Naturally occurring in almost every cell in the body, hyaluronic acid (HA) acts like a sponge, attracting and holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water, which makes it great for hydrating dry skin. And the reality is that most of us have dehydrated skin; even an oily skin type is highly likely to be lacking in water. Plus, the fastest way to transform your face (post-party, post-flight, post-AC) is to saturate it with hydration – fine lines can literally disappear, and previously flat, dull skin takes on a new plump and rosy glow. But while HA has become a skincare staple, skin scientists admit that it’s only in the last six years or so that they have fully understood the water channels in the skin, which is what is making HA so popular now – and so beneficial to our skincare regime.
How to maximize HA’s effects
I love layering up an HA serum – literally reapplying it two or three times to saturate extra-dry skin and give it that real dewy effect – or mixing it in with other favorite creams or serums for day, and adding to my face oil at night.
“On dry skin, HA will actually pull the moisture out of the air to use in your skin,” says Sunday Riley, formulator and founder of the eponymous cult skin range. “But if you are in, say, Las Vegas, it can pull the water out of your skin and into the arid desert air. It can then make your dry skin even drier, so you need to use an occlusive product over the top to stop any water loss.” She recommends a serum or lighter-textured cream, which makes it easier for the HA to penetrate. “Gently and regularly resurfacing the skin (with an enzyme or AHA) also helps the HA to get deeper into the skin.”
It’s also important to use a product with a mix of a higher molecular weight (basically a bigger molecule) and a smaller molecular weight, as the combination allows it to work both on and in the skin. “You achieve two goals in one,” says aesthetic doctor Barbara Sturm. “The small molecules go deeper to hydrate the skin and restore collagen, while the big molecules superficially plump up the skin surface – and when you’re sitting on a plane with your skin being sucked dry, you absolutely need the superficial.”
Unhelpfully, this mix of molecules is not stated on a bottle, but the newer generation of HA serums do tend to provide both.
The HA facial
Recent research has shown that HA-based injectable filler, used to give volume to the face and pump up lips, also stimulates collagen in the skin. The newer HA facials inject tiny amounts of the filler into the skin (this is done in a doctor’s clinic using topical anesthetic) to plump, hydrate and boost collagen. I tried a Volite treatment, which involves multiple injections (over 100, so expect a few days of redness, even possible bruising), and my chronically dry skin was transformed. It looked as though I had just had a facial, and it looked like that every day for four months.
The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown.