Skin

5 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Hyaluronic Acid

Spoiler alert: there’s a good chance you’ve been applying it all wrong, says CASSIE STEER

Beauty

Hyaluronic acid can dry out your skin

Yes, you read that right. “Despite being a super-hydrator, when used incorrectly, hyaluronic acid can actually dehydrate the skin,” says Irene Forte, founder of her eponymous skincare range. “Without moisture on the surface of your skin or in the air, it will draw moisture from your complexion, leaving it more dehydrated – that’s why hyaluronic acid should be used with caution where the air is very dry.” According to Forte, HA is best used as a serum on damp skin, with a moisturizer layered on top to seal in its water-binding effects.

HA turbo-charges your skincare arsenal

“Hyaluronic acid can boost the efficacy of your other skincare products. How? The deeper penetration of the small molecules not only replenishes moisture reservoirs, but also makes HA a penetrating agent for other active anti-aging ingredients,” says skincare pro and entrepreneur Dr Barbara Sturm. “This is particularly amazing if you are using products containing pure ingredients, such as the purslane found in my proprietary formulation, which is a hugely nutritious, potent anti-oxidative compound that helps protect against, and soothe, irritation while also boosting skin-barrier function and your overall skin health.”

Hyaluronic acid is acne-friendly

The myth that oily or acne-prone skin should avoid moisturizing products still seems to float around the beauty ether. The truth is that whilst oilier types may want to steer clear of oils, they still need water-based humectants (substances that attract water from the air or deeper within the skin, such as hyaluronic acid) to keep skin healthy and hydrated. Some studies have even indicated that HA may help to reduce redness and the visible appearance of acne – and, as a skin condition that is linked to barrier dysfunction, nurturing a healthy barrier is all-important when it comes to managing a blemish-prone complexion. Either way, it’s not going to cause a flare-up, making it the most democratic of skincare ingredients. “Consumers often associate hyaluronic acid with being harsh on the skin because it contains the word ‘acid’. However, it’s not an exfoliator as we typically expect acids to be, and there are no known negative reactions to hyaluronic acid,” says Forte. “As it already occurs naturally in the body, it’s suitable for all skin types, including oily and acne-prone skin,” confirms Dr Sturm.

HA weight matters

When it comes to choosing the best HA formulation, it pays to be discriminatory. Here’s where things get a little more scientific. “Not all hyaluronic acids are created equally,” says Dr Sturm. “The most effective formulations consist of a high concentration of blended low- and high-molecular-weight hyaluronic-acid molecules to hydrate your skin – both superficially and at deeper skin layers.” So, what constitutes ‘low’ and ‘high’ molecular weights?

“The regular-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid most commonly found in skincare products (also known as high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid) tends to be between 1000-1800 kDa and is impermeable, meaning that it doesn’t pass through the stratum corneum (or outermost epidermal layer),” explains Forte. However, she adds that just because it doesn’t permeate, that doesn’t render it useless – in fact, a high-molecular-weight HA is crucial for delivering hydration to the surface of the skin for some much-needed barrier-boosting. “For hyaluronic acid to permeate the skin, it needs to be below approximately 300 kDa, which is also known as a low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid.”

‘Pure’ hyaluronic acid is a beauty myth

“I get asked about the percentage of hyaluronic acid in our products – and how pure it is – all the time, but the truth is that the industry standard for hyaluronic acid in a solution is 1-2 percent, so it’s a myth when people say something is 90-100 percent hyaluronic acid,” explains Forte. “High-quality HA is a very expensive ingredient, which is why most serums are low dose,” adds Dr Sturm. “If HA is not at its highest dose, it will be thin and watery rather than viscous and might be called ‘hyaluronic acid extract’.”

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