Hyaluronic Acid in Skincare: Drawing the Line Between Marketing and Reality

Author: Mirabel Zou

Editors: Peggy Yang and Hwi-On Lee

Artist: Gianluca Zhang

I’ve picked up a bunch of new hobbies during the winter break—one, in particular, is exploring the vast world of skincare. Even before getting into skincare, I’ve heard the term “hyaluronic acid,” but I never thought about it until recently. Many people like me only know it’s a great term to find on the ingredients label of a lotion bottle—but why exactly?

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a humectant, meaning it’s a substance that can retain moisture. It is a natural carbohydrate found in the body, especially in the skin, connective tissue, and eyes. You’d be surprised to find out that hyaluronic acid has many crucial roles aside from keeping your skin looking healthy. It is an essential component of the synovial fluid in your joints, lubricating and keeping them moist for everyday movement. Hyaluronic acid also plays a role in cell division and the body’s innate immune system. The average person has around 15 grams of hyaluronic acid in their body, but about 1/3 of it is degraded each day by UV rays and other factors. As we age, the production of hyaluronic acid in our body decreases, resulting in the skin losing volume and hydration. This is where skincare comes in.

In 1996, the cosmetic industry started using hyaluronic acid in beauty and skincare products, primarily made in a lab via bio-fermentation, created using the Streptococcus bacteria. The effective hydrating properties of hyaluronic acid took the industry by storm, making it one of the most talked-about and popularized ingredients in skincare. From improving firmness and elasticity to reducing fine lines and wrinkles, the list of benefits goes on and on. The fact that the solution is hypoallergenic and is generally well-tolerated by all skin types makes it even more desirable. But is this product as glamorous as the media and cosmetic companies are trying to portray?

Hyaluronic acid can be found in any form of skincare in this day and age. In balms, it can ease redness, while in serums, it can reduce wrinkles. So does this one substance really have all these effects? Technically, yes. The ability of hyaluronic acid to retain moisture in the skin is the cause of all these effects. Often, itchiness and redness of the skin is caused by dry skin. Hyaluronic acid provides moisture for the skin and increases elasticity in the skin cells, which keeps them from shriveling and causing wrinkles. If such an excellent product exists, the more, the better, you might think. However, it is proven that a solution with more than 4 percent hyaluronic acid can do the opposite and dry your skin out. The highest concentration of hyaluronic acid you can put in a solution without any drying effects is 2 percent—so the next time you come across a serum that claims to have 75 percent hyaluronic acid, you will know that’s simply impossible.

Hyaluronic acid also comes in the form of supplements and dermal fillers. Typically prescribed for osteoarthritis and other joint problems, hyaluronic acid supplements can also be used for the skin. Hyaluronic acid fillers have become popular in the 2000s to restore and maintain a youthful appearance. The method is virtually painless, shows immediate results, and lasts for a relatively long period of time. They are often preferred over collagen fillers as they are harmless to animals.

In conclusion, hyaluronic acid is a fantastic addition to your skincare routine if you struggle with dry skin or if the dry and cool seasons are approaching. Just make sure you can distinguish the fine line between marketing and reality.

 

Citations


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