Hyaluronic Acid: What It Is, What It Does And The Skincare Products To Try
Commonly found in moisturisers, serums and sheet masks, hyaluronic acid is known to be a miracle worker for dry and tired skin, hailed for its ability to hydrate and plump. Although labelled as an ‘acid’, those with sensitive skin don’t have to worry about this hero product as––unlike exfoliating acids such as alpha or beta hydroxy acid (AHA/BHA)––it doesn’t dry out or strip the skin.
To learn more about hyaluronic acid, we turned to the experts to find out exactly what is does to skin, how best to incorporate it into your skincare regime and the products to try.
What is Hyaluronic acid?
First things first, what even is hyaluronic acid?
Ignore the slightly scary sounding name––“hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in the skin. It helps to bind water to collagen, trapping it in the skin, so that skin can appear plumper, dewier and more hydrated”, states board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse.
What does it do to skin?
“The goal of HA topically is to improve skin hydration, elasticity and decrease wrinkle depth” explains Erum Ilyas, President & Founder of Montgomery Dermatology and CEO & Founder of AmberNoon.
Continuing, Ilyas states that “HA can attract and retain moisture in the skin.”, but warns that “it’s not really an ‘anti-aging’ product––it’s action is misunderstood by people who opt to use it.”
As hyaluronic acid can be used topically––in creams, serums and moisturisers––or injected into the skin, it’s important to understand the differences in these functions and how the ingredient performs.
“It is a bit misleading because many people think that hyaluronic acid on the skin will provide the same effect as when it is injected into the skin as we do with fillers” explains Ilyas. “This is not the case. Hyaluronic acid applied on the skin does not fill under the skin. It actually draws moisture to it and hydrates the skin at the surface so effectively it can give the appearance of minimising fine lines and wrinkles. In spite of these common misconceptions it’s a wonderful dry skin product.”
Is it suitable for all skin types?
The good news is that almost anyone can use hyaluronic acid, as long as you’re not allergic to it. Like all products, when using for the first time, it’s best to do a small patch test first to ensure it’s suited to your skin, with Tsippora Shainhouse stating that “topical serums with hyaluronic acid are well-tolerated for all skin types. They are non-irritating and do not trigger acne, rosacea or allergic skin reactions. They are safe and even helpful for eczema-prone skin.”
Ilyas adds that although just about anyone can use these products, “Topically, oily skin types fair better than dry.” This is due to dry skin “not having the moisture HA topical products need to work.” Meaning that “dry skin can only benefit if used in conjunction with another moisturiser.”
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Best practices for use
For all skin types, "it [HA] is ideally used in conjunction with a moisturiser on top of it." states Ilyas.
"The main reason for this is because if the skin is excessively dry, the hyaluronic acid will still ‘seek’ moisture to pull into it. It may paradoxically dry your skin further if it doesn’t find it!! Remember to apply a moisturiser on top so it can pull this extra hydration in from the product. If you live in a humid environment it will draw moisture from there. If you live in a dry environment it may pull moisture out of your skin up towards the product and paradoxically make you feel dryer."
See also: How To Treat Maskne: Dermatologist-Approved Products For Face Mask Acne