Like many beauty ingredients, 'hyaluronic acid' sounds like some dangerous compound a mad scientist would use to set off explosions. You might even read the name on a moisturizer label and immediately pass it over for something that sounds more “normal” like olive oil.
Have no fear, though. Hyaluronic acid is naturally occurring in the body and has some very important functions. When it comes to skin, it’s a total rock-star ingredient that hydrates and plumps to give a you a beautifully dewy, plump complexion. Get to know it better and, trust me, you’ll be squinting at ingredients lists making sure it’s on there every time.
What is Hyaluronic Acid and Why It Is Important For Your Skin
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a natural substance found in your skin and other areas of your body.
If you want to get science-y, HA is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG), a group of compounds that make up components of connective tissue. Hyaluronic acid for skin (GAGs) are polysaccharides (carbohydrates) that function to nourish collagen and elastin in the body.
When GAGs are combined with water in the skin, they form a gel-like substance (like Jell-O) that fills itself up into the spaces between collagen and elastin fibers and gives them turgidity, or bounce (again, think of how bouncy Jell-O is).
Basically, GAGs like hyaluronic acid keep skin plump and hydrated, giving it that velvety-soft, plush and smooth appearance we all adore in babies.
Hyaluronic acid is a GAG that can be found naturally in the body in most cells and especially in areas like the joints (cushioning them and keeping them lubricated), the skin (where it’s most abundant—your skin contains 50% of all the HA found in the body.) and the eyes (giving eyeballs their shape).
HA can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, or 6 liters of water in 1 gram of HA. Wow!
HA has a half-life (the length of time it takes for it to get broken down and excreted) of only one day in the skin, meaning it has to be renewed and restored often. You need it if you want skin to look youthful, hydrated and soft, not to mention if you want your joints to be lubricated and working properly without any pain or discomfort. And, well, who doesn’t want that?
The Role of Hyaluronic Acid in the Skin
Unlike your other organs, your skin doesn’t seem like such a big mystery. After all, we see it every single day. But there’s much more to your skin than meets the eye.
Your skin comprises three main layers: the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous fat. For our purposes, the dermis is the layer we’ll take a closer look at. The dermis (the middle layer of the skin) is the tier that contains collagen, elastin and GAGs (most notably hyaluronic acid). It contains nerve fibers and capillaries, which allow nutrients and oxygen in the blood to pass into cells. The dermis also contains hair follicles and sweat glands, and it helps regulate body temperature.
The dermis is primarily made up of 75-80% collagen and the rest is elastin and hyaluronic acid, fat cells, fibroblasts (collagen production factories) and blood vessels.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body that gives skin its structure and keeps it firm. There are 27 different types of collagen in the body and type 1 makes up 90% of skin collagen.
Elastin is another protein in the dermis that gives skin its stretching ability. It’s essentially what allows skin to bounce back when you pinch and pull at it, like a rubber band. Without elastin, skin would lose its firmness and become saggy, just like a rubber band that’s been stretched too much.
What does hyaluronic acid do?
As previously mentioned, hyaluronic acid fills out the free spaces between the collagen and elastin fibers to keep collagen flexible (on its own collagen doesn’t have much stretch). HA acts as a nourishing agent to keep collagen limber and pliable.
Hyaluronic Acid Benefits
Hyaluronic acid possesses the remarkable ability to bind and retain water molecules and help prevent trans-epidermal water loss (TWL). TWL is the loss of moisture that occurs when water passes from the dermis up to the epidermis and evaporates. It can lead to dryness and more pronounced wrinkles and fine lines.
In addition to hydration and lubrication, hyaluronic acid also takes part in certain aspects of tissue repair by activating inflammatory cells in order to hasten immune response. Basically, it’s part of the tissue-healing process in case of injury.
Together, collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid are like the Three Musketeers (if aging skin was Cardinal Richelieu). They work together to ensure that skin stays well-nourished, plump and firm.
Hyaluronic acid production declines when we age
Of course, there’s a catch: as with collagen and elastin, hyaluronic acid diminishes as we age, particularly after age 40. If it didn’t, we’d have baby-smooth skin for life!
As HA becomes less abundant in the skin, it leads to more TWL, dryness and wrinkle formation. Skin becomes etched with fine lines around the eye area and forehead, with deeper folds noticeable around the mouth and between the brows.
Decline of hyaluronic acid leads to
1. decreased ability for skin to hold water and support collagen and elastin
2. dryer, sunken look
3. increased joint friction
How to Replenish Hyaluronic Acid (the Right Way)
There is a difference between hyaluronic acid for skin vs hyaluronic acid for joints.
Lets talk about hyaluronic acid for face.
There are two ways to replenish hyaluronic acid in the skin: through topical application and through oral supplements. Topical administration of HA is the most common, as many skincare companies include it in their products, particularly in moisturizers and serums.
But is topical HA better than HA in supplement form? The truth is, for best results, you need both.
Topical Treatments: Hyaluronic Acid Serums, Creams and Injections
Topical HA helps skin retain moisture to keep it soft and plump, and maintain the elasticity that allows it to snap back when pulled, hence preventing sagging. Research has shown time and again that topical HA found in creams or serums is an effective treatment for wrinkles in aging skin.
The most commonly known hyaluronic topical applications include:
1. Hyaluronic acid cream
2. Hyaluronic acid serum
3. Hyaluronic acid moisturizer
4. Hyaluronic acid injections.
It turns out there are 2 types of HA:
1. High-molecular-weight HA and
2. Low-molecular-weight HA.
In one study, 76 female participants between 30 and 60 applied an HA-formulated cream to their wrinkled skin twice a day for 60 days. It was noted that the HA-formulated cream (as opposed to a placebo) provided “significant improvement in skin hydration and overall elasticity.”
However, both high-molecular-weight and low-molecular-weight HA have their perks and are necessary for an overall improvement in skin condition.
Now, where high-molecular-weight HA is concerned, the benefits are in the overall hydration of skin. High-molecular-weight HA forms a protective layer on the surface of the skin to retain moisture and prevent water loss. It’s a humectant, meaning it preserves moisture and actually attracts moisture from the dermis to the epidermis and from the surrounding environment.
When it comes to low-molecular-weight HA, its benefits lie in the fact that it is able to penetrate deep into the dermis where it can tackle deeper wrinkles.
Low-molecular-weight HA was found to have a significant impact on “reduction of wrinkle depth.” This was believed to be a result of the fact that low-molecular weight HA penetrates deeper into the dermis layer of skin.
In one study, 33 women with the average age of approximately 45 years applied low-molecular-weight HA lotion, cream and serum around the eye area for a period of eight weeks. At its conclusion, the study showed that “a statistically significant moisturizing effect was observed.” In addition, skin roughness and skin elasticity were also improved.
This study further proved that the smaller the molecular weight of HA, the better penetration and hydration.
Dermatologists often use injections and fillers made with low-molecular-hyaluronic acids that can help fill up the empty spaces inside the dermis and lift sagging skin.
Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
Of course topical treatments are all well and good, but what about HA supplements? They, too, are wunderkinds in treating signs of aging skin, that work on your whole body and not just on one area of your skin, for example, your face.
While topical HA targets only the skin from the outside (epidermis), supplements can help restore the HA in our skin and entire bodies.
Research has shown that ingested HA can help moisturize the skin and lubricate joints. In one randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, participants with dry skin were given 240mg of HA for six weeks. Results showed that there were improvements of dry skin throughout the face and body, and “significant increase of skin moisture.”
Sources of Hyaluronic Acid (and Which Is Best)
Hyaluronic acid can be derived either from chicken or rooster combs or from Streptococcus bacterial fermentation. Because HA occurs naturally in the body, there’s usually no danger of an allergic reaction. Still, for those who want the most effective HA supplementation (and are vegan, vegetarian and prefer animal-friendly products), the best option is HA that’s 100% plant-derived.
Best Hyaluronic Acid
'Hyabest' is one of the best types of non-animal-derived oral hyaluronic acids with proven science standing firmly behind it. In a study with 42 female participants (20 in the HA group; 22 in the placebo group) who were concerned about skin dryness, sagging and crow’s feet, it was found that skin moisture content in the HA group was increased significantly as opposed to the placebo group. Wrinkle volume reduction was also significant in the HA group.
Another study found similar results for sixty Japanese male and female participants aged 22-59 years with crow’s feet. Following eight weeks of regular ingestion of the Hyabest supplement, the HA group showed “significantly diminished wrinkles” as compared to the placebo group. What’s more, another study found that Hyabest also relieved pain in the knees of people suffering from osteoarthritis. Kind of makes you want to run out and buy a bunch, right? I don’t blame you -- I'm in the same boat!
Taut Premium Collagen Advanced Formula
If you know me, you know I’m first, a supplement snob, and second, I’m a major fan of Taut’s Premium Collagen Advanced Formula. This extraordinary liquid supplement contains hyaluronic acid to help you truly get the best skin possible. Taut's hyaluronic acid is sourced from clinically-tested Hyabest HA, which provides the best results. With this daily shot of skin-loving nutrients, I’m always sure my skin is at it’s 100% potential!
As I mentioned before, HA will reduce wrinkles, improve elasticity and increase skin moisture to have your skin looking smoother than a baby’s bottom. These supplements help you look and feel it (trust me—even my mom noticed!).
Taut’s Premium Collagen Advanced Formula also contains another personal favorite and must-have: marine hydrolyzed collagen (potent concentration 13,000mg) to promote firmness. It works in synergy with elastin to promote elasticity, vitamin C to support collagen and grape seed extract to protect against free radical damage (unstable atoms that damage cells all over the body and lead to wrinkling, hyper-pigmentation and sagging).
This delicious orange-y drink is like a weapon against pretty much all of your skin concerns. With regular use, your skin will look radiant, fresh and, well, taut. No more sagging jowls or deep lines etched into your skin screaming your age to everyone in the vicinity. And it can help improve your joints too!
This is as close to the Fountain of Youth as you’ll ever get!
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