Hyaluronic acid is the hottest ingredient in skincare right now
Beauty editors, skincare companies and anti-aging aficionados are having a serious love affair with hyaluronic acid lately. The stuff is everywhere: not just as the main ingredient in injectable fillers but also in topical serums, lotions, creams and masques; it's making its way into foundation, primer, blush and lipstick, too. Something that popular has gotta do amazing things for your skin—right?
Well, kind of. I've been dabbling with hyaluronic acid (or "HA" as the real skincare junkies call it) for a few years now with mixed results, and finally I figured out why. If you've been on the fence about it too, or are just curious about this so-called wonder ingredient, read on to find out what it does, how to use it—and if you even should.
WHAT IS HYALURONIC ACID?
Time to get all sciencey up in here. First of all, hyaluronic acid (which also goes by the names hyaluronan or hyaluronate) is not an acid in the same sense as popular ones like salicylic or glycolic, which exfoliate away dead skin cells.
Hyaluronic acid doesn't do that at all. As a naturally-occurring polysaccharide found in the human body, it acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin and eyes.
It's particularly important to skin appearance because about 50 percent of the body's supply is located in the skin tissues, where the viscous, jelly-like substance helps keep it plump, soft and supple... for a while, at least. Our ability to produce hyaluronic acid declines with age (sob!), which can lead to increased dryness, fine lines, wrinkles and sagging. Ouchie.
So that's one reason why skincare and cosmetic enhancement companies are encouraging us to use their synthetically-derived hyaluronic acid products—they claim to help replenish our lost stores of it.
The other reason is hyaluronic acid molecules' unique ability to attract and retain more than 1,000 times their weight in water. One thousand! That's more than any other biological substance. What's not to love?
WHY HYALURONIC ACID MAKES A GREAT INJECTABLE FILLER
I won't go into too much detail on hyaluronic acid as a dermal filler, but if that kind of thing is up your alley, there IS a lot to love about it. (And chances are, that's how you first heard about it, even if you haven't had it injected yourself.)
The popularity of HA in topical skincare definitely stems from its use in cosmetic procedures, where it has replaced collagen as the ingredient of choice for restoring lost volume. Popular fillers like Restylane and Juvéderm work like sponges once they're injected, swelling up with water to create a plumper look.
Over time—anywhere from three to 12 months—the hyaluronic acid gets absorbed by the body and disappears. This is longer than collagen lasts; HA is also less likely to produce a reaction, since the body does not recognize it as a foreign substance. If you're not happy with how it looks, an enzyme called hyaluronidase can disperse the HA even before it naturally dissolves.
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