How Hyaluronic Acid Benefits Skin
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring substance in skin known for its stunning capacity to attract and hold onto 1000x its weight in moisture. It works overtime by replenishing skin to enhance a healthy, supple look and feel.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
In the world of skin care, trendy ingredients come and go (and many of them never should have been popular to begin with!). Research shows that hyaluronic acid is not just a trend; on the contrary, it’s one of the best skin care ingredients you can use.
Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan, a fancy name for a vital naturally-occurring substance that’s part of skin’s youth-supporting matrix. As the chief glycosaminoglycan in skin, hyaluronic acid works to keep every aspect of skin stable, safeguarded, and constantly renewed.
Hyaluronic acid is also a humectant, which is a category of skin care ingredients that are hygroscopic, meaning they draw moisture from their surroundings. Humectants are often found in water-based moisturizers, serums, and other leave-on skin care products because of their ability to help boost hydration for all skin types, which is especially beneficial for dry, dehydrated skin.
How Does Hyaluronic Acid Help Dry, Dehydrated Skin?
So, what does hyaluronic acid do? The science-based magic lies in hyaluronic acid’s ability to replenish a LOT of moisture. One gram (or 0.03 oz.) of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six LITERS of water. Talk about mind-blowing! What’s even more impressive is that hyaluronic acid can do this for skin without tipping the scales and giving skin too much water (which, surprisingly, can be a problem because it breaks down key substances that normally hold skin’s surface intact).
Hyaluronic acid can enhance moisture content beyond comparison. It also revitalizes skin’s outer surface layers, so they look and feel softer, smoother and radiantly hydrated. This instantly improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Hyaluronic Acid's Anti-Aging Benefits
Hyaluronic acid’s moisture-binding characteristic is exceptionally important when it comes to skin aging. When we’re young, our skin can hold onto water and retain a balanced amount of moisture, but it loses this ability as we age. The result is a visible loss of firmness, pliability, and a diminished appearance of plumpness and suppleness (hello, wrinkles). Simply put, hyaluronic acid has powerful anti-aging properties.
Unprotected sun exposure and environmental assault weaken skin’s surface and cause premature aging. Hopefully you already know that daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen and avoiding harsh skin care ingredients is a must for combating these things, but you might not know that hyaluronic acid’s antioxidant and skin-replenishing properties go a long way toward mitigating those issues, too (especially when used as part of a complete anti-aging skin care routine that also includes other research-backed ingredients). Now that’s what we call a multitasking anti-aging ingredient!
Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate
In addition to hyaluronic acid, you may have seen the similarly named sodium hyaluronate on a skin care product’s ingredient list. Not surprisingly, these two ingredients are related: sodium hyaluronate is a salt that’s derived from hyaluronic acid. Sodium hyaluronate is helpful in the same way that hyaluronic acid for skin is, but with one extra advantage— skin absorbs it more easily than it does hyaluronic acid.
Does that mean that sodium hyaluronate is better than hyaluronic acid? No! In fact, the Paula’s Choice philosophy is that it’s great if products such as hyaluronic acid moisturizers and creams contain both forms of the ingredient, so your skin can reap the benefits on multiple levels. There are some products on the market that contain both ingredients, but because hyaluronic acid is more expensive, sodium hyaluronate shows up more often in skin care products.
Note: Some companies use what’s called “low molecular weight” hyaluronic acid, which has a smaller molecule than regular hyaluronic acid. Molecules of “regular” hyaluronic acid are larger, which explains why they remain on skin’s surface. Making hyaluronic acid smaller means it can reach a bit farther into skin’s uppermost layers for visibly enhanced results.
How to Use Hyaluronic Acid in Your Skin Care Routine (When and Where to Use It)
Now that you know how hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate can benefit skin, you might be wondering how we’ve chosen to incorporate these research-backed ingredients into our products. Paula’s Choice Skincare often includes both forms of these hero humectants in moisturizer, serum, toner, and face mask formulations, so you have a variety of ways to add hyaluronic acid to your skin care routine.
Hyaluronic acid is incredibly gentle and phenomenally helpful for all skin types, even the most sensitive, redness-prone skin. In fact, its positive influence on skin’s surface is due in part to its natural calming benefit, which means it is also suitable for breakout-prone skin. Each of the following fragrance-free formulas contain redness-reducing, hydrating, and antioxidant ingredients that make skin smooth and soft, and they’re gentle enough even for those with eczema-prone and rosacea-prone skin.
With a silky, lightweight texture that’s perfect for all skin types, our Hyaluronic Acid Booster is indispensable for its hydrating, line-smoothing formula, supported by ceramides to reinforce skin’s natural barrier. Apply directly to skin after cleansing, toning, and exfoliating, or mix into your favorite serum or moisturizer.
Those with dry to very dry skin will find our RESIST Intensive Repair Cream’s rich, retinol-spiked formula is ideal for a daily (and/or nightly) dose of wrinkle-softening hydration from sodium hyaluronate, ceramides, and peptides.
If achieving radiant, glowing skin overnight is one of your skin care goals, you’ll appreciate our RADIANCE Renewal Mask’s lush gel texture and innovative formula of skin-plumping sodium hyaluronate plus brightening antioxidants niacinamide and vitamin c, and well-researched hydrating ingredients.
If you struggle with blemishes and are on the hunt for the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin, look no further than our CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturizer. Its sheer lotion texture features sodium hyaluronate, ceramides, and blueberry extract to provide hydration and soothe redness.
Our DEFENSE Nightly Reconditioning Moisturizer prevents premature aging with a refreshing, all-skin-types formula loaded with antioxidants, superfoods, and sodium hyaluronate that strengthens skin's defenses overnight.
Pair any of the above with our RESIST Brightening Essence which uses natural plant-based extracts to banish dull skin and improve uneven skin tone while supplying skin with hyaluronic acid’s many benefits.
Hyaluronic Acid Oral Supplements
What about hyaluronic acid supplements? Does oral intake deliver visible results? A growing body of research says yes! It turns out oral intake of hyaluronic acid can make it to the skin, where it helps the lower layers influence what happens and becomes visible on skin’s surface. Amounts of 120-150 milligrams per day have been shown to increase skin’s hydration, aid in the transport of nutrients in skin, visibly improve elasticity, and complement the plumping, wrinkle-smoothing results topical hyaluronic acid provides.
Interesting fact: As we age, our skin’s natural content of hyaluronic acid drops dramatically. People between the ages of 19 and 47 have twice as much hyaluronic acid in their skin as those in their 50s and 60s. As we age into our 70s, that amount drops even further, making hyaluronic acid supplements even more important, as they help replace what skin loses with the passage of time (and of course, cumulative sun damage hastens this and other skin-aging processes).
References for This Information:
International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, December 2018, pages 1,682-1,695
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, August 2017, pages 311-315
The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, March 2014, pages 27-29
Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, October 2012, pages 20–23; and March 2009, pages 38–43
Dermato-endocrinology, July 2012, pages 253–258
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, September 2011, pages 990–1000
International Journal of Toxicology, July–August 2009, pages 5–67
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!