Hyaluronic acid is a celebrity of the skincare A-list. Featured on movie press as a draw-you-in name, instead of Daniel Craig you’ve got hyaluronic acid, with a co-star sidekick 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 kind of 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 new roles, hyaluronic acid also has good and bad skin benefits. And there is a way to make sure you get only the good kind I promise.
Ready to find out about the not so well-known hyaluronic acid side effects plus how to avoid them? 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 world’s most handsome man. You can’t take your eyes off him. He draws you in, locks your gaze, magnetizes you to his almost-as-awesome-as-you-ness.
Apart from instead of you, hyaluronic acid’s locking eyes with water.
Humectants are water magnets. They hydrate your skin like crazy.
Interesting fact. Water is only hydrating to your skin when it’s bound aka magnetised.
Ever had horrible powdery feeling skin after a bath or a swim?
Water sat on top of your skin, which isn’t magnetised by a skincare ingredient like hyaluronic acid, is free, independent and loving life.
Great for water, not so great for your skin.
Hyaluronic acid works fantastically.
As an A-star skincare ingredient, hyaluronic acid goes above and beyond the normal powers of B-list humectants and instead can power up with over 1000 times its own weight in water. Ever seen one of those teeny-tiny water expanding flannels? Hyaluronic acid works better.
What are the Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid isn’t just a somebody your skin picked up, hyaluronic acid’s already part of your skincare family. Your skin makes hyaluronic acid, your skin needs hyaluronic acid and your skin currently contains over 50% of all hyaluronic acid found in your body.
Giving or topping your skin back up with something it knows how to use is the perfect approach to great skincare.
Hyaluronic acid has oh so many benefits for your skin;
- It’s skin-identical aka sensitive skin-friendly
- Is a powerful skin hydrator
- Can help re-seal your skin barrier helping skin to heal and repair
- Has the potential to maximise the penetration of other skincare actives i.e. antiageing ones – that’s because it can hold other skincare ingredients closer to your skin for longer (in a hyaluronic acid matrix)
- Can help keep skin firm and plump
- Acts as an antioxidant & free radical scavenger
- Helps keep skin smooth aka resolves roughness
- Increases your skin’s ability to bounce-back
Which is pretty much everything you 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 begin to drop from healthy.
Using a hyaluronic acid serum is safe. As an active ingredient hyaluronic acid is very dependable. But there is one specific kind of hyaluronic acid which comes with side effects. Proinflammatory ane ageing side effects.
Here’s the deal, hyaluronic acid comes in 3 sizes;
- 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. Wahoo.
— 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 an extra protective barrier.
This extra protective barrier helps stop your skin from what us scientists call trans-epidermal-water-loss or TEWL for short aka dehydration.
There are also a few other great bits, hyaluronic acid can also form what’s called a cross-linked hyaluronic acid polymer on top of your skin. Don’t worry, I know that sounds completely intimidating, all these fancy words are describing is lots of hyaluronic acid molecules holding hands and as they do this, you get a hyaluronic acid web. Other skincare actives then get lodged into this web giving them a longer amount of time to penetrate your skin and therefore have much better benefits.
Large-sized hyaluronic acid is also the best at scavenging up 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 turns 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 skins deepest layers, here’s where your skin scrambles when it senses damage. Sunburn, bruising, cuts, scratches, acne and more.
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 inflames like a tennis ball after walking into the corner of your bed for the 10th time this week (I’m not clumsy I promise ;)) – you’re seeing inflammation which is helping heal existing damage. But… imagine if you had a tennis ball-sized bruise without having walked into anything. Now inflammation is bad.
The hyaluronic acid side effect summary: Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is involved in activating your skin’s inflammation pathways. And too much inflammation is pro-ageing, it even has a name – inflammaging.
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 serums 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 as having 3 new sizes (if only clothes could fit this good eh) – there’s small-small, small-medium and small-large.
Small molecular weight hyaluronic acid is any size from 20 to 300 kDa and research is suggesting any size 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 currently 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. Large hyaluronic acid is able to offer your skin great benefits however is only ever destined to do them in your skin’s very top layers. To get hyaluronic acid absorbing deeper, you have to chop it into teeny-tiny pieces. Pieces this small can cause ageing inflammation aka inflammaging.
But… there is another way.
Other skincare ingredients can stimulate your body’s own hyaluronic acid making pathways. Pretty awesome eh.
Give your skin the right starting ingredients and you can increase the amount of high molecular weight hyaluronic acid in deeper layers of your skin. Layers which have a huge impact on helping to iron away fine lines and wrinkles.
Skincare ingredients which activate your skin to make hyaluronic acid include;
Psst – these recommendations are not specific to your skin type or skin concerns. If you’re wanting to start taking better care of your skin – I’m here for you.
- 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
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 needs to make hyaluronic acid – you are so savvy my friend. Now go enjoy hyaluronic acid benefits without hyaluronic acid side effects. Wahoo. You’ve got this.
But before you go, will you come share your experiences of using hyaluronic acid in the comments below? Do you love hyaluronic acid? Do you find hyaluronic acid serums hydrating? And if you’ve seen benefits, please, please share them below – it really helps everyone else reading here with you now to get healthier, happier skin they feel confident in. You are the best my friend.
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.