Hyaluronic acid is a celebrity of the skincare A-list. Featured on movie press as a draw-you-in name, instead of reading Daniel Craig you’re now seeing hyaluronic acid, with a co-star side kick of low molecular weight hyaluronic acid. Sounds impressive ‘eh. After numerous movie campaigns, hyaluronic acid is a magnet maker for yes-i-want-it-now let me grab one and take it to the checkout before you sell-out kinda emotions.
Hyaluronic acid has clout.
Which automatically makes you believe hyaluronic acid is safe has no hyaluronic acid side effects and is great for your skin.
…however just like famous movie stars turn dark for a new role, hyaluronic acid also has good and bad for skin benefits. And there is a way to make sure you only get the good kind – promise.
Come take a trip to hyaluronic acid movie town with me, where I’m sharing the not so well-known hyaluronic acid side effects plus how to avoid them. Ready? Let’s get going my friend…
What Does Hyaluronic Acid do to Your Skin?
Use a moisturiser or serum containing hyaluronic acid and you my friend are using something we in the skincare world call a humectant. Humectants are like the boy you can’t take your eyes off, who draws you in, locks your gaze and magnetizes you to his almost-as-awesome-as-you-ness. Apart from, instead of you, hyaluronic acid’s playing with water.
Humectants are water magnets. They hydrate your skin like crazy.
Interesting fact for you. Water is only hydrating to your skin when it’s bound – how naughty ‘eh. Ever had horrible powdery feeling skin after a bath or a swim? Had super dry lips after licking them too much whilst staring at double chocolate chip fudge cake?
Water sat on top of your skin, which isn’t magnetised by a skincare ingredient like hyaluronic acid, is free, independent and loving it water.
Great for water, not so great for your skin.
What are the Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid isn’t just some guy your skin picked up, hyaluronic acid is already part of your skincare family. Your skin makes hyaluronic acid, your skin currently contains over 50% of all hyaluronic acid found in your body and your skin knows exactly how to use hyaluronic acid. Which are all great skills for any skincare ingredient. Giving your skin or topping your skin back up with something it knows how to use is the perfect approach to skincare. It’s like feeding yourself a yummy mound nut super-food salad instead of a tree bark smoothie. See what I mean?
Hyaluronic acid has many benefits for your skin;
- Skin identical aka sensitive skin friendly
- Powerful skin hydrator
- Can help re-seal your skin barrier helping skin heal and repair
- Maximise skin penetration of other skincare actives – can hold other skincare ingredients in a hyaluronic acid matrix to get them penetrating skin effectively
- Can help keep skin firm and plump
- Act as an antioxidant & free radical scavenger
- Helps skin smooth aka resolves roughness
- Increases skin’s pliability/bounce-back
Which is pretty much everything you’d want a moisturiser to do ‘eh. But before you rush to go get some now – the plot thickens…
Is Hyaluronic Acid Safe?
Hyaluronic acid is a skincare ingredient your skin makes solo… but your skin’s ability to do this can slow as you age and as hyaluronic acid can be used up fast, your skin’s own levels can begin to drop from 100% and healthy.
Using a hyaluronic acid serum is safe. As an active ingredient hyaluronic acid is a very dependable granddad. But replacing your own granddad with a doppelganger doesn’t come without side effects.
Hyaluronic acid can come in 3 types;
- High molecular weight (HMW) hyaluronic acid (1000-1400 kDa)
- Medium molecular weight hyaluronic acid
- Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid (20-300 kDa)
Or simply small, medium and large. They’re all the same, but they work in different ways… and only one kind comes with hyaluronic acid side effects.
High molecular weight hyaluronic acid can only work on the surface of your skin. High molecular weight hyaluronic acid skincare is too big to penetrate, but don’t let that put you off. Ingredients able to sit on-top of your skin can do marvellous things. Take sunscreen for instance, sunscreen is a top sitter and it’s the cheapest anti-ageing cream available. Kudos ‘eh.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) January 29, 2018
Hyaluronic acid sat on-top of your skin, helps smooth and restore your skin’s top layers by hydrating them – which it does by forming a protective skin barrier. Hyaluronic acid locks in deeper levels of water and helps stop your skin doing something called trans-epidermal-water-loss or TEWL for short. There’s also a few other great bits, hyaluronic acid can form a cross-linked hyaluronic acid polymer which basically means lots of hyaluronic acid molecules get to hold hands and when they do, you have a hyaluronic acid web. Other skincare actives get lodged in this web giving them a longer amount of time to penetrate your skin and therefore have a much better skin benefit.
Large sized hyaluronic acid is also the best at scavenging up those pesky age inducing free radicals. High speed atoms and molecules, invisible to the naked eye which are like a toddler being let loose in your just tidied walk in wardrobe.
Is Hyaluronic Acid Bad For Skin?
Now my friend, here’s where hyaluronic acid, our very famous A-list starlet can turn dark. Hyaluronic acid side effects are real. And they’re coming with one specific kind of hyaluronic acid – the small kind – low molecular weight hyaluronic acid.
Your skin’s naturally made hyaluronic acid lies in your deepest layers of skin, here’s where your skin scrambles if it senses damage. Sunburn, bruising, cuts and scratches.
Part of this skin scramble involves hyaluronic acid.
Specifically the breaking down of large hyaluronic acid into small hyaluronic acid – triggering inflammation. Something which is both healing and damage causing. Healing when you already have damage, but damage causing when you have nothing to heal.
When skin raises like a tennis ball after walking into the corner of your bed for the 10th time this week – you’re seeing inflammation which is helping heal already existing damage. But… imagine if you had the tennis ball bruise without having walked into anything. Now inflammation is bad.
The key hyaluronic acid side effect: Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is involved in causing your skin inflammation. And too much inflammation is pro-ageing.
Babies’ skin can quickly heal without scaring. Babies’ skin has almost zero low molecular weight hyaluronic acid. Adult skin heals less quickly, usually with scaring. Adult skin has a mix of all types of hyaluronic acid – low and high.
Psst; If at this point you’re wanting to concentrate on other skincare actives for anti-ageing, grab your free copy of my 5 Best Anti-Ageing Active cheat sheet. Click here to get yours now.
Which Hyaluronic Acid is Best?
You guessed it, for best skin benefits without risk of hyaluronic acid side effects you will want to use larger, weightier hyaluronic acid aka avoid any skincare picks which tell you they’re using very small molecular weight hyaluronic acid.
Research also suggests some larger versions of small molecular weight hyaluronic acid aren’t able to trigger inflammation. Think of small molecular weight hyaluronic acid having 3 new sizes (if only clothes could fit this good ‘eh!) – small: small, small: medium, small: large.
Small molecular weight hyaluronic acid is anything from 20 to 300 kDa and research is suggesting any kind of hyaluronic acid above 50 kDa cannot cause your skin pro-ageing inflammation.
Pro-tip: Nano forms (very, very small forms) of hyaluronic acid are being developed. Judging by what the science says, nano hyaluronic acid is not a skincare ingredient you’ll be wanting to trial. Instead, stick to my list of 5 Best Anti-Ageing Actives, find out all about them in this free cheat sheet.
The Cheats Way to get HMW Hyaluronic Acid Into Your Skin
Hyaluronic acid is a catch 22. As large hyaluronic acid you have a skincare ingredient able to do your skin great things but which can only ever be destined to do them in your skin’s very top layers. To get hyaluronic acid any deeper, you have to chop it into teeny-tiny pieces to make hyaluronic acid absorb. Pieces this small can cause ageing inflammation.
But… there is another way – I promise.
Other skincare ingredients stimulate your body’s own hyaluronic acid making mechanisms. Awesome right. Give your skin the right starting ingredients and you can get high molecular weight hyaluronic acid deep into your skin. Layers where you really can see wrinkle plumping and more.
Skincare ingredients which activate your skin to make hyaluronic acid;
- Glycine Saponin – claimed to stimulate skins own hyaluronic acid production by 256% – found in this Eucerin range using small hyaluronic acid of 52 kDa
- Vitamin C – here’s a great vitamin C starter
- Green tea extract – found at 1% in this kind to skin body lotion
- AHAs e.g. glycolic acid – here’s a great glycolic acid toner
- Not yet available but recently patented by J&J; Pichia anomala and chicory root watch this space, Pin me to come back to later
Psst; if right now you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to anti-ageing your skin without triggering extra inflammageing (yes, this word really is real) – I can help.
Getting hyaluronic acid into the deepest layers of your skin without hyaluronic acid side effects can be done. You only need to know which ingredients your skin eats to make hyaluronic acid – you are so savvy my friend. Now go enjoy hyaluronic acid benefits without hyaluronic acid side effects. Go get awesome skin.
So my friend, time to chat. Did you have suspicions about hyaluronic acids squeaky clean rise to A-list fame? Still have hyaluronic side effects questions? Want to know more? Come brain-dump with me in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.