Chances are, you’ve probably heard of hyaluronic acid by now. It’s one of the most in demand skincare ingredients found in everything from serums to sheet masks and the result for your skin is a plumper, more hydrated complexion with a dewy, glowy effect. You may have heard about its magical hydrating properties, but hyaluronic acid does so much more than boosting the skin’s moisture levels. Here’s everything you need to know about this all-star ingredient…
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule (or for the scientific term, a ‘glycosaminoglycan’ known as GAG) that is found naturally in our bodies and acts as a humectant, meaning it has the ability to draw and hold water. It can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, which helps to keep our skin hydrated and plump. There are limited studies to prove exactly how much the synthetic versions of hyaluronic acid can hold, although we do know that it is significant. Despite technically being categorised as an acid, it isn’t exfoliating. When used topically in skincare products, such as serums or sheet masks, hyaluronic acid gives your complexion a boost by quickly increasing the skin’s moisture level, thus smoothing the skin’s texture.
How does it work exactly?
The collagen in our dermis forms the structure of the skin. Hyaluronic acid is bound to collagen on one side and links to water molecules on the other, which is what gives the skin its plumpness.
It also helps to prevent what we call, ‘transepidermal water loss’ or TEWL. This is the scientific term for the measurement of how much water is evaporated out of the skin. When a product prevents TEWL, that means it’s keeping your skin hydrated by making sure that water doesn’t escape from your skin’s surface. Hyaluronic acid is fantastic, because it slows down the rate at which any water evaporates. Aside from being an extremely effective hydrator, a couple of studies have also found that it’s great for healing wounds, too.
Why is it so important?
Within our skin, we have stem cells called fibroblasts that make collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. As we age, our fibroblasts slow down and some become dormant, meaning we aren’t able to produce enough collagen to counteract the rate at which it naturally breaks down – the result is dehydration and a loss of volume, elasticity and smoothness.
Harsh weather, central heating, certain skincare products and underlying skin conditions can cause tiny breaks in the skin’s protective barrier, which allows water to escape. So by applying hyaluronic acid, we are not only keeping our skin hydrated, but also working towards overall optimal skin health.
The best thing about hyaluronic acid is that it hydrates the skin without disrupting its natural moisturising processes in the way that applying a moisturiser does. At Kate Kerr London, we always recommend that our clients ditch the moisturiser in favour of hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. Find out why our founder, Kate Kerr, ditched the moisturiser a long time ago and how doing the same can benefit your skin with our recent blog post.
What are the benefits?
There are SO many benefits to using hyaluronic acid in your skincare regime. Here are just a few:
- Helps to support the skin through the natural ageing process
- Prevents premature ageing
- Minimises fine lines and wrinkles
- Increases elasticity
- Hydrates the skin without disrupting the skin’s natural moisturising processes
- Combats facial redness
- Helps wounds to heal
- Can also be used to treat conditions such as eczema
Who might want to use hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is great for all skin types and rarely irritates the skin or triggers conditions such as acne or rosacea. As we age, our bodies produce less of it, so anyone looking to support their skin through the natural ageing process and prevent premature ageing will benefit from integrating it into their regime. It’s also great for anyone who just wants a brighter, dewier complexion.
Are all hyaluronic acids created equal?
Choosing the right hyaluronic acid serum in particular can be tricky. The molecule can sometimes have a molecular weight that is too high, meaning it is too large to effectively deliver hydration to the skin’s layers. According to Harvard Medical School, hyaluronic acid molecules with a higher molecular weight, though best at binding water, can’t penetrate deeply into the skin. When applied topically, they only provide hydration to its surface. While molecules with a smaller molecular weight can penetrate more deeply through the skin’s layers, it’s ideal to look for a product that contains a mix of hyaluronic acid molecules in different weights.
What’s the best way to integrate hyaluronic acid into your skincare regime?
Hyaluronic acid works well with most other skin actives, making it easy to pair with peels, retinols, vitamins and other acids. The only exception could be combining it with acids containing lower PH levels, such as glycolic acid, because it can degrade the hyaluronic acid, making it ineffective. At Kate Kerr London, we like to use active skincare products that contain hyaluronic acid alongside other supportive ingredients for maximum effectiveness. The result is skin that appears younger and more dewy.
A great way to integrate hyaluronic acid into your regime is with a serum, but the key is applying it correctly. Hyaluronic acid molecules need water in order to plump the skin – without water on the surface of the skin or from the air, it pulls water from deep inside your skin, causing dehydration. To prevent this, always apply your hyaluronic acid serum to damp, cleansed skin. Then top up with your SPF.
We also recommend using a retinol to activate the dormant fibroblasts and increase your natural hyaluronic acid production – because our own is always best. Exfoliate regularly to remove cell accumulation on the surface of the skin, which stops your hyaluronic acid penetrating the skin properly. You should also look for active ingredients in your hyaluronic acid that pack a bigger punch such as niacinamide and antioxidants like Vitamin C and E – hyaluronic acid is often formulated with vitamin B5 to further enhance hydration.
What about hyaluronic acid injectables?
Did you know that hyaluronic acid is the main component in most fillers? The hyaluronic is cross-linked (a process that involves linking the hyaluronic acid molecules together) so that our body doesn’t break it down as quickly as it does with our naturally-produced hyaluronic acid, and can last anywhere from 6-18 months, depending on the area of the face that is injected.
It comes in varying consistencies, from a very watery substance injected to enhance hydration and activate skin rejuvenation to denser viscosities for building back lost structure in the skin, such as the jawline and cheeks. It’s synthetically made to be almost identical to our naturally-produced hyaluronic acid, which means the body doesn’t see it as a foreign substance and allergic reactions are very rare, unlike the collagen injections of the past.
If our clients would like fillers, we refer them to one of the best doctors in the world who can subtly rebuild the structure under the skin if needed, whilst we focus on offering a bespoke skincare and treatment plan that will achieve optimum skin health. We believe that fillers should be used to rejuvenate the skin and replace lost volume, rather than giving you a face shape that you never had – the result should be a complexion that looks brighter and reflects light more effectively, as well as looking more rested.
So who might want to consider fillers? It all comes down to skin structure. Think of the skin on your face as being like a tablecloth; it’s lying over the table, which in this analogy, is your facial muscles, bones and fat pads. As we age, the table becomes compromised and the tablecloth enlarges, which leads to the skin sagging. At Kate Kerr London, we work hard to ensure the table cloth – or the skin – is beautiful, smooth and clear, but we’re unable to rebuild the structure underneath. That’s where a skilled injector comes in. We are always very honest about whether we can help to treat our clients’ skin ageing concerns and we will refer if it is out of our scope. Fillers aren’t for everyone, though – we can give you the best advice either way when you come for a consultation.
How long does it take to see results?
Once you start using a hyaluronic acid serum as part of an overall skincare regime designed to achieve optimum skin health, you should see a noticeable improvement within 12 weeks.
We strongly recommend using hyaluronic acid to complement a full skin health regime. It’s important to look after the skin and all its processes with specific products within a comprehensive regime – whilst hyaluronic acid is a superstar ingredient, it isn’t the answer to achieving optimum skin health on its own. If you would like advice on how a skincare regime, together with targeted facials and treatments, get in touch to book a consultation and we can provide a tailored plan. If you’re an existing client and would like to know more about the specific ingredients we’re using to treat your skincare concerns, and if hyaluronic acid might be a good addition, get in touch or mention it at your next appointment.