Able to hold 1,000 times its own weight in water, hyaluronic acid is nothing short of fascinating. What else can it do? 

What is it?

Hyaluronic acid (HA) occurs naturally in the body – mostly the skin, but also in our eyes and connective tissue. Although it’s called an acid, it’s not an exfoliating acid like glycolic and lactic. Instead, it’s a humectant, meaning its role is to help draw moisture to the skin – and because it can hold a staggering 1,000 times its own weight in water, it’s one of the best humectants around.

Why use it?

Because our skin is naturally around 64 per cent water, anything that helps to attract water to it and keep it hydrated is a good thing. Well-hydrated skin has fewer fine lines and looks generally healthier, so HA will help to keep skin looking plumped up, youthful and glowy – think grape rather than raisin. There’s also some evidence that HA has antioxidant properties, so could protect skin from free-radical damage associated with accelerating ageing. (Our beauty editor loves La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Serum because it increases skin volume and plumps the surface.)

Who should use it?

Everyone could benefit from a little HA, but it’s especially helpful if you’re prone to dehydration, and even more important with age, as the levels naturally produced by the body start declining in our 20s. Better yet, it’s a very gentle ingredient. (Try Swisse Hyaluronic Acid Firming Eye Serum. It gently smooths the appearance of lines.)

How should you use it?

You’ll find HA in everything from make-up to moisturisers, but if you’re focused on your face and want the most bang for your buck, look for a serum or a mask. These generally contain a higher percentage of HA than creams or lotions. Don’t worry if you can’t initially see it on the ingredients, though – it might be listed as sodium hyaluronate or hydrolysed hyaluronic acid.

When should you use it?

There’s no reason not to use HA morning and night, but remember that it acts like a magnet for water – so if you apply it to dry skin in a dry environment, it can suck water from the deeper layers and dry it out more. For best results, apply to damp skin, leave for five minutes, then follow with a cream to lock moisture in. 

What else should you know?

HA usually sits on the surface of the skin to plump outer layers, though some products contain low-molecular weight HA, with smaller molecules that penetrate further to hydrate at a deeper level. The jury’s out – some believe this causes an inflammatory response, and that there are more effective ways of giving skin density and bounce, such as using a product with peptides.

© Prevention Australia