When it comes to looking after your skin, there is no ‘one size fits all’. The most appropriate skincare regime or treatment, particularly for people with problem skin, should be recommended by a dermatologist through professional assessment.
But what exactly is it?
And why does it help rejuvenate your skin?
We explore the properties of this “elixir of youth”.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid, also known as hyaluronan, is a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan (or mucopolysaccharide). This is a type of molecule made up of a long chain of sugars.
Its chemical formula is (C14H21NO11)n .
Hyaluronic acid has an impressive water-holding capability, retaining up to 1,000 times its own weight in water. So it acts a bit like a gel.
It is found in the fluid in your eyes (the vitreous) and joints. It’s also an important element within your skin.
Within the skin it is the dominant component of the extracellular matrix which binds the skin cells together, alongside other elements such as collagen and elastin. As such, it is a vital factor in maintaining the skin’s structural integrity.
A brief history of hyaluronic acid
The name “hyaluronic acid” derives from the fact that it was first isolated in the vitreous humour (hyalos is Greek for vitreous) and its high content of uronic acid.
The first medical application of hyaluronic acid was in the latter part of the 20th century, when it was developed for use in eye surgery.
Why is hyaluronic acid anti-ageing?
The high content of water in youthful skin helps it retain its volume and resilience. This is largely thanks to abundant levels of hyaluronic acid and its water retaining capabilities.
As skin ages, due to external factors (such as sun exposure) and internal factors (such as hormonal changes), the body’s production of hyaluronic acid slows. In fact, too much sun exposure slows the rate at which hyaluronic acid is produced. It also speeds up the degradation of existing hyaluronic acid.
A boost of hyaluronic acid can rejuvenate the structure, volume and texture of your skin.
What beauty treatments contain hyaluronic acid?
Dermal filler treatments, including facial and lip fillers, are generally made from hyaluronic acid. The gel-like consistency of the hyaluronic acid in these treatments adds volume and definition where it is injected. It also has a welcome side effect of boosting moisture levels within the skin.
Profhilo is another hyaluronic acid treatment. Unlike fillers, this does not add immediate volume to specific areas of the face. Instead it boosts your natural hyaluronic acid levels to give instant hydration and gradually increase collagen.
There are also many beauty serums and creams available which contain hyaluronic acid. These don’t have the same long-term benefits as injecting hyaluronic acid into the skin, as the molecules are too large to penetrate deep into the dermis. However, it will keep the top layer of your skin hydrated and protected.
Is hyaluronic acid safe?
Yes, it’s a naturally occurring chemical in the body and its use in aesthetic and medical treatments is generally accepted as very safe.
There is a small risk of an allergic reaction. You should also avoid using hyaluronic acid when pregnant or breast feeding as no research has been done to conclude whether it is safe (so it’s best avoided, just in case).
How else is hyaluronic acid used?
As well as its popularity in reversing the signs of ageing, hyaluronic acid also has many medical applications.
It’s often used to treat osteoarthritis in the knee, proving to have longer lasting results, with fewer side effects, than steroid treatment.
It can also be used during eye surgery (such as cataract removal) to replenish the natural eye fluids.
Some mouth ulcer remedies contain hyaluronic acid. And it is sometimes recommended to heal wounds, burns and skin ulcers.