Hyaluronic acid sells. It’s in serums, moisturizers, and masks. So, does it help our skin? Or is it just a fancy science term used to drum up business?
Hyaluronic acid (HA for short) is a naturally occurring molecule in the extracellular matrix of our cells. HA is a polysaccharide, a chain of sugars. Small and medium length HA promote blood vessel formation and inhibit cell death, while large HA is immunosuppressive. HA is found in connective tissues, joints, the eye, and the umbilical cord. However, in the cosmetic world, HA is best known for its ability to bind water molecules within the skin, allowing for increased moisture. But that’s not all; HA is an overachiever and also aids in collagen remodeling and fights free radicals.
Clinical trials of topical HA
In theory, hyaluronic acid should be moisturizing and have anti-aging effects. If HA binds and retains water in our skin, it should have a plumping effect that reduces wrinkles.
Fortunately, there is empirical evidence to suggest HA helps with anti-aging. In one study, females aged 30-60 who used a 0.1% HA cream for 60 days experienced increased moisture and elasticity. Decreased wrinkles were only observed in participants who used low molecular weight HA (30, 150 kDa). Another study agrees, stating that topical HA treatment increased elasticity and moisture, and decreased roughness after twice-daily use over 2, 4, and 8 weeks. HA treatment was also most effective with lower molecular weights, citing increased skin penetration.
In addition to topical application, HA can be injected to plump up skin and lips. As mentioned previously, HA is non-toxic and is, therefore, a favored filler method. Although, uncommon complications can happen, including infection, vascular injury, allergic reactions, and displacement of filler.
HA is an abundant biomolecule that affects more than just our skin. Research suggests HA is also beneficial for wound healing, bone regeneration, and possibly cancer treatment.
Science or Pseudo:
Thus far, in our science or pseudo series, I'm delighted to say that we are 2 for 2. Both collagen and hyaluronic acid are science-approved cosmetic agents!