Hyaluronic Acid for Skin: The Complete Guide

Hyaluronic Acid
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Skin Care
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Hyaluronic Acid for Skin: The Complete Guide

Chances are you're familiar with hyaluronic acid (HA), whether you fancy a 7-step skincare routine or you're a moisturizer-and-go type. This gooey substance is a powerhouse anti-aging ingredient in the skincare world, and it's worth all the buzz. 

Hailed for its hydrating properties, hyaluronic acid takes the stage for enhancing skin elasticity and firmness, minimizing wrinkles appearance, and assuring a dewy, healthy look. Get comfy; I'm about to give you the 4-1-1 on HA, plus how and when to use hyaluronic acid in your routine to get the best of its benefits.

What is Hyaluronic Acid Serum?

Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule produced by the body (hyaluronan) and is a major structural component of the skin that acts as a lubrication agent. Naturally occurring in the dermis and epidermis, hyaluronic acid makes up the extracellular matrix (ECM) and works as structural support for cells and tissues, playing the main structural role in ECM formation.1 2

The exclusive activity of hyaluronic acid? It's a water-binder. Meaning it works like a magnet for hydration while slowing the rate at which transepidermal water loss (TEWL) occurs.

In layman's terms, hyaluronic acid plays a pivotal role in keeping skin hydrated, elastic, and bouncy — three things we, skincare devotees, crave. But with age and prolonged UV exposure, natural hyaluronic acid levels deplete, leading to dehydrated skin and a dull appearance. Welp, we all want to dodge that! 

As such, hyaluronic acid is the most touted skincare ingredient for hydrating skin, plumping fine lines, and speeding up wound healing. It's also ideal for all skin types.3 After four decades of research, hyaluronic acid is ubiquitous in various skincare products, from serums to moisturizers and masks added to help replenish and hold cell moisture. Spoiler: hyaluronic acid skin benefits vary depending on its molecular weight; more on that later.

What Does Hyaluronic Acid Do for Your Skin? Hyaluronic Acid Skin Benefits

Hyaluronic acid skin benefits are close to countless. Seriously, there's so much this game-changer can do for your skin! And everything starts from its humectant activity, aka the ability to draw moisture into the top skin's layer (epidermis), either from the environment or from the deeper layers of skin (dermis), assuring a dewy, plump look. Now let's see which are the benefits of hyaluronic acid for skin that make it such a praised ingredient:

  • hydrating
  • plumping
  • barrier sealing
  • skin smoother
  • moisture retainer
  • skin regenerator
  • firmness and elasticity enhancer
  • irritations soother
  • dryness alleviator

Notably, since hyaluronic acid can be found in several molecular weights, its perks vary depending on that. Hmm, size matters! The molecular weight of HA refers to how large the molecule is. The bigger the molecule, the harder it penetrates the skin. 

But this doesn't make large molecular hyaluronic acid less effective. Each has its own benefits. While ultra-low and low molecular weight can sink into skin to protect and support hydration, HA with large molecules hydrates the skin by forming a film on the skin surface, preventing TEWL.4 

As you might have guessed, you get more favorable upshots when using multiple molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid. 

How to Use Hyaluronic Acid on Skin

Even though hyaluronic acid is found in a variety of skincare products, the most effective ones are serums. The beauty of serums lies in their ability to enter the skin due to their small molecules. Also, unlike moisturizers, serums don't contain sealing particles, hence are left with a high concentration of active ingredients. The deeper the penetration and the higher the concentration, the more your skin benefits from the product.

With this in mind, you may wonder how to use a hyaluronic acid serum in your skincare routine to get the most of it. Everything starts with having a clean complexion. Now it's about time we reveal the little-known secret: since HA doesn't contain any water, it performs better when mixed with it, acting like a sponge for hydration. 

So, the best way to layer hyaluronic acid is on damp skin, gently pressing it into the complexion. Yep, next time you slather your skin in a hyaluronic acid serum, make sure you've spritzed some thermal water or facial mist before.

When to Use Hyaluronic Acid Serum in Routine

When to use a hyaluronic acid serum in routine is a question most skincare enthusiasts have. It's so simple: after having cleansed (and toned) your skin, layer the hyaluronic acid serum, then follow with a moisturizer, and at AM, sunscreen. You're good to go!

Ideally, use a hyaluronic acid serum in both your AM and PM beauty regimens to reap most of its benefits. Fortunately, hyaluronic acid works excellent with most skincare ingredients, including vitamin C, retinol, AHAs, and BHAs. By the way, after your twice-weekly exfoliation, hyaluronic acid is still your BFF since it calms the skin.

The Shelf Life of Hyaluronic Acid

Up until this point was the good news. Now the bad news: hyaluronic acid is temperamental, meaning it has a limited shelf life (way less than the product's expiration date). Yes, this means you often use products that are not in their active state anymore, thus are ineffective. 

It's the way the actives are premixed that makes them degrade rapidly. And unfortunately, the list doesn't stop here: packaging, preservative system, storage conditions (think temperature, humidity, light), how often you open the product — all affect the shelf life of your skincare products.5

Does Hyaluronic Acid Serum Lose Potency Over Time?

If it's well-preserved, hyaluronic acid can remain potent for up to one year. But with containers that allow air and light to get in and watered-down formulas, the higher the possibility for your product to go off.

So, yes, hyaluronic acid serum loses potency over time since it's relatively an unstable ingredient, especially when exposed to oxygen, heat, and light, you know, the daily environment. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a few factors affect the shelf life of our beauty products, hyaluronic acid serums included. The most common ones are: preservatives breaking down, exposure to moisture (such as opening a product in steam after bathing), temperature change, exposure to sunlight, and air.6 

Using a hyaluronic acid serum that has lost its potency is absolutely useless. I know, it hurts.

How Long Does Hyaluronic Acid Serum Last?

Usually, hyaluronic acid serums are said to last up to three years, according to their expiration date. Really?! It's time to face facts: it comes out that traditional formulations degrade by 40% within eight weeks on average, while clean formulas degrade 33% more than traditional ones. This means your hyaluronic acid serum won't be as effective after two months from the moment of opening it.

For a product to stay in its peak potency, it has to be mixed fresh daily — just as a cosmetician does when pampering your skin with a facial. But many top skincare brands don't contain fresh hyaluronic acid in their formulas.

Find the Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum for You

We believe the skincare journey should make you feel special (besides being super effective!). With this in mind, we're developing skincare that delivers, from packaging to performance. Stay tuned for the first self-activated skincare line, containing proven ingredients and, of course, our super-hydrating hyaluronic acid. 

In the meantime, view our recommended hyaluronic acid-infused products, clinically proven products that meet our Full Of Standard for efficacy.

Words By: Ana Vasilescu

  • A Guide to the Composition and Functions of The Extracellular Matrix. Wiley.com. Source
  • Monika Gudowska-Sawczuk. The Role of Serum Hyaluronic Acid Determination in the Diagnosis of Liver Fibrosis. Research Gate. July 2017. Source
  • Véronique Voinchet. Efficacy and Safety of Hyaluronic Acid in the Management of Acute Wounds. PubMed. National Library of Medicine. Source
  • Mohammed Essendoubi. Human Skin Penetration of Hyaluronic Acid of Different Molecular Weights. PubMed. April 2015. Source
  • Once & For All: How Long Do Your Beauty Products Last? Source
  • Shelf Life and Expiration Dating of Cosmetics. FDA. August 2020. Source

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