Hyaluronic Acid – Benefits vs Side Effects Health Guide

Products for healthy, younger looking skin have always seemed to be the most sought after when it comes to skin care. Hyaluronic Acid has risen in popularity and has been deemed with claims such as ‘the key to the fountain of youth’. While it sounds like a chemical compound, Hyaluronic Acid naturally occurs in the body. There are many ways to utilize it as a skin care remedy and just as many products containing it as an active ingredient.

Each method has different benefits, so the method that is right for you will depend on the desired result. Some products allow for results that are noticeable almost immediately but will degrade over time, while other methods take longer to show drastic results but actually help to build and maintain hyaluronic acid levels to some degree.

What Exactly Is Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid occurs throughout the body in abundant amounts. It is actually a component of connective tissue whose function is to lubricate and cushion. More specifically, it is a carbohydrate polymer made of an extracellular matrix found in tissues in the body such as skin, synovial joint fluid, cartilage, and even the umbilical cord.

It acts as a lubricant but it also functions as a biological glue that holds together gel-like connective tissues. Another aspect of Hyaluronic Acid is its ability to act as a micro environmental signal to co-regulate cell behavior during the development of an embryo, wound healing, regeneration, and repairing the body.

Why Is It Important?

Hyaluronic Acid is responsible for water retention, providing nutrients, and removing waste from cells that do not have a direct blood supply. All of these functions are essential to health as well as youthful skin. As people age, their ability to produce this acid reduces, causing the skin to wrinkle and sag. Hyaluronic acid can hold 1,000 times its own weight in water. By drawing in and preventing the loss of water in the skin, it can help to maintain the appearance of radiant, plump, and smooth skin.

External forces such as ultraviolet exposure, injuries, pollution, and exposure to cigarette smoke can cause the degradation process to quicken. Deficiencies of androgens and estrogen hormones also contribute to the degradation, dryness, and wrinkling of the skin. Repeated and extensive exposure to UV light can actually cause a scar like kind of collagen to form. This greatly reduces the skin’s ability to produce the same amount of hyaluronic acid and causes premature aging to the skin.

Hyaluronic acid will also strengthen the moisture barrier, the outermost layer of skin. When intact, it is the first line of defense against environmental aggressors. If it becomes damaged, the skin will start to look dry and rough. The more damage there is, it becomes harder to reverse issues like wrinkles, breakouts, and dehydration. Hyaluronic acid will fill in the gaps between essential support structures in the skin, helping to keep the moisture barrier cushioned and strong.

Healthy regeneration of hyaluronic acid is important to overall health, as well as for skin that ages well. While the acid is found all throughout the body, over 50% is found just in the skin. Good skin health is also indicated by its ability to heal wounds quickly. As we age, this ability tends to slow down. This is due in part to cell mitosis, which is the division of cells to create new cells. This is a crucial aspect of repair and regeneration of the skin and tissues.  Increasing the amount of hyaluronic acid in the body increases the ability of the cells to renew themselves.

How to Build Hyaluronic Acid in the Body and Skin

An easy way to increase the amount of hyaluronic acid in the body is to eat foods that contain high levels of it. These include root vegetables, soy products, and leafy greens. Eating greens and roots raw is optimal because hyaluronic acid is sensitive to heat. There is a small village in Japan called Yuzuri Hara that is famous for the most youthful looking elders who also live long lives without many of the common diseases seen in other countries. In fact, 10% of the population is 85 or older. After studying their culture and food, it was determined that their normal diets consisted of foods with extremely high levels of hyaluronic acid.

The best source of hyaluronic acid is to make homemade bone broth with the skin, bones, and connective tissues. It is rich in the tissues and collagen that are rich in the acid and have a homeopathic effect on the body. Red wine is not a direct source of hyaluronic acid, but it may help increase how much the body makes on its own. Another important aspect is to drink plenty of water since that’s what hyaluronic acid binds to in order to perform its functions properly.

By consuming foods that are rich in hyaluronic acid, youwill also receive many micronutrients that are required by the acid to do its job properly. Fruits rich in Vitamin C and naringenin are one example of this type of relationship. In order for the body to synthesize hyaluronic acid Vitamin C must be present and it is essential for collagen production. Oranges, grapefruits, and tomatoes contain naringenin, which inhibits the breakdown of hyaluronic acid in the body, thus preserving the lifespan of this important acid.

Skin Care Options

Hyaluronic acid can improve skin quality through a variety of means. These range from supplements to beauty creams and facial injections. Each has a different duration of effectiveness and benefit. The injections are definitely the most expensive option, but are also the most direct and have the quickest results. There are a number of scientific studies trying to create new methods of isolating hyaluronic acid for new beauty applications.

At first, hyaluronic acid supplementation was only available via injection. However, there are now options that can be taken orally. The intake of the supplement has added benefits outside of the desired skin improvement. For starters, they help to build healthier, stronger, and more flexible joints. They work as an antioxidant agent and are helpful in building joint collagen. Another benefit is that they work on moisturizing from the inside out. The supplements help to stimulate the body to create its own hyaluronic acid instead of putting outside sources of the acid to work.

The FDA has approved a number of gel fillers that are made of hyaluronic acid and are injected into the skin. Typically, it is injected around the mouth and cheeks or any area that is sunken or wrinkly. The skin becomes plump and wrinkled areas smooth out. This treatment lasts around 4 to 6 weeks and can cost up to $700 per shot.

All Injections Are Not Created Equal

While they are effective, injections warrant some research before being used as a treatment. It is being put into the skin directly. The source of the hyaluronic acid needs to be clean and sanitary. Otherwise, the body can reject the gel as a foreign substance and have adverse reactions, or it could cause an infection.

A newer version of the hyaluronic acid gel filler to receive FDA approval is Belotero. An advantage it has over some of the other options is the ability to treat superficial or fine lines. Some other fillers can cause a bluish hue to the skin if injected too superficially. This is referred to as the “Tyndall effect” and is caused by light reflecting through the skin and bouncing off the clear filler.

One of the main benefits of all hyaluronic acid gels is the ability to reverse the results. Unlike other facial injections, if too much material is injected or there is an area with too much firmness, it can be adjusted. There is an enzyme called hyaluronidase that can be injected to help break down the gel in either 24 or 48 hours. If desired, once the original gel is broken down, a new gel application can be put in its place in a more desirable amount or shape. These injections should always be done by either a dermatologist or doctor who understands how to shape and contour the face properly and will have sterilized tools.

Hyaluronic Acid in Beauty Products

Usually, products with the word acid entail a harsh and drying effect on the skin. In this case, however, hyaluronic acid does just the opposite. As it penetrates the skin, it actually retains water and increases the moisture levels in the skin. For people with very dry or sensitive skin, a lotion may need to be applied to lock in the surface level moisture or they may experience a drying effect.

There are serums available on the market that contain hyaluronic acid. The serums absorb quickly into the skin to start working on reducing signs of wrinkles. While the serum will not have an immediate effect of plumping the skin, it will over time increasingly smooth and revitalize the skin. Serums have a building effect, meaning that the more they are used the hyaluronic acid levels are not only increased but they become more stable.

Moisturizers, creams, and bath oils that contain hyaluronic acid are also available. The nice thing about having it in beauty products is it will penetrate the dead cell layer and permeate the skin. This helps to increase moisture, improves elasticity, and also can reverse free radical damage. Another great thing is that unlike so many other skin product ingredients, this one works well with every single skin type. It works well with anti-aging products, sunscreens, and acne medications as well.

There are even makeup products that have hyaluronic acid in them now. Foundations are the most common and make to most sense. Since they are a liquid that sits closest to the face, they allow the acid to slowly soak in and really penetrate the deep layers of the skin. The concentrations of hyaluronic acid are not as high as in serums so the longer exposure time will not cause irritation. An added bonus, this foundation typically will not dry out and crack like some types can because of the water retention properties.

What is Hyaluronic Acid Sourced From?

Hyaluronic acid can be sourced from a number of places since it is naturally occurring in so many life forms. Typically for commercial use, it is sourced from chicken cartilage or Cockscombs, which is the fleshy crest on the top of the rooster’s head. Using animals as sources of hyaluronic acid does bring up ethical issues, though.

A non-animal source can be derived from a microbial fermentation. There are also a number of synthetically developed and purified types of hyaluronic acid that are becoming ever popularized. This process is similar to the microbial fermentation, but leaves less chance for the batch to become contaminated.

Possible Side-Effects

There have been some cases of side-effects from injections, though they are not very common. The side-effects are generally mild and consist of pain, swelling, redness, tenderness, bruising, and itching. Mostly the side effects are limited to local swelling and pain in the area an injection was made. It is highly recommended for those with severe allergies to avoid getting injections altogether.

Topical applications, such as serums and lotions, do not have any severe side-effects. Most complaints are due to dryness. In most cases, this was remedied by applying moisturizer after applying the hyaluronic acid. It is not recommended to use products with high concentrations of hyaluronic acid daily, or for an extended period of time.

Hyaluronic acid is a substance that is pre-existing in the body and therefore is less likely to be rejected or create adverse effects. Since it is a naturally occurring substance, it is assimilated easily into most people’s systems.

In extreme cases of hypersensitivity, a more severe reaction can occur. A reactivation of Herpes simplex virus infection can develop if the patient has a history of outbreaks. Another side-effect could be the formation of abscesses or cellulitis. Finally, there have been rare cases of mycobacterial infections due to inferior sources of hyaluronic acid. This was due to contaminated sources or improper handling of the material.

Most Popular Products Containing Hyaluronic Acid

There is a facial moisturizing lotion called CeraVe that can be found at most drug stores. This is a gentle and fragrance-free lotion that is ideal for sensitive skin. It has a controlled release of the ingredients that helps to repair the skin and restore the natural protective barrier. The active ingredients are niacinamide, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.

A company called SkinCeuticals has a serum called Hydrating B5 Gel that contains hyaluronic acid. To balance out the formula, they have added vitamin B5 to replenish nutrients and help hydrate the skin. This serum is oil free and will not clog the pores, and is an ideal product for acne prone skin. It will work generally with all skin types. Only two to three drops are needed to apply to the face, neck, and chest.

BareMinerals makes a foundation called Complexion Rescue. It is advertised as a protective barrier to the elements that will hydrate and help rebuild collagen because of the hyaluronic acid. To support the hydrating aspects, they have also included glycerin and coconut fatty acids.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare offers a two-part hydrating face mask that optimizes hyaluronic acid. This product claims to drive the essential active ingredients into the skin through a reviving oxygen exchange. The Marine Hydrating Modeling Mask was developed to deeply hydrate, cool, and plump the skin to alleviate dryness, dullness, and uneven skin tone. The gel aspect of the mask contains the hyaluronic acid and is applied first. Then the ‘activating powder’ is applied which contains medical grade algae and a calcium complex.

A New Technology

In France, there is a new use for hyaluronic acid called Barophorèse. It is a more non-invasive cosmetic treatment that is closest to injecting the acid, but without the needles. A mixture of air and hyaluronic acid is projected at the skin at a super-sonic speed. The first time this is done will promote lymphatic drainage and help the layer of dead skin to peel naturally. On the second round, the mixture of air and hyaluronic acid goes directly on the freshly exposed skin.

As the air is blown, the pores of the skin open up. This allows for the acid to deeply penetrate the skin. As soon as the high-speed air is not blowing, the pores close up. While the skin is said to be improved after the first session, multiple sessions are recommended for long-term results. In some cases, customers experienced some inflammation after the treatment, but it went away in a week or less. Scientists are working to develop an even smaller particle size extraction of hyaluronic acid to allow for deeper penetration into the skin cells.

The History of Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid was first discovered in 1934. Two scientists, Karl Meyer and John Palmer, discovered it while doing research at Columbia University in New York. The hyaluronic acid was isolated from the body of a cow. It was not discovered as useful in the modern applications until the 1960’s. Researchers Balazs and Denlinger found that the molecule occurred in high levels in many tissues in the body.

After further investigation, they came to the conclusion that hyaluronic acid plays a critical role in the physiological processes that lead to tissue repair and to cell metabolism. From their findings, preparations of hyaluronic acid were developed to treat skin lesions. In the 1980’s it found its way into use during specific eye surgeries for issues like cataract extraction.

Also in the late 1980’s, Connettivina developed a product called Hyalgen. This was the first authorization for a hyaluronic acid-based treatment of knee osteoarthritis. It was administered into the joint by injection. Hyalgen is still available and widely used in over 80 countries worldwide. By the 1990’s hyaluronic acid was being utilized in the beauty industry. The first application was using the gel injection technology for the face to reduce wrinkles and sagging skin. Over time, hyaluronic acid made its way into topical solutions such as serums, lotions, and makeup foundation which are the most common uses today.

Hyaluronic Acid Summary

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring carbohydrate that is plentiful in our bodies when we are born. It occurs naturally in connective tissues, joints, and in the deeper layers of the skin. Not only does it lubricate the joints, it also plays a crucial role in the repairing of wounds and other skin conditions. The fundamental properties of hyaluronic acid are to promote water retention. This creates more supple and healthy skin.

Hyaluronic acid is a key component to protecting the moisture barrier, which is the outermost layer of our skin. This layer is essential to maintain the integrity of the skin and protect it from damaging external factors. A drop in the levels of hyaluronic acid starts at around 18 to 20 years old and dramatically increases around age 40. It is important to keep the levels of hyaluronic acid stable before and during these ages to maintain healthy and beautiful skin.

Using supplementation can help to replace hyaluronic acid and moisture from the inside. It can also be replenished by consuming foods with high levels of hyaluronic acid and micronutrients that support its functions and integration. Facial injections with hyaluronic acid gels are another very direct approach that has fast results but does need to be kept up to maintain the plump appearance.

Cosmetic applications such as serums are applied directly to the outer layers of the skin. They fill in the spaces where the outer layers have been damaged to help seal in moisture and maintain the protective barrier. Lotions help bring the hyaluronic acid into the deep layers of skin tissue to replenish the levels of the acid and retain deep level moisture and water retention.

Overall, hyaluronic acid is an essential aspect of maintaining healthy and radiant skin. Incorporating any of these skin care methods will benefit the appearance and health of the skin.