What is this stuff I keep seeing and hearing about? Hyaluronic Acid (I will call it HA because it’s a lot to spell out every time, let alone pronounce) is being heavily marketed these days as the must-have for your skin, and even for hair. Is it the elixir of youth? it’s in almost every beauty product you can name these days - it’s obviously popular, so I looked into what it actually is and what it is supposed to do.
Apparently, HA benefits skin on both a surface and deep level, so creams and serums containing it may be an effective way to spruce up your facial routine. Being an ‘acid’ sounds a bit alarming to me and something you should steer clear of, but HA is apparently a good kind of acid.
So, what is it? - Our bodies do produce HA in small amounts, but unfortunately, this amount decreases with age. HA is a thick, gloopy substance - like a clear gel. While this doesn’t sound very attractive (who wants to rub slimy stuff on your skin?), it is a powerful substance that, when added to skin care products, affects the way skin responds to injury, dehydration, and some troublesome skin issues.
HA is found naturally in the body - in the skin, and with high concentrations in the eyes and joints, and seemingly many people take HA supplements for joint disorders. It is extremely hydrating, apparently making it one of the best skin care ingredients for moisturising.
Where Does Hyaluronic Acid Come From? – It was first discovered in the eyes – the transparent, colourless, gooey stuff that fills the space between the lens and the retina. Apart from being created by our own bodies, a plant-based version is apparently extracted from microbial fermentation - a bacterial strain naturally containing it is fermented to produce the desired molecular weights ideal for skin care purposes. Some plant-based HA may contain wheat, so it’s important to double-check if you’re sensitive to wheat products. Soy is one of the most effective foods to boost natural HA, and apparently, you can incorporate soy into your diet by including a few small chunks of tofu or edamame in salads and stir-fries — or even eat cubes of cooked tofu on their own as a healthy snack.
Animal lovers stop here – animal-based HA used to be made from the combs of roosters - the red floppy bit on the top of a rooster’s head - and was considered one of the best natural animal sources. Happily, most HA products are plant-based or synthesized in labs these days, but beware, they say animal-based HA is still said to be used in some HA supplements and injections for joint problems, (I can’t believe this is still true). Whether natural or lab-made, this is not a cure, but to provide long-lasting temporary relief and an effective way to delay joint surgery. Just double-check labels if it concerns you, and good advice is to check all labels for everything anyway.
Hydrates and Moisturizes Skin – HA mainly functions as a water-attracting substance that delivers water to the skin’s surface; it doesn’t create water, but rather pulls water either from the atmosphere or from deep within the skin to hydrate the outer layer of skin. Its ability to retain water makes it a great ingredient in highly moisturising skincare products.
Its intense hydration capabilities supposedly makes it a key anti-aging agent, because dewy and plump skin appears to have fewer fine lines and wrinkles, creating the effect of a more youthful look.
Heals Skin Injuries - HA is a popular treatment for people with eye and joint injuries because of its proven abilities to heal wounds. Skin is no exception, and HA plays a key role in tissue regeneration, specifically in repairing damaged skin.
So now we know - HA isn’t some ‘makey-up’ substance to help sell products, but it is a real ingredient in lotions and creams to hydrate dry skin - and is also good for those creaky joints!
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.