"Beauty Glossary" is a HuffPost series that breaks down beauty products, techniques, treatments and ingredients so you know exactly what you're putting onto and into your body.
As part of our ongoing mission to help you decipher the labels of skincare products, this week we've decided to tackle the commonly seen ingredient hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid is actually a naturally occurring carbohydrate (or polysaccharide) in the human body, according to Jessica Weiser, a board-certified dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group. "It is an important component of the fluids in the eye, in connective tissue and in the skin," she says. "It is important for structural support of collagen and elastin in the skin."
So, why is it being used to formulate daily moisturizers, night creams and even lipsticks? Just to clarify, Weiser says, "The hyaluronic acid used in skincare products is not derived from humans, but can be extracted from rooster combs or produced by bacteria in the lab."
The acid's ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water is why Weiser recommends it is a fantastic hydrator for individuals with dry, eczema-prone or post-procedure (after chemical peel, laser treatment or resurfacing) skin.
She explains, "When applied topically to the skin, hyaluronic acid holds water to the skin surface to increase hydration of the cells and surface, without occlusion (blockage). This moistens the skin surface to alleviate dryness, facilitate healing and create a protective barrier."
Topical treatments with hyaluronic acid helps to maintain a youthful-looking appearance by replenishing the hyaluronic acid content in our skin that diminishes as we grow older, which contributes to significant dryness, sagging and wrinkling.
Most drugstore or department store brands containing hyaluronic acid contain between 0.25 to 2.5 percent. Weiser suggests products with at least 1 percent for more a notable benefit. "Any product promising deep penetration of hyaluronicacid is likely not living up to its promise," she says. "Hyaluronicacid needs to be applied regularly for best effects because it sits on the skin surface (unless used in the injectable form)."
Because hyaluronic acid is an integral component of the skin and many tissues of the human body, Weiser believes there is very low risk for allergic reaction or sensitivity. "Since HA does penetrate past the skin surface (given the very large size of the molecules), it is not absorbed into the body and therefore thought to be safe even during pregnancy," she says.
However, if redness, swelling or itching occurs, discontinue use of the product and visit a doctor ASAP.
Interested in adding hyaluronic acid to your skincare regimen? Shop our editors' picks below.
Dr. Dennis Gross
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