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What Is Hyaluronic Acid in Skin Care?

Hyaluronic acid for the face is found in serums, moisturizers, toners, injectables (like dermal fillers and SkinVive) and oral supplements.

Hyaluronic acid is also called HA and hyaluronan and is listed as its INCI name sodium hyaluronate on skin care product labels.

What does hyaluronic acid do? It's actions depend on if it is in serums, creams, supplements or injections. I use HA every day in my dermatology practice as an injectable filler and the new injectable moisturizer called SkinVive. I also use it in many of the skin care regimens that I design for my patients. But- sodium hyaluronate is not right for everyone- so keep reading to see if it is a good option for you.


This blog will review what hyaluronic acid does for the skin, the benefits and side effects, and the different types.


If you are wondering if hyaluronic acid in skincare products is a good idea for you, I can help you decide and choose the best hyaluronic acid skin care products for your skin type.


Knowing your Baumann Skin Type is the best way to shop for HA serums.


Find the best hyaluronic acid serum for your skin type

Hyaluronan is a saccharide (sugar) known as a glycosaminoglycan. Glycosaminoglycans are an important part of the extracellular matrix (the space between skin cells).  They play a huge role in cell to cell communication. Loss of HA is one of the causes of skin aging.


On topical skin care product labels it is called sodium hyaluronate. In toners, creams and serums , HA works as a humectant that holds 1000 times its weight in water, giving skin it’s plumpness and jello skin feel. Large amounts of hyaluronic acid in the skin makes your skin look and feel better.


It also increases penetration of other skin care ingredients.


Topical products, natural HA, injectable HA, and HA supplements have these 10 benefits and make your skin look:

  1. Dewy
  2. Firm
  3. Glowing
  4. Hydrated
  5. Jello-like
  6. Moist
  7. Plump
  8. Radiant
  9. Smooth
  10. Youthful

Injectable HA is now available as an injectable skin moisturizer under the brand name SkinVive. You can ask your medical provider about this new FDA approved treatment to improve skin hydration. 

Find a medical provider near you here.

Best Hyaluronic Acid Serums

Best HA Serums For Most Skin Types

Dermatologist-recommended HA Serums

Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizers

Hyaluronic acid (HA) products come in various moisturizer formulations. The primary difference between HA creams and lotions is their composition and intended function. HA serums are typically water-based and have a lighter consistency, allowing for rapid absorption and efficient hydration by binding water directly to the skin. HA lotions have some fatty acids in them and some oils but not as much as creams do.

In contrast, HA creams are formulated with a lot of fatty acids and oils, which can reduce their water-binding capacity compared to serums. 

The fatty acids and oils in creams provide occlusive benefits, forming a barrier on the skin's surface to trap moisture and prevent evaporation, especially in dry climates. 

Hyaluronic Acid Creams

HA creams are better than HA serums for dry skin types and creams are particularly advantageous for those with dry skin types living in arid environments, as it ensures prolonged hydration and moisture retention.


While both HA serums and creams offer hydration benefits, creams, due to their occlusive properties, might be a more suitable choice for those seeking sustained moisture in drier conditions or for intrinsically dry skin types.


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best  hyaluronic acid toners

Hyaluronic Acid Toners and Essences

HA toners and essences are a great way to apply HA to the skin.

Essences and toners are often less expensive that hyaluronic acid serums.


These are good HA toners:


Medature Energizing Q Toner has HA plus coenzyme Q10 which gives cells energy to make more natural HA.

Hyaluronic acid

How to find the best HA serum or cream for my skin type?

There are many factors to take int account when shopping for the best HA serums and creams for your skin type.  This is what our dermatologists recommend:

What Does Hyaluronic Acid Do for the Skin?

HA serums are one of the best-selling skin care products. What benefits do they have that make them so popular in 2023?


HA has the benefit of giving an instant skin firming jello feel and dewy glow to the skin due to the humectant ability to pull water to the skin’s surface. HA serums can dramatically increase the effectiveness of other antiaging serums like Vitamin C  in your skin care routine- increasing both the efficacy and the side effects.


HA serums are worth using for some Baumann Skin Types, but not all. 


When you use HA serum in the skin care routine is also important.


So take the skin care routine quiz and see if HA serum is right for you before yo buy one for your skin care routine.




Benefits of Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan found in the skin, joins, eyes, and gums.  In skin care products it is used as a moisturizing humectant and antiaging ingredient. In supplements it can be used to relieve joint pain and arthritis.

What does hyaluronic acid do for your skin

Benefits of Natural Hyaluronic Acid in Skin

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a fundamental component of the extracellular matrix (ECM), the intricate network outside of cells that provides structural and biochemical support to surrounding cells. Within the ECM, HA plays several crucial roles. 

HA acts as a mediator for cell communication, signaling cells like fibroblasts to carry out specific functions. 


HA provides structural scaffolding to which fibroblasts (skin cells) can adhere. This attachment is not merely physical but also biochemical, signaling fibroblasts to produce more HA and collagen, two critical molecules for maintaining skin's strength, appearance, and resilience. 


HA is vital in managing the balance of salt and water within tissues. Its unique molecular structure allows it to bind to water molecules, thereby helping to maintain tissue hydration and imparting a plump appearance to the skin. From a physics perspective, the water-binding capability of HA provides a cushioning effect, acting as a shock absorber that protects the skin and underlying tissues from mechanical stresses. This cushioning not only safeguards against physical damage but also helps maintain the structural integrity of the ECM. 

In essence, the many roles of HA in the skin underline its importance in ensuring cellular function, tissue hydration, and structural protection, making it indispensable in the complex interplay of skin health and physiology.

Benefits of HA in Topical Skin Care Products

Hyaluronic acid has many benefits when used topically on the skin such as:

  1. Erases fine lines by plumping the skin
  2. Makes skin feel firmer
  3. Hydrates the skin temporarily
  4. Helps other products absorb into the skin

It's hydrating benefits are better when combined with occlusive moisturizing ingredients, but these are not good for oily skin types.  

Benefits of HA in Oral Supplements

Hyaluronic acid (HA) supplements and capsules have gained popularity for their purported health benefits. When considering supplementation, it's always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. Here are some potential benefits of hyaluronic acid supplements by body area:

  1. Skin:

    • Hydration: HA is known to retain moisture, potentially helping to hydrate the skin when taken orally.
    • Anti-aging: There's some evidence to suggest that HA supplements might improve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
    • Improved skin texture: Some people find that their skin feels smoother and looks more radiant with HA supplementation.
  2. Joints:

    • Lubrication: HA contributes to the viscosity of the synovial fluid, which lubricates joints. Supplements might help maintain optimal joint function.
    • Pain relief: Some studies suggest that HA supplements might help reduce joint pain, particularly in people with osteoarthritis.
    • Reduced inflammation: There is some indication that HA might help reduce inflammation in the joints.
  3. Eyes:

    • Moisture retention: HA supplements can help maintain the moisture levels in the eyes, potentially benefiting those with dry eyes.
    • Vision protection: While direct supplementation effects are still being researched, maintaining adequate eye hydration can support overall eye health.
  4. Bones and Connective Tissues:

    • Bone strength: Preliminary research suggests that HA might play a role in preserving bone strength.
    • Tissue repair: Given its presence in connective tissues, there's interest in whether HA supplementation could aid in tissue repair processes.
  5. Gums:

    • Gum health: Some evidence suggests that HA might support gum health and aid in the healing of gum tissues, possibly by reducing inflammation and promoting tissue regeneration.
  6. Hair:

    • Hydration and strength: HA supplements might contribute to a hydrated scalp, potentially leading to healthier and stronger hair.

What Skin Conditions Does HA Treat?

Does hyaluronic acid get rid of redness?

Hyaluronic acid does not have any anti-inflammatory effects or skin calming benefits. 

It can help other anti-redness ingredients absorb better.

It can also cause retinoids and Vitamin C to be more irritating to sensitive skin types.


It can also cause acne medications to eb more irritating by increasing their absorption.

Does hyaluronic acid tighten skin?

HA is a humectant that binds water to the skin's surface. This can make the skin feel tighter- but the effects are temporary.


It has been called a skin firming ingredient because it increases the skin's ability to hold onto water making it plumper and firmer.

HA is hydrophilic

How long does it take hyaluronic acid to tighten skin?

The tightening effects of HA occur in about 15- 30 minutes after application if you are in a humid environment.

If you are in a dry environment, HA may not tighten the skin or may take longer to work.

Which is Better Than HA?

Is hyaluronic acid or Vitamin C better for wrinkles?

Hyaluronic acid and ascorbic acid work differently on wrinkles.


Hyaluronic acid works fast on wrinkles but effects are temporary.

Vitamin C takes months to improve wrinkles but wrinkle improvement is long lasting

For best results on wrinkles, some skin types can use Vitamin C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid together.


Take the quiz and build a routine to know the best products to use for your skin type.


vitamin C vs hyaluronic acid

What is better for wrinkles - retinol or hyaluronic acid?

Both retinol and HA are antiaging ingredients used in skin care products.


Retinol has side effects and takes longer to work, but improvements on wrinkles are much more permanent than with HA serums.


HA can immediately improve and plump wrinkles, but when HA is washed off, the wrinkles return within one day.


You can use retinol and HA together, but HA can increase side effects of retinol by increasing retinol absorption.

How Long Untill I See Results?

How long does it take hyaluronic acid to reduce wrinkles?

Topical -

In a humid climate, applying HA to the skin can reduce fine lines within minutes as it pulls water to the skin's surface. The anti-wrinkle effects of HA go away within hours after the HA is washed off. The beneficial effect will go away faster in a dry climate.


Supplements-

There are not studies to show how long it takes to see benefits from oral supplements on the skin.


Injectable-

Injectable SkinVive hyaluronic acid results may be immediate but show up best in 1-3 months as they HA spreads out under your skin and binds water. Dermal fillers like Juvederm, Restylane, Voluma and RHA have immediate benefits that can last 9 or more months.

Is Hyaluronic Acid in Skin Care Products and Supplements Safe?

Topical- 

Topical HA is safe when used in skin care products.  There is no risk of cancer or skin allergy.

The CIR reviewed the data on HA and published a paper on its safety. (3)

The EWG rates sodium hyaluronate as a 1, meaning it is safe. 


Supplements-

Supplements are safe and have not been associated with any issues when it comes from a reputable company.


Injectable-

FDA approved HA injectables are safe. Look online to see side effects which include bruising.  If injectable improperly, many side effects can occur so find a well trained medical provider.

Is HA a Clean Ingredient?

Unless HA is animal derived, it is considered a clean ingredient. It meets most clean beauty standards.

Is Hyaluronic acid safe in Pregnancy?

Should you avoid hyaluronic acid in skin care products, supplements, and dermal fillers  when you are pregnant?  


You can use hyaluronic acid in skin care products when you are pregnant. Hyaluronic acid in serums and face creams is not dangerous when you are pregnant. There is not a  risk to the baby.


Do not use dermal fillers when pregnant becuase the lidocaine anesthesia in the product is not safe for the fetus.


Discuss using oral supplements with your doctor when pregnant.  HA supplements are probably safe, but you need to discuss with your doctor about which brand is safest in pregnancy.

Side Effects

The side effects of hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers are due to it’s ability to increase the penetration of other ingredients.


Hyaluronic acid can increase skin irritation from acne medications such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoids. It can also increase irritation to retinoids used for antiaging. 


This is why you need a personalized skin care routine for your Baumann Skin Type- so that these issues can be taken into account when deciding if HA is safe for your skin.



Hyaluronic Acid Supplement and Capsule Benefits

HA supplements also used to treat many conditions.


Joints and Arthritis:
Hyaluronic acid (HA) supplements have emerged as a popular therapeutic approach in the management of joint health and arthritis. In the context of osteoarthritis, where the natural lubrication of joints is compromised, HA supplements, especially in the form of injections directly into the joint space, aim to restore this lost lubrication. By doing so, they can improve joint mobility, reduce friction between joint surfaces, and alleviate associated pain. The viscoelastic properties of HA make it an ideal substance for cushioning joints and providing shock absorption. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory effects can help decrease inflammation within the joint, further relieving pain and discomfort commonly associated with arthritis.


Eyes:
Hyaluronic acid's innate ability to retain moisture has led to its utilization in eye health supplements and treatments. Oral HA supplements are believed to support overall ocular hydration, potentially benefiting individuals with dry eyes. Furthermore, HA's water-binding properties are harnessed in many over-the-counter eye drops to provide immediate relief from dryness, irritation, and discomfort. By promoting moisture retention and forming a protective layer on the eye's surface, these eye drops can enhance visual comfort, especially in environments that contribute to eye dryness, like air-conditioned spaces or prolonged screen time.


Gums:
Oral health is another area where HA supplements have shown promise. The health and regeneration of gum tissues are essential for overall dental well-being. HA, with its wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties, is believed to support gum health by promoting tissue repair and reducing inflammation. Some dental products, including toothpaste and oral gels, now incorporate HA, aiming to boost gum recovery after dental procedures or simply to maintain healthy gum tissues. Regular intake of HA supplements might also contribute to gum resilience against common oral health issues, ensuring strong and healthy gums.

Where is hyaluronic acid found in the skin?

HA is found in the dermal layer of the skin in the extracellular matrix and concentrated at the periphery and interface of collagen and elastin fibers.

Mature skin has less HA and connections of HA with collagen and elastin fibers are decreased.

Is HA a natural Ingredient?

HA is naturally occurring and is considered a natural ingredient.

However, some HA is animal-derived (from rooster combs) so make sure you know where the HA in your skin care products come from. Most HA in skin care is derived from fermenting bacteria or yeast.

What does natural hyaluronic acid do in the skin?

HA is found naturally in your skin. It is an important molecule and has many beneficial effects.

Hyaluronic acid levels in the skin decrease with age. This makes skin loose volume and look less plump.

Other important actions of natural HA are:


  • Affects keratinocyte differentiation (2)
  • Affects formation of lamellar bodies via its interaction with CD44, a cell surface glycoprotein receptor with HA binding sites. 
  • Binds growth factors and cytokines and hold them creating gradients of these communicating factors. (3)

What is hyaluronic acid made from?

Hyaluronic acid is not a protein- it is technically a sugar.

Hyaluronic acid is made from sugars called disaccharides. These disaccharides are composed of alternating D-glucuronic acid and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine linked into chains.

The word hyaluronic acid comes from is Greek hyalos

Do HA serums and creams absorb into the skin?

When HA skincare products are applied to the skin, their ability to penetrate depends on the size and structure of the HA molecules. Despite HA being highly water-attracting, it can penetrate the skin's layers, if the molecule size is under 500 kDa.

Once it's in the skin, HA doesn't stay long as it breaks down after a while from natural enzymes in the skin called hyaluronidase.


The degree to which HA is absorbed by the skin hinges on the molecular weight and chain size of the pieces of HA, as well as whether these chains are crosslinked.

Larger, crosslinked HA molecules are found in dermal fillers.  They cannot penetrate into skin without a needle. Long chains of HA with a high molecular weight (mw) tend to stay on the skin's surface, providing moisturizing benefits. Meanwhile, shorter chains with a smaller mw can both remain on the surface or penetrate into the skin.


Often skin care products will contain short and long chains of HA.  One example is the SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator which contains five different lengths and sizes of HA, which is why it is the most expensive HA serum.

Is HA right for my skin type?

Our dermatologists can tell you if HA is worth the cost for you and help you find the best HA products for your skin type!


Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

How to Use Hyaluronic acid serum?

It depends on which Baumann Skin Type you are. Usually you should use it as step 2 or 3 in your skin care routine after cleansing and before any other antiaging serums or moisturizers. However, always use it after Vitamin C serums, not before. Take our quiz and we will give you the exact regimen steps so you will know when to use HA serum in your routine.

How to use HA serum and VItamin C serum together?

Always apply Vitamin C serum first. It has a hard time absorbing in the skin. Then apply the HA serum on top.

Where to buy hyaluronic acid?

But from an online store that stores products in an air conditioned facility. (We do!) This is because heat can degrade HA and make it inflammatory.

Is hyaluronic acid necessary?

HA is a necessary and important part of healthy skin but your skin can make it's own HA. Topical HA serum are not necessary for all skin types, in fact they have minimal long term benefits. Take the quiz to see which skincare ingredients are necessary for your skin type. You might not need an HA serum.

Will HA serum hydrate your skin overnight?

HA serum is a humectant and pulls a large amount of water on to your skin's surface. It is a great way to hydrate your skin overnight.

How to find the best HA serum?

The best HA serum depends upon your skin type. Take our skin type test to see which HA serum is best for your skin.

What age to start an HA serum?

You can start HA very young because it is safe and gives skin a dewy glow. It is a wonderful serum for teenagers and people in their 20s. Once you are in your 30s you need to use a stronger antiaging serum than HA.

Is HA the best way to get Jello skin?

Yes! HA firms and plumps the skin making it feel like Jello. The effects are temporary.

Best References and Scientific Publications on Hyaluronic Acid in Skin Care:

  1. Baumann L. in Ch 2 Dermis of Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology (McGraw Hill 2022)
  2. Strnadova, K., Sandera, V., Dvorankova, B., Kodet, O., Duskova, M., Smetana, K., & Lacina, L. (2019). Skin aging: the dermal perspective. Clinics in Dermatology, 37(4), 326-335.
  3. Bergfeld, W. F., Belsito, D. V., Marks Jr, J. G., & Andersen, F. A. (2005). Safety of ingredients used in cosmetics. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 52(1), 125-132.
  4. Belsito, M. D., Cohen, D. E., Klaassen, C. D., Rettie, A. E., Ross, D., Thomas, J., ... & Writer, C. I. R. Safety Assessment of Hyaluronates as U
  5. Becker, L. C., Bergfeld, W. F., Belsito, D. V., Klaassen, C. D., Marks, J. G., Shank, R. C., ... & Andersen, F. A. (2009). Final report of the safety assessment of hyaluronic acid, potassium hyaluronate, and sodium hyaluronate. International journal of toxicology, 28(4_suppl), 5-67.
  6. Maheu, E., Rannou, F., & Reginster, J. Y. (2016, February). Efficacy and safety of hyaluronic acid in the management of osteoarthritis: evidence from real-life setting trials and surveys. In Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism (Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. S28-S33). WB Saunders.
  7. Bravo, B., Correia, P., Goncalves Junior, J. E., Sant'Anna, B., & Kerob, D. (2022). Benefits of topical hyaluronic acid for skin quality and signs of skin aging: From literature review to clinical evidence. Dermatologic Therapy, 35(12), e15903.
  8. Legouffe, R., Jeanneton, O., Gaudin, M., Tomezyk, A., Gerstenberg, A., Dumas, M., ... & Schnebert, S. (2022). Hyaluronic acid detection and relative quantification by mass spectrometry imaging in human skin tissues. Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, 414(19), 5781-5791.
  9. Vinshtok, Y., & Cassuto, D. (2020). Biochemical and physical actions of hyaluronic acid delivered by intradermal jet injection route. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 19(10), 2505-2512.
  10. Nikolis, A., & Enright, K. M. (2018). Evaluating the role of small particle hyaluronic acid fillers using micro-droplet technique in the face, neck and hands: a retrospective chart review. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 467-475.
  11. Bravo, B., Correia, P., Goncalves Junior, J. E., Sant'Anna, B., & Kerob, D. (2022). Benefits of topical hyaluronic acid for skin quality and signs of skin aging: From literature review to clinical evidence. Dermatologic Therapy, 35(12), e15903.
  12. Ghatge, A. S., & Ghatge, S. B. (2023). The Effectiveness of Injectable Hyaluronic Acid in the Improvement of the Facial Skin Quality: A Systematic Review. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 891-899.
  13. Tanha, A., Rabiee, M., Rostami, A., & Ahmadi, S. (2023). A green-based approach for noninvasive skin rejuvenation: Potential application of hyaluronic acid. Environmental Research, 116467.

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