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September 23, 2020
Being able to hold up 1,000 times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid is widely praised as the gold standard for skin hydration, and can be practically seen in almost every single beauty product. But did you know, using it wrongly can actually lead to drier skin, and even inflammations and blemishes?
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Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan found throughout the body’s connective tissue. It is typically found in quantities of approximately 10 to 20 grams in the body, and about half of which is stored in the skin to provide support to the structural proteins of the skin, collagen and elastin for that firm, plumped look.
The body can make hyaluronic acid on its own, but with age, the production of it naturally declines, whilst external factors like pollution and ultraviolet radiation further decrease its level. When the epidermis loses the principle molecule responsible for binding and retaining water molecules, you will experience apparent dehydration, atrophy and loss of elasticity.
Now, hyaluronic acid is known to have a large molecular weight and therefore does not easily penetrate the skin. In skincare products, therefore, you may often find it appear as hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate, that are lower-molecular weight in size, with the former working at the surface-level to smooth and hydrate, and the latter doing the same on a deeper level.
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Thanks to its properties in holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid, a humectant, can pull water from the environment to the surface of the skin. It also strengthens and fortifies the hydrolipic barrier to keep water locked in.
The best part is, because hyaluronic acid (in its natural form) is part of the human body to begin with, it is very well tolerated by the skin and body.
Because it essentially works on the surface level, you will see improvements in skin hydration, elasticity and even fine lines and wrinkles, rather instantaneously. Yet since it does not directly affecting cellular activities, its effects are temporary and short-lived.
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Being a humectant, hyaluronic acid needs outside water to actually work——when applied to skin in dry conditions where humidity is low, it will instead draw water from the deeper layers of the skin and bring it to the surface of the epidermis, leaving the skin drier than it was.
As mentioned above, natural hyaluronic acid has rather large molecules that mainly sit on top of the skin, which is why you often feel some sort of tackiness with a hyaluronic acid serum, or even experience piling when used with other products. On the other hand, when they are broken down into very low molecular weight ( ≤ 25 kDA), it can potentially carry bacteria and other unwanted ingredients more deeply into the skin. If you have compromised skin, this might be bad news, as that could mean blemishes, redness, irritations, and inflammations.Furthermore, with hyaluronic acid, it’s definitely not the more the better, especially since it is present in almost all the skincare products these days. Let’s say your toner, serum, and moisturiser all contain hyaluronic acid, it then adds up very quickly. 0.5 - 1 percent in a product is enough for it to effectively hydrate and plump the skin, and generally speaking, 1 - 2 percent in a routine is already extremely effective. In fact, according studies have shown hydration tends to teeter off after 2%, and anything more than that can actually be drying to the skin.
MARIE REYNOLDS LONDON
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