Hyaluronic acid. It’s a bit tricky to say and even trickier to spell. Plus, it’s an acid – that you put on your face…
But here’s the thing, hyaluronic acid, HA for short (there’s no need for the tongue twister or spelling issues really) is held in high esteem throughout the skincare profession.Why? Because it’s capable of doing some amazingly transformational things. No wonder it’s been hailed far and wide as the go-to product for instantly plumping the appearance fine lines and giving skin a healthy glow.
It’s unbelievable really that just one product can deliver so many skin mega benefits (many more than the two listed above). But it’s true and we, and many millions of people across the globe, are pretty made up about it too. In fact, we like to think something so fab deserves to be put on a pedestal, but we don’t happen to have one of those, so here’s a quick guide to HA instead…
What is hyaluronic acid?
Ahh yes. What is it exactly? Is it really an acid or something else that just so happens to be called an acid?Hyaluronic acid is actually a sugar that’s naturally present in our skin. It’s responsible for keeping our skin plump and hydrated. It also helps prevent the valuable moisture from escaping from our skin too. And, as we all know, moisture can help slow down the signs of ageing, many of which are reportedly caused by our skin drying out.1 Believe it or not, one gram of HA can retain up to six litres of water. And it can regulate the moisture within skin cells so that they don’t get flooded out. It really is one smart skincare cookie.2
So now you’re probably thinking, is HA sugar in a bottle, tube or jar? Is that what the fuss is all about? We hear you, keep reading…
What is it made from?HA is a carbohydrate molecule that, as we mentioned above, is naturally present in our skin. Meanwhile, the HA that’s present in hyaluronic acid serums and other HA-infused skincare products is a synthetic version of the natural stuff.3 There are two different routes to creating synthetic HA, the plant route and the animal route:4
- Plant-based hyaluronic acid is extracted from microbial fermentation, which essentially involves fermenting HA-containing bacteria.
- Animal-based hyaluronic acid involves extracting the HA from roosters’ combs (the red flesh on the top of their head). Animals naturally produce HA too and a rooster’s comb is said to be packed full of it.
What are the benefits of using it?Unfortunately, just our skin tends to produce less collagen as we get older (1% less as each year goes by)5, it also produces less HA too.6 The average human body reportedly contains around 15g of HA, one third of which diminishes on a daily basis.7 But when used in skincare products, synthetic HA is capable of keeping skin moisturized throughout the day8, which is one of its biggest benefits. And, over time, this can help make skin feel softer, plumper and generally more radiant (what’s not to love about that, hey?!)
Ready for some other hyaluronic acid benefits? Here they are:
- Everybody can use it – yep, that’s right. It works for any skin type (however if you are planning on using it for the first time, we’d always recommend you do a patch test first)9
- It protects against free radicals damage – it actually happens to have antioxidant properties too, which are particularly effective at protecting against pollution and other skin nasties10
- It’s a fast worker – compared to other skincare products, it doesn’t take long for it to sink into skin11
- It can reduce the appearance of wrinkles – because of its ability to prevent skin from losing moisture. Dehydrated skin is one of the main culprits for wrinkles and fine lines12
How do you use HA?
Ideally, you want to apply a hyaluronic acid serum to your skin morning and night. And it needs to be applied to clean, damp skin and then followed up with a moisturiser or face oil that will lock the moisture in.
Never put HA on top of a sunscreen or moisturiser because it’s simply not going to work. It’ll just sit on top of your sunscreen and/or moisturiser and not on the top layer of your skin. Come bedtime, it’s also best to apply a layer of face oil on top of your HA and moisturiser to maximise hydration.Also, don’t fall into the trap of just using hyaluronic acid serum and thinking that’s enough. HA works best when paired with a moisturising cream, which will lock it into your skin and prevent it from evaporating.13
For more advice on incorporating serums and face oils into your skincare regime read, ‘Everything you need to know about…serums vs. face oils.’
Last updated: 28 July 2020