Hyaluronic acid: If you know about this molecule, you know it’s a must in any skincare routine. If you don’t, you should know that it’s what keeps our complexions hydrated, giving our skin that plump, dewy look whatever the weather. The thing is, at this time of year, our complexion’s summer-induced glow hasn’t quite arrived yet, as we’re recovering from the cold winter.
The trouble is that cold weather and indoor heating suck moisture from your skin. On a cold day, moisture evaporates from the epidermis while a heated room dries your complexion out further. Since hyaluronic acid is so good at drawing water back in, it makes sense that now is a good time to incorporate a hyaluronic acid–based product into your routine. Trust us: It’s like a tall glass of water for your face.
Below, you’ll find out more about this hydrating molecule, what you need to look out for when shopping for it and the best products out there that you can shop right now.
What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
Contrary to its name, hyaluronic acid is actually a polysaccharide, a large sugar molecule. “It’s found naturally within our bodies, 50% of it within our skin and its highest concentration is inside the eyes and joints. It holds moisture in the spaces between the cells of our skin, helping it to stay plump. Babies’ skin contains very high levels—it really is the source of baby-soft skin,” explains Dia Foley, VP of sales and marketing at Indeed Labs.
What Are the Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid?
“Hyaluronic acid helps soften fine lines, making the skin appear firmer and smoother while also helping to even out any dry patches,” adds facialist Abigail James. “And as if you needed any other reason to give it a go, the moisture that HA carries helps to add volume to your skin cells, giving them a plumper appearance.”
Unfortunately, as we age, our body’s ability to produce hyaluronic acid dwindles. Frances Prenna Jones, MD, explains, “Our natural hyaluronic acid levels start to deplete age 26 and are very low post- and peri-menopause. At age 16, it sits within our skin in a nice even mesh-like framework attracting nice, even amounts of water around itself, hence keeping our deep dermis and dermis plump and hydrated and healthy.”
What Are The Best Forms of Hyaluronic Acid?
Interestingly, hyaluronic acid has a counterpart named sodium hyaluronate. “Sodium hyaluronate is the salt form of HA and is a water-soluble salt that holds 1000 times its weight in water,” Stacked Skincare founder Kerry Benjamin says. “Ingredients are in salt form because they are more stable and less likely to oxidize.”
Both forms are used in beauty products, but marketers refer to both as “hyaluronic acid” even though there are some key differences. Namely, sodium hyaluronate has a much lower molecular size, which allows it to penetrate the skin better. “In skin care, there is a formula determining how well products penetrate skin using the molecular weight,” Benjamin says. “The lower the weight, the more it can penetrate.”
For hyaluronic acid to really penetrate the skin’s surface, it actually has to be bioengineered to have a much lower molecular weight. When applied topically, hyaluronic acid works as a humectant to draw moisture into the top layers of the skin. Unlike retinol or vitamin C, which tends to come in different percentages, hyaluronic acid comes in varying weights.
“Low-molecular-weight HA is what you are looking for in skincare, as higher molecular weight HA cannot penetrate the skin’s protective barrier,” explains Maryam Zamani, MD. “Studies have clearly shown that the smaller the molecular weight of the active, the greater the skin penetration and the greater the skin hydration,” she adds.
Ideally, you want a lightweight product like a serum to carry the HA, as opposed to a heavy cream, which could hinder absorption. Although, Zamani caveats this by saying, “The smaller the particle size, the better the penetration. But if a cream uses nano-HA, for instance, the penetration will be better than say a serum with a heavier HA particle.”
There is still much debate about how deep topical hyaluronic acid can penetrate the skin. SkinCeuticals launched H.A. Intensifier (£83), which actually triggers the skin’s production of hyaluronic acid. Used topically, it can tackle crow’s feet, nasolabial folds (around the mouth) and the marionette lines at the corners of the mouth.
Hyaluronic acid can also be found in fillers like Juvederm and Restylane. Jones administers hyaluronic acid into the skin via deep mesotherapy, which she believes is the best way to reap the effects of deep-down hydration.
Below, find the hyaluronic acid products these experts recommend.
Kate Somerville’s aerosol delivers a fizzy-feeling hyaluronic acid and oxygen mist to reawaken tired skin.
As well as hyaluronic acid, Rodial’s moisturiser contains vitamin B3 to soothe sensitive skin.
Keep Balance Me’s face mist deskside for a hit of HA whenever skin cries out for it.
Made with hyaluronic acid as well as hydrating trehalose and brightening lactic acid and niacinamide, this serum promises to leave you with glowing, hydrated skin.
Use this serum to boost your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid at a deeper level.
MMHC2, as it’s affectionately known, is a relatively affordable serum that boasts a long list of differently weighted hyaluronic molecules. You can expect serious and long-lasting hydration.
Indeed’s mask contains sodium hyaluronate to deliver hydration into the skin. It boasts moisture retention for 24 hours after use, ideal if you tend to apply your moisturiser first thing only for your skin to feel dry and tight come lunchtime.
A serious youth-booster, hyaluronic acid is combined with sheep placenta (not for the veggies and vegans among us, then), stem cells and peptides to stimulate collagen and elastin production to ensure skin looks plump and hydrated.
No, this isn’t an at-home injection, although we know it looks pretty authentic. The syringes ensure you measure out just the right amount of this product, which contains six different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid. The syringe also allows you to target the areas that need hydration, such as forehead lines, crow’s feet and nasolabial folds. It comes with a “nourishing film” that locks the hydration in, and there are three grades of formula to choose from depending on the severity of your lines.
Since hyaluronic acid draws moisture into the skin, it makes sense once applying a hyaluronic acid–containing product to keep a water-based mist close at hand so you can spritz your face. This ensures that the HA molecules have something to draw on. Dr Frances Prenna Jones’s mist contains a cocktail of wrinkle-fighting, skin-protecting and complexion-healing ingredients too.
Now, have we finally convinced you that hyaluronic acid is a good idea?