Beauty Talk: Hyaluronic acid, the moisture champion or not?


Hyaluronic acid is the subject of many stories: according to the cosmetics world, it is the anti-ageing product that should not be missing in your skincare. What is it exactly? How does it work and is it really such a miracle drug? Our beauty expert Keshia to the rescue!

First things first: what is hyaluronic acid?

The word ‘acid’ in an ingredient may seem scary, but no worries: hyaluronic acid doesn’t exfoliate or regenerate cells like other acids like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. So it won’t cause you to peel or anything. The only reason hyaluronic acid is called an acid is because it has an acidic pH.

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant in English. You can already hear the word ‘moisture’! And indeed, hyaluronic acid can help with moisture deficiency or dehydrated skin. HA (= hyaluronic acid) actually attracts water like a magnet. So it doesn’t provide nutrition (oil/ algae) to your skin, don’t get confused!

Your skin’s moisturiser

Hyaluronic acid is a Glycosaminoglycan (GAG) or in normal language a sugar-carbohydrate chain. We have it naturally in our bodies and our skin and it gets its moisture from your food, your blood supply and the water you drink. About 50% of all hyaluronic acid in our bodies is found in the dermis. That is our second layer of skin. Hyaluronic acid is one of the three building blocks of this skin layer. It also contains our collagen and elastin fibres. They like a lot of moisture. Together they form the ‘mattress’ of your skin: they ensure that your skin is firm. 

Sounds good, right? Can’t have enough of it! As we age, the amount of hyaluronic acid in our skin decreases and our skin also becomes less firm. Bottle of hyaluronic acid then?

That is exactly what the cosmetics world thought! But is it really true that hyaluronic acid combats skin ageing? And can it be incorporated in your skincare?

Sodium hyaluronate: Is that also hyaluronic acid?

You may have noticed. You want to grow old looking beautiful so you pick up a product that claims to contain hyaluronic acid. You turn the bottle over and look at the list of ingredients. Nowhere is the name ‘hyaluronic acid’ to be found. What you do see is ‘sodium hyaluronate’. Is that good, then?

Pure hyaluronic acid is hardly ever used in skincare products, but it is used in fillers because it is rather thick and plumping. If they were to put pure hyaluronic acid in your skincare, it would be of little use: the molecule is so large that it cannot act properly and would only work in the top layer of the skin, i.e. the dead skin cells. Not very useful, is it?

Sodium hyaluronate or sodium hyaluronate, on the other hand, is a negatively charged molecule that works in cell communication. Although it is smaller in molecular size, it is not simply a smaller molecule of hyaluronic acid. It is a salt derivative, like its little sister. As a result, it works differently and gets into the second layer of skin more easily. 

Other names you may find on your bottle are:

– hydrolyzed sodium hyaluronate 

– hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid 

– sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer

– sodium acetylated hyaluronate

The differences are in the processing and molecular size. That is why it is often written on your bottle: multi-molecular hyaluronic acid. Finding several molecular sizes in your product can certainly be interesting!

Not so innocent after all?

We already know that skin’s own hyaluronic acid gets its moisture from food and the like, but where does sodium hyaluronate get its moisture to bind to? Well, the scenario can go both ways. That is why this information is so important! Either sodium hyaluronate binds to moisture in the environment such as humidity, a wet toner on your skin and a water-based day and/or night cream. Ideal!

But… does it not find moisture in the environment? Then it will draw moisture from the deeper skin layers and bind to it. In other words, sodium hyaluronate will dry out your skin instead of providing moisture! And that’s a big no-no! That dehydration is what causes your skin to age.

Tips for a healthy, moisturised skin

Here in Belgium the humidity is fortunately quite good. Are you indoors a lot, especially now in autumn and winter? Then a humidifier might be a solution. Of course, this is not only interesting for your skincare.

Don’t want to leave anything to chance and avoid dehydration as much as possible? Then pay attention to the order in which you apply your skincare products: first apply a wet toner, then the sodium hyaluronate and finish with a cream on top. Seal in the moisture, babe.

My first hyaluronic acid topper is the Hyaluronic Force. This is a serum with two forms of hyaluronic acid. It also contains glycerol and pentylene glycol, which are also good moisturisers.

The day creams Hydracure Normal-Dry Skin and Normal-Combination Skin also contain two forms of hyaluronic acid in combination with ingredients such as lactic acid to restore moisture to your skin.

Winter is coming, so stay hydrated. Come by next week for more Beauty Talk by Keshia. 

This article has been written by Keshia Caudron

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