04 Jun How Does Hyaluronic Acid Benefit Skin?
Scientifically speaking, hyaluronic acid (also known as hyaluronan) is a glycosaminoglycan, a type of molecule composed partly of sugars. Hyaluronic acid is actually a natural structural component of skin, and, in fact, is present in connective tissue throughout the human body.
So why is hyaluronic acid such a big deal? The magic of this ingredient lies in its ability to retain moisture; it’s considered to have a greater capacity to hold moisture than any other natural or synthetic polymer. In fact, one gram of hyaluronic acid is able to hold up to six liters of water!
This is important with regard to aging because one of the hallmarks of youthful skin is its moisture content. As we age, our skin loses moisture, resulting in a loss of firmness and pliability.
Note: This does not mean that everyone’s skin becomes dry with age; it simply means that skin lacks the amount of moisture it had in its youth due to sun damage and/or other factors. Without question, you can still have oily skin in your 60s (perhaps just not as oily as it was in your 20s)!
Hyaluronic acid can improve your skin’s moisture content and at the same time strengthen skin’s barrier; that is, the outer layers of your skin. A healthy barrier looks and feels softer, smoother, and plumper—all hallmarks of younger-looking skin! But, with hyaluronic acid, that’s not all you get—there are many additional benefits beyond just a more youthful appearance.
We know that just about everything, from sun damage and acne to sensitive skin and rosacea, can lead to a damaged barrier, so repairing skin’s barrier with skin-identical ingredients, like hyaluronic acid (as detailed in this article), can go a long way toward fixing, or at least minimizing, those issues, which means it’s helpful for all skin types. Its lightweight texture isn’t an issue for oily skin, and it’s gentle enough that it isn’t a problem for sensitive skin.
Even better: Hyaluronic acid also provides antioxidant defense against free-radical damage, and reduces inflammation.[3, 4] Now that’s what we call a multitasking anti-aging ingredient!
Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate
In addition to seeing hyaluronic acid listed as an ingredient in skincare products, you’ve probably also seen the similarly named sodium hyaluronate. There indeed is a connection; chemically, sodium hyaluronate is a salt derived from hyaluronic acid—and it has unique advantages for skin in comparison to “regular” hyaluronic acid, although both are great.
Sodium hyaluronate’s main strength lies in its molecular size. During the process of creating sodium hyaluronate, its molecular weight decreases due to the removal of lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Removing these compounds makes the sodium hyaluronate molecule much smaller than that of hyaluronic acid. That means that the sodium hyaluronate, when applied topically, can penetrate the skin more easily than the hyaluronic acid, which makes the sodium hyaluronate an asset in skincare products.