What Is Hyaluronic Acid, and Why Is It in So Many Skin-Care Products?

What Is Hyaluronic Acid, and Why Is It in So Many Skin-Care Products?


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Hyaluronic acid. Although somewhat difficult to say (and even harder to spell), the skin-care ingredient commonly found in your favorite serums, sheet masks, and moisturizers, is an important addition to your daily skin-care regimen. That’s because HA, a molecule that occurs naturally in the skin, binds to water to plump up your skin and give it that dewy, glowy effect. 

And it’s clear the word has gotten out about its benefits because Allure‘s Readers’ Choice Awards survey shows it’s one of the most-demand ingredients of skin-care products. But hyaluronic acid does so much more than boost skin’s moisture levels, which is why we asked skin-care experts to better explain the benefits of the ingredient.

What is hyaluronic acid?

“Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in the skin, [and] it helps to bind water to collagen, trapping it in the skin, so that skin can appear plumper, dewier, and more hydrated,” explains board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse.

Basically, hyaluronic acid increases hydration in the skin, which can keep your skin looking fresh, full, and bouncy. “The collagen in our dermis forms the structure of the skin,” Shainhouse says. “Natural hyaluronic acid is bound to collagen on one side and links to water molecules on the other, giving skin its plumpness.”

Why is hyaluronic acid so important?

As we age, we lose collagen and hyaluronic acid naturally, so the skin becomes dehydrated more easily. Also, harsh weather, heaters during the wintertime, certain skin-care products, and underlying skin conditions can cause tiny breaks in the protective skin barrier, allowing water to escape. That’s why creating a tailored skin-care regimen with moisturizing products can be extra beneficial.

“Hydrating skin-care ingredients including hyaluronic acid, glycerin, colloidal oatmeal, urea, propylene glycol, and sorbitol all act as humectants that attract water to the skin in an effort to hydrate it,” Shainhouse says. 

These ingredients are widely used in products such as moisturizers, eye creams, and serums, says cosmetic chemist Sandra Bontempo. By using these products, like the Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster or The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 serum, she says you’ll firm the skin around the eye area, increase moisture to get rid of puffiness, and soften fine lines on the rest of the face. “Hyaluronic acid penetrates easily, which is why it works so well when applied topically,” she says. “Our skin is the largest organ in the body and absorbs up to 60 percent of nutrients we apply to it.”

Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Additional perks of hyaluronic acid include its lightweight, watery nature and ability to lock in moisture from the environment and deeper dermis to fully hydrate the skin, Shainhouse says.

Who should use hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is great for all skin types, says Shainhouse. In general, “[the ingredient] is nonirritating and does not trigger acne, rosacea, or allergic skin reactions,” she says. There is, however, a small chance of any adverse side effects.





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