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The Truth About Hyaluronic Acid

It’s the long, cool drink of water for your skin.

The Truth About Hyaluronic Acid

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There’s a reason Hyaluronic Acid has become a household name – at least under the roof of any skincare enthusiast. In the past few years it’s become known as the ultimate hydrator and taken its place as one of the BIG FIVE anti-ageing ingredients that many dermatologists swear by (that list also includes: AHAs, BHAs, Vitamins C and A (Retinol) and SPF).

The main function of this clear substance, naturally produced by your body, is to retain water in the tissues (which is what earns it the nickname ‘moisture magnet’). It’s a disaccharide, which is a type of sugar, and is made from the monosaccharides D-glucuronic Acid and N-Acetyl D-glucosamine. Its highest concentrations are found in your skin, connective tissue and eyes – and it’s the fact that it occurs naturally in the body that makes it such a gentle-yet-powerful skincare ingredient.

What does Hyaluronic Acid do?

It might be quicker to ask what it doesn’t do. The fact that it forms part of your skin’s extracellular matrix (ECM, a sheet-like structure separating the epidermis and dermis, which controls the behavior of skin cells), helping to keep cells hydrated, means that it has multiple benefits: from helping cell turnover to function optimally to supporting communication between the cells. “Hyaluronic Acid delivers an instant hydration hit, helps barrier-repairing function and protects skin against inflammation (which experts now say is responsible for ageing),” says BEAUTY PIE founder Marcia Kilogre. “And it’s compatible with all skin types, is non-comedogenic, and makes your face look dewier and younger.”

Hyaluronic Acid delivers an instant hydration hit, helps barrier-repairing function and protects skin against inflammation (which experts now say is responsible for ageing)

BEAUTY PIE founder Marcia Kilgore

How does Hyaluronic Acid Work in the Skin?

The Hyaluronic Acid in your skin doesn’t hang around forever. Although it’s naturally produced by your body, up to 50% of it is broken down every 24 hours as part of the normal, natural turnover of the skin – which is why it makes sense to top up your HA levels from your skincare. Stress, aging, inflammation and environmental factors like sun damage can also help to decrease the Hyaluronic Acid levels in your skin. When this happens, your skin loses its ability to bind as much water, and the upshot is you lose some of that youthful plumpness and dewiness that makes your skin glow.

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Why does Molecular Weight Matter?

Not all Hyaluronic Acid is created equal. It can come in different molecular sizes (also referred to as molecular weights, which are measured in daltons) and these can affect how well your skin can absorb them. The larger the molecule, the less it will be able to penetrate the skin, meaning it will sit on the skin’s surface and – while it can definitely help to plump and hydrate there – won’t be able to get to work deeper down within the epidermis.

Smaller HA molecules can penetrate deeper, but bind less water – so ideally, for exceptional skin hydration, you need a Hyaluronic Acid product that has multiple molecular weights in one. The result? You get instant and longer-lasting hydration at the same time.

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So how do I use Hyaluronic Acid in my skincare routine? 

You know the benefits of Hyaluronic Acid in skincare. You probably know when to use Hyaluronic Acid serum – how often and how much – but layering in other ingredients can be confusing. Here’s how to do it:

Always apply serums before moisturizers and creams, layering from thinnest to thickest. You don't necessarily need to use multiple products at the same time which are each infused with Hyaluronic Acid. You can choose the texture that works for you - ensuring that your chosen product has a good mix of molecular weights of HA.

BEAUTY PIE Triple Hyaluronic Acid Routine

Can you use Hyaluronic Acid with Retinol?

“Yes. It’s well documented that Retinoids, Retinols and other Vitamin A derivatives can cause irritation and dryness to skin. Which is why some dermatologists actively encourage the use of Hyaluronic Acid alongside the right Retinol regime for your skin type. Hyaluronic Acid will hydrate and soothe skin, without negating the efficacy of Retinoids (and PS: Retinoids really do work).” – BEAUTY PIE Consultant Dermatologist-In-Residence Dr. Andrew Markey.

Can you use Hyaluronic Acid with Niacinamide?

“Yes. Antioxidant Niacinamide is commonly used for patients with inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea and acne, though studies show it can soften fine lines and reduce hyperpigmentation, particularly for those with oily skin.” -Dr. Andrew Markey.

In what order?

Apply Hyaluronic Acid serum after cleansing/toning, before adding in Niacinamide.

Can you use Hyaluronic Acid with Vitamin C?

“Yes. Antioxidant Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid are both repairing ingredients, and both are proven to have anti-aging benefits, particularly in reducing signs of wrinkles (plumping up skin – thank you HA) and reducing the appearance of dark spots.” -Dr. Andrew Markey.

In what order?

Apply Vitamin C serum first, after cleansing and toning – then add in your Hyaluronic Acid serum/moisturizer or follow with your usual moisturizer.

Is it safe to apply Hyaluronic Acid after dermarolling?

“Yes. Unlike Retinoids, Hyaluronic Acid can be used just before and just after to increase absorption,” -Dr. Andrew Markey.

Is Hyaluronic Acid safe to use during pregnancy?

Yes. Hyaluronic Acid is safe to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

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BEAUTY PIE Triple Hyaluronic Acid Elastic Lifting Eye Serum

Expert Advice

EXFOLIATE

Regular exfoliation is key for getting the most out of your products. The action of exfoliating with AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids like Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids such as Salicylic Acid) also increases levels of Hyaluronic Acid in the skin, while exfoliation itself will help to further smooth the appearance of fine lines.

MOISTURE

Some experts recommend applying Hyaluronic Acid serum directly onto fresh, damp skin, then layering a cream or oil on top to lock moisture in. But...

REGULATE

DON’T smother your skin with HA just because you can. Select small amounts of high-quality, high-molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid where possible. Hyaluronic Acid is not an ingredient that needs to be at a super high concentration. And don’t use it in too many products – particularly if you have very sensitive skin.

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Reviewed by Consultant Dermatologist Dr Andrew C Markey MD FRCP.

Nicola Moulton Avatar
Words by

Nicola Moulton

9 months ago


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