By Philip Tajanko
JAN 05, 2023
Hyaluronic Acid is one of the most commonly used and marketed ingredients in topical skin care products to date, with no signs of slowing down. Hyaluronic acid is a compound that naturally occurs in the body and provides support, protection, and insulation in connective tissue, especially the skin. Hyaluronic acid promotes a plump and hydrated appearance to well-cared-for skin, explaining its popularity across the skin health industry. So what is hyaluronic acid, when and how often should you use it, and are there any downsides? We’ll discuss these questions in detail throughout this blog.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid comes in a variety of sizes, each with different mechanisms and penetration capabilities. Generally, they can be categorized based on their molecular weight:
- Low molecular weight: Below 350 kDA, hyaluronic acid with a low molecular weight permeates deep into the skin to stimulate collagen synthesis and stem cell maintenance.9
- Medium molecular weight: At an average of 680 kDA, medium molecular weights strengthen and fill out the skin by maintaining elastin production9
- High molecular weight: A size greater than 1800 kDa is considered to have a high molecular weight which is made up of cross-linked hyaluronic acid used to form a film on the skin that retains moisture over time.9
When should you use hyaluronic acid?
If you are wondering, “can I use niacinamide with hyaluronic acid,” the answer is yes. Both are water-based humectants that can complement each other when combined.
Hyaluronic acid is also commonly delivered through serums. If using a serum, recommended application is once or twice a day after cleansing, immediately followed by applying a moisturizer to the treated area3. Since serums tend to penetrate deeper into your skin, it's important to moisturize the outer layer of skin to lock in the moisture.
There is potential to overuse hyaluronic acid, which ironically causes skin dehydration, and could lead to irritation and inflammation. Due to hyaluronic acid’s water-binding capacity, when a disproportionate ratio of hyaluronic acid to water is introduced to skin, the hyaluronic acid can draw water from deep within your skin, thereby dehydrating the lower layers of skin4. To determine the correct dosage to apply to your skin, you should begin by applying small amounts and working up to larger amounts as your skin becomes accustomed to the application of hyaluronic acid. You should also be sure to apply hyaluronic acid to damp skin, or you can mist skin with water after applying hyaluronic acid to ensure it has enough external moisture to bind to.
Does hyaluronic acid remove dark spots?
Does hyaluronic acid brighten skin?
What is better, retinol or hyaluronic acid?
Retinol is a derivative form of vitamin A which, when applied to skin, can increase skin’s cellular turnover rate and collagen production. Due to these effects, retinol is famed for its ability to combat the visible signs of skin aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines, while also improving skin tone 6. Unfortunately, there are some retinol dangers to be aware of. This ingredient commonly causes redness, irritation, and skin peeling, especially in those with sensitive skin, which can damage skin if not offset by a highly effective moisturizer. For this reason, many people may need to limit their use of retinol and understand when to stop using retinol when symptoms persist.
As previously discussed, the main hyaluronic acid benefits come from its hydrating properties that help keep your skin moisturized and healthy. For this reason, it could be argued that hyaluronic acid is better than retinol, as it is far less likely to cause negative side effects. However, this is much like comparing apples to oranges, as they serve two different purposes.
Rather than choosing between using hyaluronic acid and retinol, the two ingredients can be used synergistically7. By using the two in conjunction with one another, the drying and irritating effects of retinol can be offset by the hydrating properties of hyaluronic acid.
What skin type is hyaluronic acid best for?
Hyaluronic acid is also a great compliment to any moisture-providing product, since it binds to and holds water molecules. Additionally, since hyaluronic acid is non-irritating at normal concentrations and non-comedogenic, it likely won’t cause problems for skin already prone to acne breakouts – making it an essential part of many moisturizers aimed at helping those with oily skin8.
Who should use hyaluronic acid?
How does OneSkin use hyaluronic acid?
- High molecular weight: Made from cross-linked hyaluronic acid with high water-binding capability, this size of hyaluronic acid forms a barrier on the skin that locks in moisture.
- Medium molecular weight: Of similar size to the naturally occurring hyaluronic acid in skin, this size strengthens and fills out the skin by maintaining elastin production.
- Low molecular weight: The smallest size permeates deep into the skin to stimulate collagen synthesis and stem cell maintenance.
*Shown in lab-grown ex vivo human skin models
- Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in the body and responsible for much of the underlying structure of the skin.
- Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, a compound with great water retention properties.
- Hyaluronic acid can be used twice a day, ideally while the skin is still damp after cleansing.
- Hyaluronic acid can be used daily as it is non-irritating and non-comedogenic.
- Hyaluronic acid may reduce the appearance of hyper-pigmentation by boosting collagen synthesis.
- Hyaluronic acid can promote skin elasticity and repair by boosting elastin and collagen production.
- Hyaluronic acid can be used with retinol to offset retinol’s potential irritating side effects.
- Hyaluronic acid is best suited to those with dry skin, however, any skin type will benefit from its use.
By Philip Tajanko: Philip is studying Bioengineering at the University of California - San Diego and is passionate about scientific writing and hormonal research.