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The molecule lessens dry skin woes and can even boost your joint health.
Hyaluronic acid (or HA for short) might sound like just a trendy, buzzy term that’s taking over the skincare industry—but it’s something that has been around for quite some time. Often found at the top of ingredients lists in the best face moisturizers for dry skin, the best hand creams, and so much more, it’s totally normal to wonder: What does hyaluronic acid do?
Hyaluronic acid is a powerhouse molecule that does so much for our wellness. It’s actually naturally occurring in our bodies. But, as we age, our supplies diminish—which is why so many skincare products include the molecule in ingredient lists. Merina Peredo, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist at Skinfluence, says that it acts “almost like a ‘cushion’ to joints and skin—this means that there are a vast amount of benefits and cosmetic ways in which it can be used within the dermal layers of skin.”
Ahead, find everything you need to know about hyaluronic acid, including what it is, if it’s safe, how it’s made, and the many benefits with which it’s associated.
According to Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist at MDCS in New York, the skincare ingredient is worth its weight in gold. “Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule found naturally in our body that serves as a humectant and attracts up to 1000 times its weight in water, helping to hydrate the skin,” she explains. “While it is found naturally in the body, levels drop as we age, which is why it is often formulated into topical products to help boost moisture. Hyaluronic acid is also found in some injectable fillers as it helps to restore volume and help with soft tissue augmentation.”
Hyaluronic acid is considered safe and is actually naturally found in our bodies, explains Dr. Garshick. “While it can be used in topical formulations, it is important to remember that it is a large molecule which can limit its penetration. Some products may include low-molecular-weight HA which can penetrate deeper. In general, to be most effective when used topically it is best to apply to damp skin. If not used properly, hyaluronic acid can actually dry out the skin, so it’s best to apply to damp skin and to lock in the moisture with a moisturizing cream or lotion.”
Dr. Pedero says she recommends the ingredient to her patients. “HA works well for most skin types as both adverse effects and allergic reactions are considered rare. HA is backed by almost a century of [research and design] and has several Federal Drug Association-approved indications—it is even safe to use while pregnant and/or breastfeeding! For my patients looking to restore volume and increase hydration in their skin I recommend a medical grade topical treatment like AlumierMD’s Ultimate Boost Serum,” she says.
According to Dr. Garshick and Dr. Pedero, hyaluronic acid benefits include:
While it does exist naturally in our bodies, when formulated into skincare products, it is developed through a process of bio-fermentation. “Typically, HA is made in a lab by fermenting different types of bacteria in-vitro to produce a molecular reaction,” explains Dr. Pedero. “However, the manufacturing approach really depends on what the product is and who is making it since the process for a topical or oral treatment could be different from an injectable solution.”
Hyaluronic acid can be injected, ingested via supplements, and/or applied topically, and even via eye drops. It all depends on how you’re looking to use the molecule. If you want hydrated, plump, skin, a.k.a. to reap the skincare benefits of hyaluronic acid, try some of the below options, recommended by Dr. Garshick and Dr. Pedero.
Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure diseases. Be cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or nursing. Also, be careful about giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by their healthcare provider.
Emily Goldman is the senior editor at Prevention. She’s spent the last few years editing and writing health, wellness, beauty, food, and more for Marthastewart.com and Bridalguide.com. She’s loved all things health and wellness since starting her bi-weekly podcast Pancreas Pals—a series all about the highs and lows of living life with Type 1 diabetes. When not podcasting, she spends most of her time curled up with a good book or watching a period piece on BBC.
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