Ingredient Lowdown Series: The Truth About Hyaluronic Acid

Hylaronic Acid

Into the Gloss

As early as age six, my mom and I DIYed beauty treatments in the kitchen, creating honey masks and salt scrubs (might I add, before it became mainstream and trendy… just sayin’). I still love a nostalgic at-home steam and facial, but I’ve graduated to more science-y solutions recently because let’s be real, I don’t have the same skin as when I was six.  

These days, I’m all for retinol, peptides and vitamin C. Admittedly, though, it did take me a minute to get into acids — mainly because the word “acid” sounds really intimidating (wasn’t it the weapon of choice for someone super villainous in Batman?).  Anyway, now I can confidently say that there’s one super-friendly acid my skin can’t live without: hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is known for its extreme moisturizing and immediate plumping qualities (both topical and as fillers).  Every time I indulge in my Oz Naturals Sea Mask, the instant skin revival is so real.  That’s because one gram of hyaluronic acid can hold up six liters of water, retaining water like a damn sponge! Aaand, it can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.

So if you haven’t been put on to this commonly misunderstood ingredient, sit back and listen.  Or shall we say, drink it up.    

It Lives Inside You

My yoga teacher tells me peace can be found from within. Same thing with hyaluronic acid! Babies are born with a high amount of hyaluronic acid, which is why their skin looks so perfectly plump. But like nap time and 10-hour stretches of energy, HA gradually decreases over time. When that happens, skin becomes more prone to dryness and wrinkles. Not only is hyaluronic acid in your skin, but it also acts as the cushion in your joints and is found in the fluids in your eyes to keep them healthy. Trippy, huh?  

A Gentle Giant

Sensitive? (Your skin type, not in that Pisces and perpetually emotional way?)  Yes? Good news!  While some active exfoliating acids may sting or cause irritation at first, hyaluronic acid is incredibly gentle yet powerful.  Unlike other acids, it actually doesn’t dissolve dead skin, which is the main reason why it’s recommended for even the most reactive skin types.  Slather it on and let it be.  

Not Just a Pretty Face

Back to that “inside your body” thing. When it’s not applied topically for cosmetic reasons, hyaluronic acid is used clinically, too — injected, typically.  While you’ve probably heard of Juvederm and Restylane (the more natural and temporary alternative to Botox commonly used for lip fillers and eye bags), HA can also be used during eye surgeries for removing those cataracts, for making bones stronger and even for healing burns and ulcers.  And you thought HA was just another “pretty face” ingredient…

Beware of Huge Fakes

Or shall I say, huge molecules and fake HA.

Fake: Since hyaluronic acid is one of those highly sought-after and trendy ingredients, there are lots of imitations that claim to be the same thing. Make sure you’re getting the good stuff. Start by diving into ingredient lists and avoid any HA products with alcohol and other synthetic stuff.  Remember: Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance, so you want to stay away from chemicalizing it.

Pestle & Mortar makes an amazing Hyaluronic Acid serum sans parabens, mineral oil, silicones, sulfates, propylene glycol and artificial fragrance.

Huge: Once upon a time, HA molecules were way too large to actually penetrate skin. If your skin was a chain-link fence, then HA would’ve been like a large softball. Fortunately, some very smart scientists in recent years have come up with solutions to make HA small enough to enter your epidermis. (This is a good place to note that “sodium hyaluronate” is a good thing. It’s basically the same ingredient as hyaluronic acid except in smaller molecular form.)

Especially when it gets ridiculously dry outside, I’ll usually find myself in a panicky effort to save my skin with whatever I have at the ready — face creams, humidifiers, extra glasses of water I don’t want to drink, etc…  If the magic potion that is hyaluronic acid can help with that and allow me to “forget” to drink one less glass of water a day, I’m okay with that.  

Do you use hyaluronic acid?  Share your faves below!


  1. From my experience, HA doesn’t really do much. I have had much better luck with retinol creams.

  2. I use it in products Senegenc, the skin care line is amazing!

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