If you’re familiar with hyaluronic acid, you’re probably already aware it’s one of the most buzzed-about ingredients in skin care to date. This clever compound has been touted as everything from a great moisturizer to the fountain of youth, but there’s a lot more to HA than meets the eye. Read on for the top seven things you don’t know about hyaluronic acid (but should).
In fact, hyaluronic acid is present in all connective tissues and found in high concentrations in the viscous fluid that surrounds your eyes and cushions your joints. It’s also a heavy contributor to keeping skin supple and hydrated: As production tapers off as you age, so, too, does the firmness and radiance of your complexion.
If your lipstick boasts lip-plumping abilities or your foundation makes claims of super hydration, there’s a good chance they contain HA. “Hyaluronic acid is also known as glycosaminoglycan, hyaluronan, hylan, and others,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Fayne Fray, which explains why you may not have suspected it as a product ingredient. Other cosmetics that contain HA include tinted moisturizer, eye shadow and primer.
Hyaluronic acid is extremely hydrophilic (“water-loving”), drawing moisture right out of the air and holding on tight. “Compared to other polymers, hyaluronic has the greatest ability to hold water,” says Dr. Frey. And while topical treatments don’t reach the deepest layers of the skin, serums and creams containing hyaluronic acid can smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles through its ability to draw water to the surface of the skin.
Hydrophiles attract and hold onto water; occlusives slow the rate at which water dissipates from the skin. Look for products that list lecithin, propylene glycol, cetyl alcohol (a fatty alcohol that does not promote dryness), petrolatum and/or paraffin as an ingredient along with one of the categories of HA (see above).
Better known by the brand names Juvéderm and Restylane, hyaluronic acid has been successfully filling wrinkles and increasing facial volume for years—great news if you’re looking for a more dramatic effect than topical products can provide. It’s also a natural alternative to synthetic fillers and bovine collagen injections.
“Hyaluronic acid is a normal constituent of the skin,” says Dr. Frey, “so allergic reactions are extremely rare.” If you’re worried about allergies, Dr. Frey recommends that you choose products that are free of fragrances. “Fragrance is the most common cause of reactions due to skin care products.”
You can maximize the cosmetic effects of hyaluronic acid by applying the product twice a day (“Day and night,” Dr. Frey recommends) and/or refreshing your injections several times a year as needed (results typically last three to nine months). The benefits of HA may not be permanent, but, with regular upkeep, they really don’t have to be.
READERS—Ready to try this amazing ingredient? Check out 9 Ways to Get Your Hyaluronic Acid Fix to discover top hyaluronic acid serums on Dermstore.