Today in this post, we are gonna go deep into detail what the beauty industry may not want you to know about hyaluronic acid.
In the beauty industry, skincare product lines are adding hyaluronic acid to almost everything. They are adding it to cleansers, exfoliants, toners, eye products, lotions, and creams. Is hyaluronic acid good or bad?
Hyaluronic acid is good for skin in that it protects it from moisture loss. However, it does not stay long enough on your skin for it to have much of a result. Make sure that you get a nice exfoliating cleanser, a hydrating cleanser or a pH balancing cleanser. Hyaluronic acid is good but is overhyped by the beauty industry.
Read on to learn more about hyaluronic acid and our response to the question, is hyaluronic acid good or bad?
Is Hyaluronic Acid Good or Bad?
Hyaluronic Acid Does Hold Its Weight in Water
Here is an actual fact that the beauty industry touts which is true. One molecule of hyaluronic acid can hold up to a thousand times its weight in water. If you can think of it, one gram of hyaluronic acid is equivalent to holding up two gallons. It is a pretty powerful humectant. But what the beauty industry may not tell you is that hyaluronic acid actually works more effectively if the weather is rainy.
Hyaluronic acid works when the environment is full of water. So if you live in a sunny weather place like Southern California, Arizona, Colorado or even Australia, Hyaluronic acid may not work as effectively because it is pulling moisture from the air into your skin and when there is low moisture in the air, it actually is drawing it up from your skin.
Hyaluronic Acid is Simply a Humectant, Not An Anti-Aging Ingredient
A lot of skincare companies will pair hyaluronic acid with other ingredients such as vitamin C and ferulic acid. Then it starts to kind of get lumped in together as an “anti-aging agent” or “anti-aging ingredient” and hyaluronic acid actually is not in itself an anti-aging agent. Anti-aging ingredients will stimulate collagen and elastin production or help retain the existing collagen and elastin. Hyaluronic acid is simply a humectant.
For those of you who geek out on chemistry, hyaluronic acid is actually an anion-glycosaminoglycan and anion is negatively charged. Hyaluronic acid is obviously from an acid. Sodium hyaluronic which is more commonly used in skincare ingredients is actually from sodium so they are a little bit different. Sodium hyaluronic is a derivative of hyaluronic acid.
As I have said, it is not an anti-aging ingredient per se but it can actually help with the appearance or minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and how it does that is because it is a humectant. If it is drawing moisture from the air and it is binding it to your skin, it starts to plump up your skin, therefore minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But, as we age, our skin cells slowly start to lose its ability to retain and hold water.
So is hyaluronic acid good or bad? Hyaluronic acid basically helps us with that by attracting more moisture in the dermal layer where most of the moisture is able to be retained. As the epidermis starts to lose its ability to hold water, we create hyaluronic acid within our own body and it is always working to replenish it. Just to give you an example, hyaluronic acid in our blood only lasts about several minutes (one to three minutes). Then in our skin about three to five days and up to several weeks (one to three weeks) in our cartilage. A lot of it depends on how old your body is and the environment that you live in.
More Hyaluronic Acid Doesn’t Mean Better
Here is another misconception that the beauty industry may not want you to know. Sometimes, the beauty industry kind of infers very loosely that the higher the percentage is of an active ingredient like an anti-aging ingredient, vitamin C, retinol, or peptides, the better it will work for your skin. That is not necessarily true. Some ingredients like glycolic acid, retinols and L-Ascorbic acid that have stronger or higher percentages or higher levels may give a negative effect on the skin. They can actually cause a reaction or a rash on the skin.
So in the case of hyaluronic acid, where some products are touting that they have 100% of hyaluronic acid, which that is probably not true, you have to remember that one molecule can hold up to two gallons so it can hold up to a thousand times its weight in water. So adding any more to a product is unnecessary. Hyaluronic acid in itself is a thick gel-like type ingredient. Adding more of it as an ingredient is going to make a product unappealing to put on to the skin.
Hydrolysis Allows Hyaluronic Acid to Penetrate the Skin
The larger hyaluronic acid molecule comes in a variety of sizes and it can actually go all the way up to several thousands of molecules of sugars long. The sugars are interconnected very similarly to a spiderweb-like formation and that is what gives the film over the stratum corneum. When it is not bonded to other molecules, it can actually bind to water and that is when it can actually increase the moisture level in the skin as well as lubricate the joints. This moisture in the lower levels of the skin is then drawn up to the upper levels of the skin so that it can get moisture.
If the larger hyaluronic acid molecules can fit on top of the skin but are too large to penetrate down into the lower parts of the skin, how does the beauty industry address that? They hydrolyze it. Hydrolysis is basically a process where they break apart the bonds in a molecule in water. Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid is basically the result of this chemical process in which they create smaller fragments of hyaluronic acid, making the molecules smaller in weight and size.
They then offer products that have hyaluronic acid serum, having larger molecular weight and/or multi-weight hyaluronic acid. They are claiming that the hyaluronic acid in their products have different weights in them, where the larger molecules stay on top to add moisture to the skin, and the smaller molecules are small enough to penetrate the epidermis thereby increasing the moisture levels underneath the skin.
So now cosmetic chemists are trying to come up with a formulation where you can add something to the skin externally and stimulate hyaluronic acid production within the skin. I tried to look up a lot of the research and a lot of the dermatologist journals and cosmetic chemists trade magazines but there is still not enough information that I actually could find on that which produces long-term results.
You Don’t Need a Multi-Weighted Hyaluronic Acid Serum
If you want to spend that extra money getting a multi-weighted Hyaluronic acid serum, you are more than welcome to do so. But for me, what I would recommend is just getting a regular hyaluronic acid. Then what you do is to apply an occlusive agent, to prevent the hyaluronic acid from actually doing the opposite which is dehydrating your skin and pulling moisture that is already within the skin up. Occlusive agents increase moisture levels in the skin by providing a physical barrier to water loss. Ingredients with occlusive properties include oils, waxes, and silicones.
In the meantime, I am NOT trying to change your mind to stop using hyaluronic acid serum. I actually love using hyaluronic acid serum and what I have found in my practice is that people who tend to be oily or breakout-prone or those who are more texture-sensitive tend to like hyaluronic acid serum more than the humectant.
Glycerin – an Effective Alternative to Hyaluronic Acid
Now, did you know that there is a humectant that is actually a little bit more effective than hyaluronic acid? It is not as expensive and is more readily available. That ingredient is glycerin. You’ve heard of glycerin soaps? Glycerin is an odorless, non-toxic ingredient that is a very strong humectant. It can be dissolved in water and alcohol but not oils.
If you look at a lot of your ingredients, especially lotions and creams and you actually pay attention to the ingredients in there, usually if it is a very effective hydrator, it will say “water” and it will say “glycerin” or in the next couple of ingredients, “glycerin.”
When it touts that it has Sodium Hyaluronic in there and says it has hyaluronic acid, it may not actually be the hyaluronic acid that is putting moisture into your skin. It is actually the glycerin because the glycerin has a higher percentage in most lotions and creams than hyaluronic acid. Usually, you will see the hyaluronic acid much lower down in the ingredients list which may mean that the ingredient has one drop in there but is actually charging you a lot more.
So, is hyaluronic acid good or bad?
Hyaluronic acid is good for skin in that it protects it from losing moisture. The bad thing about hyaluronic acid is that it doesn’t stay long enough on your skin for it to have much of a result. Make sure that you get a good hydrating cleanser, exfoliating cleanser, or a pH balancing cleanser. Hyaluronic acid is good but is overhyped by the beauty industry.
Can you use hyaluronic acid every day? It is best to start slow with hyaluronic acid, using it every other day. Then, if you start to see results and your skin isn’t irritated, you can increase the use. It should be safe to use once or twice a day.
Is hyaluronic acid good for dry skin? Hyaluronic acid can be good for dry skin as it is an effective humectant — it protects the skin from moisture loss. However, moisturizers with hyaluronic acid won’t work well in very dry climates as it could pull moisture out of the deeper layers of your skin.
Will hyaluronic acid clog pores? Hyaluronic acid does not clog pores which means you will be less likely to breakout with acne. It helps your skin hold onto more water for longer so you enjoy the benefits of a younger-looking appearance.