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Closeup of bubbles on a pink background - depicting hyaluronic acid

What is hyaluronic acid, and why is it essential for healthy skin and anti-aging?

Feature image above by @davidclode on Unsplash

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You may have heard the term hyaluronic acid (HA) being used in the cosmetic industry. Some products come with hyaluronic acid in them. And beauty gurus rave about the ingredient when they tell us how to keep skin moisturized.

So, what is hyaluronic acid, and why is it essential for healthy skin and anti-aging?

Let’s delve into it!

What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a molecule in our bodies that attracts water, making it a humectant. This slippery, gel-like substance is not just found in the skin; it plays a role in the eyes, joints and other organs. For example, it helps with wound healing and tissue repair. Scientifically, it is known as a glycosaminoglycan (GAG, a compound of polysaccharides), which is a type of carbohydrate.

High molecular weight hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water! This is why it is so useful in our bodies, and especially our skin.

Hyaluronic acid is also known as hyaluronan or hyaluronate.

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Why is hyaluronic acid essential for healthy skin?

Female tying hair with lotion on face- healthy skin concept
Photo by Cheyenne Doig on Unsplash

In the skin, hyaluronic acid is an essential component of the extracellular matrix, which provides structural support and hydration. Our skin contains 50% of all the hyaluronic acid in our body – that’s how important this ingredient is for skin hydration!

Molecularly, hyaluronic acid has a long chain. This gives it plenty of ‘alcoves’ for water molecules to ‘live’ in. This also helps it support other cells, like skin cells.

Hyaluronic acid helps keep the skin soft, elastic and flexible. It also helps the skin heal if it is wounded. In fact, wounds heal with less scarring when they have sufficient hyaluronic acid.

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Why is hyaluronic acid essential to fight aging skin?

Young skin vs old skin diagram showing skin biology and wrinkle factors

As we age, our skin begins to lose hyaluronic acid, along with collagen and elastin. By age 50, we’re left with half of the hyaluronic acid we started out with as babies. As a result, our skin’s ability to hold water decreases.

This depletion happens from free radical damage. We get free radical damage from photodamage (i.e. sun damage), unhealthy foods, pollution, smoking and the natural aging process.

Free radical damage results in a vicious cycle of dehydration and further skin deterioration. It’s also a contributor to wrinkles and age spots.

To the contrary, hydrated skin is plump, smooth, and more resilient to environmental stressors such as pollution and UV radiation.

Since hyaluronic acid is a necessary component of skin hydration, having it in sufficiency reduces the formation of wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging.

But hyaluronic acid does more than plump the skin with water. It also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are the antidote to free radical damage.

Moreover, when we use anti-aging treatments, such as retinol or laser facials, we intentionally exfoliate thin layers of skin. This forces our body to produce new, fresh collagen. But to do that, it needs to repair itself. Hyaluronic acid helps in the restoration of skin after exfoliation.

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How can I replenish hyaluronic acid in my skin and body?

Hands holding jar with skin gel - hyaluronic acid concept
Photo by Nati Melnychuk on Unsplash

Hyaluronic acid can be taken orally or applied topically. It can also be injected into the skin, but we’ll get to that later.

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Oral hyaluronic acid

Orally, hyaluronic acid can be found in foods and supplements.

To get hyaluronic acid from food, you’d mostly need to eat plants that contain nutrients which help your body produce it. For example, magnesium and phytoestrogens. You can also eat bone broth, which contains hyaluronic acid.

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Topical hyaluronic acid

Topically, hyaluronic acid is found in many skin care products, such as moisturizers, gels and serums. As a cosmetic ingredient, it is mostly sourced from rooster combs or fermented bacterial and yeast cultures (a vegan alternative).

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High and low molecular weight HA

Hyaluronic acid illustration diagram showing high molecular weight and low molecular weight HA penetrating skin for hydration

When it comes to topical hyaluronic acid, it’s important to know that this ingredient comes in different molecular weights. Typically these are referred to as high and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid.

High molecular weight HA does not absorb deeply into the skin. Low molecular weight goes somewhat deeper. To be able to hydrate the skin thoroughly, cosmetics should contain both types.

Typically, on ingredient labels, the low molecular weight version is called “sodium hyaluronate,” whereas the high molecular weight version is simply, “hyaluronic acid.” Sodium hyaluronate is an extraction of hyaluronic acid.

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The best topical hyaluronic acid product out there?

SkinMedica HA5 hyaluronic acid serum bottle with texture swatch on marble background

Then, there is a ‘grade above’ when it comes to topical hyaluronic acid.

One product in particular, made by SkinMedica®, is designed to help your body produce its own hyaluronic acid. The product is called HA5™ Rejuvenating Hydrator

It’s able to train your skin to produce hyaluronic acid thanks to its ‘secret’ ingredient: vitis flower stem cell extract. The extract first penetrates deep into the dermis (where most topical HA can’t reach). 

Once absorbed, it kickstarts hyaluronic acid synthases, which produce hyaluronic acid. By doing so, it is able to hydrate the skin more deeply than topical hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate.

In addition, the serum contains five types of hyaluronic acid, which are:

  • Time release HA
  • Sodium hyaluronate
  • Uncross-linked HA
  • Nano HA
  • Cross-linked HA

Combined, this ‘power team’ of hyaluronic acid chains give the skin a ‘super charge’ of hydration to smooth and soothe the skin for hours.

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There’s a trick to using topical hyaluronic acid

Before you go out to buy your first hyaluronic acid serum, know this: hyaluronic acid can be too effective.

Since it is so hydrophilic, it binds to water anywhere it can find it. This means that if you are in a dry environment, HA can evaporate with the water in your skin, leaving you more dry than before.

So, when applying hyaluronic acid topically, it’s crucial to ‘lock it in’ with a moisturizer. The moisturizer should contain occlusives, which are oil based, to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL)

You can also apply hyaluronic acid using slightly wet fingers, to help it draw water into your skin.

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Injectable hyaluronic acid – the most common type of dermal filler

juvederm dermal filler syringe for beauty treatments

Another way to get hyaluronic acid into your skin is via injection.

Hyaluronic acid injections have officially been used to treat osteoarthritis since 1997. This procedure is called viscosupplementation.

However, in 2003, the FDA approved the first dermal filler made of hyaluronic acid, called Restylane™. At the time, other dermal fillers were on the market already. However, an HA-based product was promising for a few reasons:

  1. Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in our bodies, reducing the chance of rejection by the immune system
  2. Hyaluronic acid can be formulated into different weights, viscosities and densities, making it adaptable for different needs around the face
  3. If a patient doesn’t like the results, a hyaluronic acid filler can be dissolved with hyaluronidase (also naturally found in our bodies)
  4. The water attraction of hyaluronic acid adds even more benefits to the skin’s volume and suppleness compared to other types of dermal fillers

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How are hyaluronic acid fillers used?

Vancouver lip injection with hyaluronic acid Juvederm filler procedure - Surrey clinic

Hyaluronic acid fillers are formed into thick gels that are slowly absorbed by the body over the span of 6 to 18 months. 

They are injected beneath the dermis to volumize and shape areas like the cheeks, chin, jawline, lips and nose. They can also be used to rejuvenate the chest and hands.

By adding volume, they also smooth static wrinkles.

Only qualified doctors and nurses should be performing dermal filler injections. Many medical spa centers offer these injections as an out-of-pocket, patient pay service.

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What is the best hyaluronic acid filler?

Juvederm dermal filler treatment for cheeks and face wrinkles before and after - available in Surrey Vancouver

Different brands of hyaluronic acid filler last for different lengths of time, and have different selling features. However, the longest lasting, and probably most notable, would be the Juvederm™ line.

Juvederm™ stands apart from its competing products due to three main technologies it utilizes:

  1. Cross-linking of hyaluronic acid molecules, in patented methods called Vycross® and Hylacross®
  2. The varying percentages of hyaluronic acid in each of its filler products (to be used for different purposes)
  3. The combination of low and high molecular weight hyaluronic acid in its varying filler products

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Hyaluronic acid is a non-negotiable when it comes to healthy skin and anti-aging

As we’ve seen above, hyaluronic acid is a highly impressive molecule in our bodies, especially our skin. It functions to hydrate skin by binding to water. Together with other components in the extracellular matrix, this gives our skin structure, form and elasticity. It prevents skin damage as an antioxidant. It helps to heal broken skin.

As an anti-aging ingredient, hyaluronic acid is crucial in warding off wrinkles and age spots. To reap its benefits, we can take it orally through supplementation, or through a healthy diet. However, in the world of skin care, hyaluronic acid is mostly applied topically through cosmetic creams, gels and serums. Some of these products perform better than others, based on how they are formulated.

Finally, we’ve seen that hyaluronic acid can be made into thick gels, which act as dermal fillers. Fillers volumize, smooth and shape our face. This is done by injection, typically in medical aesthetic spas for those looking for a beauty treatment.

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Are you looking for skin advice in Vancouver? Our consultations and custom skin routines have helped many. Contact us for more information!

CALL / TEXT 604 580 2464

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