fetus.
Otherwise, topical hyaluronic acid safety should not be anything to be overly concerned about. In fact, not only is it safe to be used on a daily basis but also highly recommended by both dermatologists and skin care specialists alike. Other than just hydrating, plumping up and improving the youthfulness of your skin, hyaluronic acid appears to have some decent antioxidant properties. And this means that it can double up like a physical shield that keeps free radicals (from sources that we are barely in control of, e.g. pollution) at bay.