In the beauty industry, there are thousands of hyaluronic acid (HA)-containing products being marketed to benefit various skin concerns, such as dry skin, fine lines, and wrinkles. But is there any truth to these claims? Does your skin need hyaluronic acid to stay healthy? And, most of all, what’s the best way to incorporate this popular beauty ingredient on your skincare routine?
The role of hyaluronic acid in the skin
HA has a high turnover rate within the body. It is a polysaccharide known for its remarkable ability to bind with water and create a highly viscous solution. Together with collagen, elastin, and other proteoglycans, HA is an important component of the extracellular matrix of the skin. The interactions of these components are essential in maintaining the normal physiologic properties of the skin.
HA gives the underlying tissues the ability to resist compression by absorbing significant amounts of water, thus creating volume. By interacting with different receptors, it also regulates inflammation, tissue repair or the healing process of the skin, as well as tumor development.
HA creams, serums, moisturizers, and other topical cosmetics are known to boost hydration due to this ability. It should be noted that due to its high molecular weight, HA is not absorbed by the skin; rather, it stays on the top layer, attracting water and moisturizing. Because of this, no amount of hyaluronic acid in topical creams can affect deep wrinkles: to fight this sign of aging, HA must be placed into the deeper layers of the skin through dermal filler injections.
Skin types that will benefit from hyaluronic acid
A unique property of HA is its low risk of allergic reaction. With this, even artificially-synthesized HA is known to be safe for all types of skin.
Individuals of all ages with various skin problems will greatly benefit from HA-based products: HA does not only provide positive effects for mature skin. Hyaluronan is considered a major discovery in the cosmetic and medical field, with soothing, hydrating, and protective properties supported by scientific evidence.
Where is hyaluronic acid sourced from?
HA was first isolated as an animal polysaccharide and was soon discovered to be present among bacterial species. Initially, HA supply was failing to meet worldwide demands. This gave rise to the microbial production of HA, and discoveries of various sources to aid extraction and isolation.
Kendal, Heidelberg, and Dawson first extracted the macromolecule from the cultural liquid of streptococcus, precipitated using acetic acid and ethanol. This isolated HA biopolymer was found to be identical to that extracted from animal materials, preventing human immune systems from rejecting this substance.
Extraction from animal tissues
- Rooster combs
- Bovine synovial fluid
- Vitreous of cattle
Streptococci and non-pathogenic microorganisms (Escherichia coli, Lactococcus lactis, Bacillus subtilis)
Could we potentially reverse/prevent skin aging?
Skin aging can be prevented by avoiding prolonged sun exposure, smoking, and environmental pollutants. As an adjunct to these lifestyle changes, you can benefit from dermatological procedures (laser therapy, Botox, chemical peels, and dermal fillers) and cosmetic products (anti-aging creams and serums). Look for active ingredients that are known to help fight sun damage and free radicals, as well as increase skin moisture. Potent ingredients and antioxidants such as retinol (vitamin A), niacinamide, vitamin C and E, and HA can all help prevent or reduce the appearance of skin aging.
Hyaluronic acid-based products
- Dermal fillers – Because of the ability of HA to form water-filled expanded matrices, it has been successfully used in soft-tissue augmentation. These injectables can restore the natural and youthful appearance of the skin by minimizing lines and wrinkles, filling shallow areas of the face, lifting sagging skin, and contouring the lips.
- Viscosupplementation – The use of HA for viscosupplementation is an innovative and safe treatment for osteoarthritis. Products like Synvisc are available to improve the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. The goal of this treatment is to restore the protective lubrication of the affected joints, decrease pain, and improve mobility.
- Artificial Tears – Eye drops containing HA are currently available to bring relief for dry eye syndrome and heal damaged cornea epithelium.
HA is an important component of the connective tissues of animals and humans, specifically of the skin, joint fluids, umbilical cord, and vitreous of the eyes. HA plays an important multifactorial role in the body by repairing the skin, and lubricating the joints. It is hoped that future research will examine the science behind HA, its characteristics, and its properties, to further develop innovative HA-related products, particularly in the field of cosmetics and dermatology.