Hyaluronic acid

What does it do?
Draws water into the skin, hydrating it
Reduces the appearance of dryness, fine lines and wrinkles

What’s it used for?
Dry skin
Fine lines and wrinkles

How do I use it?
It can be used up to twice daily, before moisturiser and sunscreen

Irritancy
Low, tolerated by most skin types

Evidence rating
Strong

Hyaluronic acid has received a lot of attention recently, but the word ‘acid’ may put some people off. However, of all the acids used in skincare, hyaluronic acid is one of the most gentle. Here’s an introduction to this skin-friendly, hydrating acid. 

What is it and what does it do? 

Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the skin. It’s a humectant, which means when applied to the skin it draws water into the skin, keeping it hydrated. As we get older, the amount of hyaluronic acid in the skin decreases, which can result in moisture loss and dryness. Hyaluronic acid applied to the skin improves skin hydration, and can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

How should I use it?

Hyaluronic acid is commonly available as a serum, or as an ingredient in some moisturisers. It’s gentle enough to use twice daily, and it can be used safely with any other skincare ingredient. It is very unlikely to irritate the skin, but if you have sensitive skin, trying it on a test area first is always wise. 

What should I look for? 

Hyaluronic acid comes in different forms. Hyaluronic acid itself is a large molecule which may not be absorbed by the skin. Other forms include sodium hyaluronate, which is the salt form of hyaluronic acid, and hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid. Sodium hyaluronate and hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid are smaller molecules which are more easily absorbed into the skin, and are therefore more likely to be effective. Look for a concentration of 1-2% – anything higher than this is unlikely to give you any additional benefits, and may in fact cause dryness of the skin. Hyaluronic acid is also available in an injectable form, as a dermal filler.

What about hyaluronic acid supplements?

Hyaluronic acid supplements are relatively new on the skincare scene. There isn’t a huge amount of science to support their use, although some small studies have suggested they may improve skin hydration and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. There isn’t enough evidence to strongly recommend their use for skin benefits, although they are unlikely to cause any harm if used as instructed.

References

Hsu TF, Su ZR, Hsieh YH, Wang MF, Oe M, Matsuoka R, Masuda Y. Oral Hyaluronan Relieves Wrinkles and Improves Dry Skin: A 12-Week Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 28;13(7):2220.

Lubart R, Yariv I, Fixler D, Lipovsky A. Topical Hyaluronic Acid Facial Cream with New Micronized Molecule Technology Effectively Penetrates and Improves Facial Skin Quality: Results from In-vitro, Ex-vivo, and In-vivo (Open-label) Studies. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019;12(10):39-44.

Oe M, Sakai S, Yoshida H, Okado N, Kaneda H, Masuda Y, Urushibata O. Oral hyaluronan relieves wrinkles: a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study over a 12-week period. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017 Jul 18;10:267-273.

Papakonstantinou E, Roth M, Karakiulakis G. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):253-258. 

Pavicic T, Gauglitz GG, Lersch P, Schwach-Abdellaoui K, Malle B, Korting HC, Farwick M. Efficacy of cream-based novel formulations of hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights in anti-wrinkle treatment. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011 Sep;10(9):990-1000.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr-Julia-Rhodes

Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…