What is hyaluronic acid, and why do people use it? Given the complex and, well, acidic sounding name, it might come as a surprise to hear that hyaluronic acid (HA) occurs naturally in tissue throughout the body, and is quite gentle on the skin. In fact, it plays an important role in tissue health from eyes to joints.
You might even say everyone uses HA, because our bodies make it. But many
people supplement their skin care routine to maximize the complexion-improving benefits of hyaluronic acid.
Because hyaluronic acid is degraded by exposure to UVB rays — along with things we have less control over as we age, like our levels of estrogen and progesterone — topical supplements can increase your skin’s resilience to
everyday stressors, slow the signs of aging, and may even help skin recover from breakouts.
Read on for more specific benefits of hyaluronic acid and to learn how it works. Or skip ahead to see the three plant-based hyaluronic acid products I recommend to my clients (and a sweet price on a special bundle!).
Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid for the Skin
Maintains hydration levels, giving skin a naturally radiant glow.
Also called hyaluronan, this molecular chain of sugars (a glycosaminoglycan if you’re feeling fancy) can bind up to 1,000 times its weight in water!
It uses that water to lubricate and cushion the body’s various tissues. In skin, the extra moisture is recognizable as the glow of youth — though other notable benefits of hyaluronic acid, like cellular regeneration and healing, play important roles in said glow, too.
In the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis, hyaluronic acid works its wonders from between cells as part of our extracellular matrix. This matrix fills the space from cell to cell, offering structural support and aiding in cellular functions.
More moisture between cells means firmer, more luminescent skin. And the amount of moisture the extracellular matrix can hold is directly linked to the quality of the hyaluronic acid between your cells.
2. Protects against fine lines and wrinkles.
Beneath the visible epidermis, hyaluronic acid lubricates and protects proteins in the dermis, including collagen. Like HA, collagen gets a lot of attention for its ability to plump skin and ease joints. The two are active in many of the same processes, from wound healing to tissue regeneration, and work together in both the dermis and epidermis to keep skin structured, hydrated, and healthy.
Collagen lends firmness, but HA can increase the stability and elasticity of collagen. Aging skin is associated with deteriorated collagen and loss of moisture from degraded HA, and research suggests that their functionality is intertwined — damages to one can impact the other.
3. Repair and regeneration.
Hyaluronic acid supports the repair and regeneration of skin cells and helps maintain healthy stem cells. From its position between cells, this molecule plays an important role in tissue repair and regeneration, helping to regulate inflammation and cell migration as part of the body’s innate tissue repair and regeneration processes. Additionally, hyaluronic acid supports stem cell functions — skin stem cells remain active in the renewal and repair of skin throughout your life.
4. Regulates inflammation and promotes healing, including acne lesions.
Expanding on the functions of repair and regeneration, hyaluronic acid is active in the body’s response to damaged tissue. It helps regulate both the onset and reduction of tissue inflammation, changing actions according to its molecular weight. (So cool!) At a low molecular weight, hyaluronic acid encourages inflammation as a first response to injury. And at a high molecular weight, it lowers inflammatory and immune responses.
Hyaluronic acid also aids in the coordinated movement of cells during
healing, and in the development of new blood vessels. These three processes — inflammation, cell migration, and angiogenesis — constitute the body’s main phases in healing wounds.
Because it is naturally occuring and supports the body’s own healing mechanisms, hyaluronic acid is suitable for even sensitive or acne-prone skin, and may help reduce inflammation in lesions, and promote efficient healing.
3 Ways to Supplement HA Topically
The plant-based products below offer the benefits of hyaluronic acid sourced from marshmallow plants. All three are from Eminence Organic Skin Care, a line that pairs the latest in scientific findings with ethically sourced botanicals for deeply nourished skin and a natural glow you’ll want to share with the world.
This Eminence Organics cleanser gets its name from acai berry juice, which is rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and vitamins to improve skin tone. Hyaluronic acid from marshmallow plant extract binds moisture at the
molecular level to smooth and plump the skin, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. Finally, nutrient-rich sea buckthorn berry protects skin’s moisture barrier, helping to further diminish wrinkles.
To use, mix a pea-size amount of the product with water in hands and pat on skin with your fingertips, covering the face and neck, for 1–3 minutes. Remove with a damp face cloth and apply toner. (Try the Neroli Age Corrective Hydrating Mist for a collagen boost.)
Formulated to rehydrate dry skin, vitamin-rich strawberries and rhubarb work in tandem with botanical hyaluronic acid in this serum from Eminence Organics. Astringent strawberry helps tighten pores. Strawberry also contains natural salicylic acid for gentle exfoliation and brightening. Rhubarb contains vitamin C and antioxidants to help stave off oxidative damage, while aloe vera soothes and refreshes. Hyaluronic acid from marshmallow plant extract replenishes hydration between cells for dewy-looking skin.
To use, apply a thin layer over the entire face, or apply to areas in need of hydration 1-3 times per day. Because HA is a glycosaminoglycan, a chain of sugars, the Strawberry Rhubarb Serum can be sticky! I recommend it mixed into a moisturizer. For summer, try the Coconut Age Corrective Moisturizer or Calm Skin Chamomile Moisturizer.
Astringent strawberries gently exfoliate with naturally occurring salicylic acid, while rhubarb nourishes with antioxidant-rich vitamins. Marshmallow-derived hyaluronic acid plumps skin for a replenished, more youthful appearance. Shea butter, high in triglycerides and fatty acids, seals in moisture, softening and soothing the skin.
To use, combine a small amount of mask with a few drops of water in your hand. Apply evenly over the entire face as well as the neck and décolleté if you wish. Allow mask to dry 5-10 minutes then gently remove in a circular motion with a lukewarm face cloth. Rinse thoroughly with clear water.
Although our bodies produce their own hyaluronan, adding natural hyaluronic acid to your skin care routine can amplify its complexion-improving benefits. HA production dwindles as we age, and the molecule is also degraded by exposure to UVB rays. A topical solution can help keep skin looking youthful, and may even help speed recovery from breakouts.
If you have questions about hyaluronic acid or would like to find the most direct path to better skin, I also offer one-on-one consultations. During these, I give personalized recommendations for high-quality products tailored to your lifestyle and needs. I even mail samples so every purchase can be made with confidence!