Hyaluronic Acid (HA) seems to be one of the ‘gold-standard’ ingredients in skincare. We all know that HA is meant to be great for adding hydration to our skin, but do we all know why and how, or even how to use it properly? You’d be surprised how many don’t, and I have to admit that before this, I was one of them. You may even encounter some people who will go so far as to say, ‘Acid? I’m not putting acid on my face!’ But you know, I don’t blame them! HA is just one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around everywhere without a proper explanation of what it is or how it works.
Recently, I was offered a product trial of a new skincare regime from the guys at HydroSkin care. I took this opportunity as a way for me to learn about the use of HA in skincare, to see the results for myself – and to then pass on this knowledge to all of you so that we can all fill our heads with a little more skincare science.
Hyaluronic Acid in Nature
HA is found naturally in our own body. It’s actually a glycosaminoglycan (a what now?) that exists in connective, epithelial and neural tissues throughout our body (in eye fluid, joints etc). But it is found in the highest concentration in our skin, making up 50% of our HA content! Glycosaminoglycans are polar polysaccharides, which means they are well known to be massive water lovers (hydrophilic) – and HA can hold 1,000 times it’s own weight in water!
In our skin, it exists in the salt form ‘hyaluronate’. HA exists in both the epidermis and the dermis (deeper skin layer) of the skin, but is found in higher concentrations in the dermis where it is useful for regulating water balance, ion flow and osmotic pressure, among others.
Hyaluronic Acid in the Aging Process
The marked disappearance of epidermal HA is one the major histochemical changes associated with aging skin, while dermal HA is still present. Not only does it slowly disappear in the epidermis, but the polymer molecule is also reported to progressively reduce in size during synthesis as the aging process progresses. Because of this, aging skin begins to lose it’s key molecule for binding and retaining water – thus, we lose hydration and those fine lines and wrinkles start to form.
Why Hyaluronic Acid is a Sought After Skincare Ingredient
HA can be used for many purposes, it’s an excellent dermal filler and is even being explored to help treat various health issues. However, in the skin care industry it’s an attractive ingredient because of it’s humectant properties making it retain moisture really well. Because of this – it’s used both as a preventative and reactionary anti-aging ingredient to prevent and treat fine lines and wrinkles characteristic of dehydrated aging skin. As it can feed the production of collagen and elastin as well, it can be seen as a skin ‘fertiliser’ for healthy skin cell growth.
The main thing to know when looking for HA in your skin care products is to be aware that it can exist in different sizes. There are high molecular weight HA’s and low molecular weight HA’s (this is what you can see labelled as Sodium Hyaluronate). So:
- ‘Hyaluronic Acid’ = high molecular weight; and
- ‘Sodium Hyaluronate’ = low molecular weight
This is important for a specific reason: High molecular weight HA cannot easily be absorbed by our skin and so Sodium Hyaluronate is the preferable ingredient. However, the hyaluronate form is a more expensive ingredient, so a lot of companies manufacture their products to have a combination of the two so that the HA can hydrate the top layer of our skin while the Sodium Hyaluronate can penetrate deeper.
HA’s are mostly produced by bacteria in a procedure called ‘biofermentation’, however it was originally extracted and processed from animal connective tissues like rooster combs which are super high in HA. Because of this, HA can be seen as an unattractive ingredient to those who are conscious about animals in the cosmetics industry. However, it’s now a more feasible method to ferment the HA synthetically in the lab. Regardless, it’s still important to find out where the HA comes from in your skin care products.
Using Hyaluronic Acid is Somewhat of an Art
I think it’s important to note here why some people don’t believe in HA’s, and in my opinion it’s mostly because they aren’t using it properly (no offence meant!). If you think HA’s are going to replenish your natural hydration just by slapping it on your face like your usual moisturiser then think again! HA is a hydrophilic ingredient, this means it needs to be surrounded by water to pull down the hydration into the skin. If you’re using it on a dry face in a dry environment, it will literally suck the moisture out of anything (even your own skin).
The best way to use HA is to spritz your face with a hydrating facial mist or water based facial spray, making sure its still wet before going in and applying a HA serum. This way it will be surrounded and bound to the water for it be absorbed into the skin. Again, when using a HA moisturiser – the face should be wet with a facial mist or serum before applying. Ideally, HA serum should be followed up by an occlusive such as a ceramide to really lock in the moisture and create a barrier to prevent moisture from escaping.
HydroSkin began when they begun asking the questions that many of us are asking. What are these ingredients in all these products and does our skin really need them? Their natural curiosity of the skin care industry pushed them to research into popular ingredients and scientific studies, to look past the clever sales pitches, and it eventually evolved into making their own skincare ingredients with a focus on HA’s as our skin’s MUST-HAVE ingredient.
I was sent a selection of their most popular products to trial and review, to embark on discovery journey of HA’s and how they can benefit our skin. I trialed their Cleanser, Hydro Mist, [HA] Serum and their HydroSkin C Moisturiser for a little over 6 weeks and I’ll be using this post to also report my results and thoughts on their range.
A good skin care routine starts with a good cleanser. This is a gel-like cleanser that forms a good lather that feels gentle on the skin. It’s formulated with Coco Betaine, a surfactant which helps to emulsify oil and water so you rinse off your daily grime and makeup effectively. Originally derived from coconut oil, it also has conditioning properties. Other ingredients include olive oil ester and chamomile water to regenerate, moisturise and calm the skin as well.
It’s also formulated at pH 5.5, to help bring the pH of our skin back to it’s acidic level (skin is naturally around pH 5). This is to ensure our skin is returned to it’s natural pH after we use other skin care and makeup products that can change the pH of our skin during the day. Maintaining the natural pH is important for our skin’s natural microbes (beneficial bacteria and fungi) to thrive which in turns keeps our skin in good health.
This cleanser was a good cleanser. It works so well to remove all my makeup and oil but it does it gently and doesn’t strip my skin – so there’d be enough natural moisture left for the HA to work it’s magic. My skin is left fairly soft and fresh after use. There also isn’t any fragrance or scent to it so it’s good for those who are sensitive to fragrances. Also, you get a generous size of 120ml for $35 which is fairly good value for money for a product that has a lot of work, quality ingredients and research put into it.
Hydro Mist B3 + B5 ($39)
This is a facial spray that acts not only as a toner but as a hydrating mist to use before adding in your HA serum so that it can bind to water and hydrate the skin. It contains Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) which helps in improving the epidermal barrier, helps with evening out skin tone and hyper-pigmentation as well as restoring hydration. It also contains other humectants like B5 (d-Panthenol), glycerine and a trademarked HA called ‘miniHA’ which is a low molecular weight HA (sodium hyaluronate) processed from genetically altered plants, not animals for a more responsible and efficient way to process HA. Aloe vera is also used as a calming and soothing ingredient.
According to my research, I think a facial mist like this is an essential part of a skin care regime that includes HA’s – to help with absorption and penetration of HA’s into the skin. As a standalone product, it’s hard to gauge it’s effectiveness because it’s not to be used as a single product (although you could totally use it during the day to refresh your skin). It doesn’t have a scent either. It’s a good spray – but the travel size bottle has some issues with the spray applicator – it’s was slightly uneven and not very ‘misty’. The full sized bottle was completely fine.
[HA] Serum ($79)
In comes the product of the hour. I was completely enamored by this because it is literally pure hyaluronic acid. There is only 3 ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, miniHA (Sodium Hyaluronate), and a germal plus perservative. The ratio of high molecular weight HA to low molecular weight HA is 40:60, making the majority of this serum pure sodium hyaluronate that has been responsibly sourced from plants. This leads to increased transdermal penetration due to it’s low molecular size.
These products form a clear, incredibly lightweight gel that is almost like water and feels amazing when applied to the skin when it’s still wet from the facial mist (it’s super important to apply the HA serum while your face is still moist with the Hydro Mist). It doesn’t feel heavy, or sticky and doesn’t have a scent. At $79 a bottle, it can be expensive but when you think about it, you are pretty much getting pure HA, no drying alcohols, no filler ingredients etc. Most skincare products that boast HA in their ingredients list only include a very small percentage of it among other filler ingredients which will not be as effective as using a highly concentrated formula like the HydroSkin serum.
HydroSkin C Moisturiser ($75)
As the final step in the HyroSkin regime, this moisturiser packs in miniHA and Vitamin C (AAP = Aminopropyl Ascorbyl Phosphate). Vitamin C is a pretty popular ingredient in skin care, due to it’s ability to facilitate collagen synthesis and stimulate epidermal ceramide production (also known for their water-retention properties). It’s a mid-consistency with nourishing and hydrating ingredients like sweet almond oil, meadowfoam seed oil, and also contains niacinamide and d-panthenol, which all help to lock in the moisture provided by the regime.
This moisturiser is definitely a hydrating product. You can really feel the added moisture afforded by it, and it takes a while to fully absorb into the skin. When it does though, my skin is soft, hydrated and more plump. There are two interesting things I noticed with this product: it made my skin sweat a little, which I guess is a result of the ingredients as a whole routine. But it wasn’t like actual sweat, I could just see little balls of moisture pool up in my pores. The other thing is the scent – there is no added fragrance but I could detect a ‘yeast’ sort of scent, kind of like fresh bread!
I am really happy I got the chance to explore the use of HA in skincare. For me, this regime actually worked. The next morning I was so surprised with the state of my skin that I emailed the people at HydroSkin to tell them the immediate results. And, if you’ve seen my previous post on the L’Oreal Colour Correcting Palette here, so many of you commented that my fresh skin looked amazing and I can say that this range has definitely helped to get me to state.
Have you tried using Hyaluronic Acid? What were your experiences? Let me know in the comments below!
K P Kim et al. 2015. Vitamin C Stimulates Epidermal Ceramide Production by Regulating Its Metabolic Enzymes. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 23: 525-530
S Gariboldi et al. 2008. Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid increases the self-defense of skin epithelium by induction of beta-defensin 2 via TLR2 and TLR4. J Immunol, 181: 2103-2110.
E Papakonstantinou et al. 2012. Hyaluronic Acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 4: 253 – 258.
*These products were sent to me for editorial consideration but as always my opinions were not influenced by the generosity of the providing party. I am not a dermatologist nor chemist so please don’t substitute my opinions for professional advice
I added this post to the http://fabulousandfunlife.blogspot.com.au/ link up party.