What is Hyaluronic Acid?

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Molecular-structure-of-repeating-unit-of-hyaluronic-acid-HA_fig1_7519315

 I am excited to bring another 'science that underpins beauty' post about hyaluronic acid.  

DISCLAIMER: Take my scientific findings with a pinch of salt.  Be sure to always do a patch test before incorporating any new products into your regime.  Do not hesitate to discuss and seek advice from a GP or dermatologist for further information about any skin care products you are concerned about.  I am not a doctor nor cosmetic chemist.  

Hyaluronic acid ([ C14H21NO11]n) is a very common skincare ingredient that many brands are promoting in their products.  It is also known as hyaluronan and is a anionic, non-sulfated glycosaminoglycan.  In other words, it is a natural occurring sugar which appears in our connective, epithelial, and our neural tissues.  It is a major component of the extracellular matrix, which holds the cells, and acts to retain retain water or moisture.  Therefore, hyaluronic acid has the ability to hold 1000 times its own weight in water, which makes it a keen supplement for beauty products.  However, due to it being a polysaccharide, it is in fact a huge molecule that cannot penetrate into the dermis layer of the skin. Nevertheless, it attracts water to the surface of the skin to give the appearance of hydrated skin and prevents water from leaving the skin cells. Thus, it acts as a humectant. (6)

It has been found to be a major component of the skin and is involved in repairing of tissues due to exposure to the sun's UVB rays.  This results in the dermis layer to slow down and stop the production of hyaluronic acid, and increases degradation of hyaluronic acid.  (1)  On top of this, it acts as a vital player in wound repair and healing, such as the formation of scaffolds by attaching to fibronectin to accelerate would-healing processes.  (2) 

Furthermore, it induces early inflammation, working in both promotion and management of inflammation, which helps improve the wound healing process.  Finally, with regards to skin, hyaluronic acid is crucial in ensuring re-epithelialization in the normal epidermis.  This is where epithelial cells migrate to the injured region in the skin for healing and repair.  It acts to regulate free-radicals, and keratinocyte proliferation and migration. (3) 

Sodium hyaluronate has proven to aid in treating dry skin due to atopic dermatitis via topical application in a lotion form.  (4) It is also the primary component in many cosmetic surgeries such as dermal fillers for the lips.  (5) This blogpost is only going to focus on the topical use of hyaluronic acid, not surgical.

A huge reason why hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient in skin care is because as we age, we naturally produce less hyaluronic acid.  This results in fine lines, wrinkles, and sunken skin.  This explains the need to inject it to give the illusion of youthful, plump, and healthy skin. (7) 

Nevertheless, some studies suggest that there is still a knowledge gap and more trials should be carried out to justify the claim that hyaluronic acid used topically is as effective as injectables. 

A study by Poetschke et al in 2016 found that the dept of perioral and orbital wrinkles (mouth and eyes) decreased in dept by from 10-20% and skin tightness increased by 13-30%, but little change in skin elasticity.   (8) This is a very promising clinical trial which involved the use of skincare products from Nivea, Lancome, Chanel, and Balea.  Only 20 people were enrolled in the trial which is a small sample size, and other ingredients in the four products chosen could also be playing a role in improving skin tightness and reducing wrinkle dept.  Jegasothy et al in 2014 also found that there was increased reduction in skin roughness and skin elasticity after 2, 4 and 8 weeks of use and reduced dept of wrinkles by up to 40%, skin hydration by 96%, and skin tightness/firmness and elasticity by 55% in 8 weeks.  (11)

Bukhari et al in 2018 has found that hyaluronic acid is not limited to just wound healing and repair, but diagnosis of cancer, tissue regeneration, anti-inflammation, and immunomodulation.  Through a literature review, it was concluded that hyaluronic acid exhibits significant anti-wrinkle, anti-ageing, and face rejuvenation properties via improved skin hydration, collagen, and elastin stimulation. (9)

One of the primary side effects to hyaluronic acid is a result of the size of the molecule.  Hyaluronic acid can come in three forms: 

  • High molecular weight hyaluronic acid at 1000-1400 kDa
  • Medium molecular weight hyaluronic acid
  • Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid (20-300 kDa)

Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid can cause inflammation which could actually lead to ageing so this highlights the importance of a patch test and checking the label. 

Therefore, if you would rather indirectly incorporate hyaluronic acid into your regime, you can use hyaluronic acid stimulators such as vitamin C, glycine saponin, green tea extractors, and glycolic acid (read more here).  (10)

In essence, I do believe that the mechanism of action of hyaluronic acid in our body naturally and topically could prove very beneficial with regular use.  Furthermore, studies seem to demonstrate significant results.  I do believe that further studies should be conducted to look into side effects associated with long term use and products should be labelled appropriately if low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is present.   Finally, as always, do a PATCH TEST FIRST before incorporating any new products into your skin care regime and do not hesitate to discuss and seek advice from a GP or dermatologist.  


1. Averbeck M, Gebhardt CA, Voigt S, Beilharz S, Anderegg U, Termeer CC, Sleeman JP, Simon JC (2007). "Differential regulation of hyaluronan metabolism in the epidermal and dermal compartments of human skin by UVB irradiation". J. Invest. Dermatol127 (3): 687–97. doi:10.1038/sj.jid.5700614PMID 17082783.

2. Shu XZ, Ghosh K, Liu Y, Palumbo FS, Luo Y, Clark RA, Prestwich GD (2004). "Attachment and spreading of fibroblasts on an RGD peptide-modified injectable hyaluronan hydrogel". J Biomed Mater Res A68 (2): 365–75. doi:10.1002/jbm.a.20002PMID 14704979.

3.Chen WY, Abatangelo G (1999). "Functions of hyaluronan in wound repair". Wound Repair Regen7 (2): 79–89. doi:10.1046/j.1524-475x.1999.00079.xPMID 10231509.

4. "Hylira gel: Indications, Side Effects, Warnings"Drugs.com.

5. Edwards, PC; Fantasia, JE (2007). "Review of long-term adverse effects associated with the use of chemically-modified animal and nonanimal source hyaluronic acid dermal fillers"Clinical Interventions in Aging2 (4): 509–19. PMC 2686337PMID 18225451.

6. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/beauty/skin/what-is-hyaluronic-acid-beauty-by-the-geeks/

7. https://www.dermalogica.co.uk/what-is-hyaluronic-acid%3F/what-is-hyaluronic-acid,en_GB,pg.html

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27221554 Anti-wrinkle creams with hyaluronic acid: how effective are they? PMID: 27221554 DOI: 10.1007/s15006-016-8302-1

9. Bukhari, Syed Nasir Abbas, et al. “Hyaluronic Acid, a Promising Skin Rejuvenating Biomedicine: A Review of Recent Updates and Pre-Clinical and Clinical Investigations on Cosmetic and Nutricosmetic Effects.” International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, vol. 120, 2018, pp. 1682–1695., doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.09.188.

10. http://www.honestyforyourskin.co.uk/hyaluronic-acid-side-effects/

11. Jegasothy SM, Zabolotniaia V, Bielfeldt S. Efficacy of a New Topical Nano-hyaluronic Acid in Humans. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2014;7(3):27-29.


  1. Examination plainly shows that The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder + The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 and Retinol, which is the specialized name for nutrient A, has various surprising advantages for the skin. To ensure you're outdoing what this hotshot fixing has to bring to the table, here is the thing that you have to know.

  2. This website and I conceive this internet site is really informative ! Keep on putting up! ProbioLite Golden After 50

  3. I’m happy I located this blog! From time to time, students want to cognitive the keys of productive literary essays composing. Your first-class knowledge about this good post can become a proper basis for such people. nice one ProbioLite Golden After 50


Blogger Template Created by pipdig