Although it doesn’t get the same hype as other skin care ingredients, hyaluronic acid is one of the most essential ingredients in a beauty routine.
Learning how to use hyaluronic acid effectively can help to not only keep your skin hydrated but increase its radiance and resiliency.
Hyaluronic acid is definitely an ingredient that you should add to your skin care routine, no matter what your specific concerns may be. With that in mind, Skin Pharm created this complete guide to all things hyaluronic acid — and how you can use skin care products to help make your skin the best it can possibly be.
First up, hyaluronic acid basics
Unlike a lot of other skin care ingredients, hyaluronic acid is one that is found naturally in your own body. In fact, it’s actually a reasonably large sugar molecule (or polysaccharide), which may surprise a lot of people.
It has many purposes in the body and impacts multiple systems. Hyaluronic acid is essential in joint lubrication and hydration, and it can be found in the largest amounts in connective tissue, the eyes and the skin. Of those three areas, more than half of the natural hyaluronic acid we produce can be found in the skin alone.
When we look at its benefits for the skin, especially areas experiencing signs of aging, our main focus is on its ability to help bind that all-important collagen to water molecules. This traps the water inside, allowing the skin to hydrate and appear dewy.
If you’re not familiar with collagen’s role in how our skin looks, collagen is its main structural protein. Along with elastin, collagen is responsible for both the elasticity and firmness of the skin.
While it is also naturally made by the body (specifically in the dermis), its production slows down over time. This leads to skin that can look saggy or show increasing fine lines and wrinkles.
Hyaluronic acid binds together, with collagen on one end and water on the other, creating that essential link that keeps the skin from drying out and becoming less resilient. The molecule can hold a significantly larger amount of its body weight in water, acting like a sponge in the skin.
How does hyaluronic acid impact the skin?
Hyaluronic acid’s ability to bind with water has earned it the label of being a “humectant.” This is just one of three categories that moisturizers fall into — humectants, emollients and occlusives.
As opposed to emollients and occlusives that just trap water in the skin, hyaluronic acid can go one step further. In addition to keeping moisture in the skin, it can also attract moisture, doubling its hydration potential. This is especially true for the outer layers of the epidermis, where our physical appearance comes from.
The benefits of hyaluronic acid include:
Adding moisture to the skin
Helping to smooth and improve the texture of the skin
Helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines
Reducing the appearance of the scars
Calming redness and swelling
Hyaluronic acid really is a multitasking ingredient with a wide variety of different benefits that it can provide to the skin. There are very few other skin care ingredients out there that can claim to do the same with the same level of effectiveness.
What causes the skin to lose hyaluronic acid?
If the body naturally makes its own hyaluronic acid, why do we need to use products with its ingredient?
Unfortunately, just like collagen, the body’s production of hyaluronic acid starts to slow down as we age. The amount present in the body just can’t keep up with what it needs to keep the skin as hydrated as it was when it was younger.
But that’s not the only reason that we lose hyaluronic acid. Certain environmental factors can also play a role. For instance, harsh weather (hot and cold), heaters during the winter (which dry out the air), underlying skin conditions and even certain skin care products can lead to tiny breaks in the skin barrier.
THE MOISTURE BARRIER
No conversation about keeping the skin moisturized would be complete without discussing the skin barrier (or moisture barrier). This is perhaps an essential part of the skin, at least when it comes to its appearance.
The moisture barrier has two main jobs – preventing water loss and protecting the skin. It is made out of lipids, or naturally occurring fats, and essentially exists to keep the inside in and the outside out. It sits on the very outside of the skin, on the top layer of the epidermis (known as the stratum corneum). This layer is also the same one that is actively shedding the dead skin cells created from the skin’s self-rejuvenation process.
Signs of a compromised moisture barrier include dry, flaky or cracked skin. That is because it is unable to stop water from escaping from the skin. If you notice any of those signs, you’ll want to make sure to take the time to heal it before using any additional ingredients (especially exfoliants).
Who does hyaluronic acid work for?
Because hyaluronic acid is part of our body naturally, it is excellent for any skin type to use. It is non-irritating and far less likely to trigger skin conditions, so even people with sensitive skin can include it in their routine.
However, there are certain groups of people for whom hyaluronic acid is particularly beneficial. At the top of the list are people with age-related concerns and those who have dry skin. These skin types need more hyaluronic acid, as it is also the most likely to be dehydrated.
An additional benefit of hyaluronic acid is that it can be used in various skin care products, which we’ll discuss next. That allows it to fit into nearly every avenue of your routine.
How to use hyaluronic acid in your skin care routine
If you’re ready to get started using hyaluronic acid in your own skin care routine, there are a few easy ways to incorporate it.
One of those ways is in serum form, like our Youth Serum. We developed this serum to work with all different skin types so that everyone can enjoy its many benefits. It includes not only hyaluronic acid, but also other barrier-enhancing agents like niacinamide. The serum also plumps the skin, which can immediately minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Serums are best used from the thinnest consistency to the thickest, with time in between for them to soak in and dry. They should always be applied gently after the skin has been thoroughly cleansed.
With a hyaluronic acid-based serum, you’ll want your skin to be a little damp when you apply it. That gives it even more moisture to trap inside the skin for an additional boost of hydration.
After your serums have dried, you can also incorporate hyaluronic acid in moisturizer form. Because it is such an effective ingredient for hydrating the skin all on its own, including it with other moisturizing ingredients only boosts its benefits.
Hyaluronic acid also plays well with others, including retinol, alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids and vitamin C, too. (Hello, Night Watch and Glow Factor!)
Are there side effects associated with hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is part of our body, which is accepted a lot easier than other skin care ingredients without all of the side effects. If you experience any side effects or sensitivities, it may be related to other ingredients in your formula. However, stop using it and contact your healthcare provider if you notice any redness, itching or irritation.
If you tend to have more sensitive or reactive skin, it’s always a good idea to perform a patch test before applying hyaluronic acid to your entire face.
You can do that by placing a small amount of the product on a tiny area of your face and waiting 24 hours or so. If your skin isn’t showing any issues after that time, you should use it everywhere. You can start slow, with once or twice a week, or incorporate it daily.
Still wondering how to use hyaluronic acid, or if it’s right for you?
Hyaluronic acid is not only one of the most well-rounded skin care ingredients out there, but it’s also one of the most easily incorporated. Because it’s a product made naturally by the body, even people with sensitive skin can experience the benefits – including firmer, more radiant-looking skin.
We call Youth Serum our holy grail hyaluronic acid serum at Skin Pharm, so why not experience it for yourself?