The polymer hyaluronic acid is an important natural component of skin produced by fibroblast skin cells, which decreases as you age 13. Skin starts losing hyaluronic acid as early as age 18, but wrinkles and other skin damage from hyaluronic acid loss don't generally show up until the late 30s or early 40s 13. Preserving or regaining hyaluronic acid is a goal of many skin care scientists and products that can help with these tasks can keep skin supple and youthful-looking 13.
Hyaluronic acid, also known as HA, is a natural compound found in skin that has many important functions, including holding in moisture, providing cushioning, aiding in tissue repair, holding together the skin structural components collagen and elastin, and helping create a protective barrier against microorganisms 13.
Types of Products
Many skin care products contain hyaluronic acid 13. Topical products containing HA are considered are effective at moisturizing surface skin cells, which prevents water loss and protects the skin from dirt and other pollutants. Hyaluronic acid fillers, such as Restylane, are injected into the deep layers of the skin to replace missing HA in the dermis, temporarily restoring plumpness and filling in wrinkles and creases 13. This restores a youthful appearance to the face, neck, chest or other areas injected with HA fillers.
Since hyaluronic acid holds moisture well--holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water--it is a commonly used component in moisturizers 13. In these moisturizers, it functions not only to deliver water to the skin, but also to hold it there. As a large molecule, it doesn't permeate deep into the skin, but instead stays near the surface where it moisturizes the skin surface layers.
The loss of natural hyaluronic acid is one of the causes of wrinkles, so the idea of putting HA back into the skin to repair wrinkles makes sense 13. Hyaluronic acid fillers are useful for reducing or removing wrinkles 13. By reducing wrinkles, hyaluronic acid fillers make the skin look younger and increase skin tone, making it look smooth and supple 13.
Hyaluronic acid based products are considered highly safe, especially those made from synthesized HA, which is made in bacteria instead of using human or animal tissue 13. There are few allergic reactions or side effects involved with using hyaluronic acid, though some people may experience mild, temporary redness or swelling after an injection 13.
Hyaluronic acid injections last longer than collagen injections 13. Injected HA fillers typically last four to six months, causing a reduction in wrinkles and an increased plumpness to the dermis during this time. Since topical products with HA cannot penetrate to deeper layers, the moisturizing effects from these will only last a few days. Repeated use will maintain moisture levels in the skin, preventing skin dehydration.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Tiago Ribeiro