Impaired barrier, inflammation and breakouts can be treated with Hyaluronic acid.
Yet few understand that molecular size matters.
Did you know there is one ingredient that we consider the superstar of the skincare world?
It’s well-known as a humectant, but few people are aware of its vast laundry list of skin-enhancing benefits.
Enter hyaluronic acid; it’s a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot without a ton of explanation to go with it.
Yet, it is an essential humectant for your skin that works like tiny moisture magnets bonding cells together, creating a perfect protective barrier over the surface, keeping it moisturised, plump, fresh and youthful.
What makes it crucial is that your skin is naturally made up of 15% hyaluronic acid; ah, our body it truly is a magical thing — that is until you hit your late thirties when in a cruel twist of fate it becomes seriously depleted, which is why it is so important to keep replenishing it topically.
So how do you get more of this good stuff into your skin? Keep reading our under the radar ‘facial fountain of youth guide’ to understand the science and the best way to replenish this incredible ingredient.
So what exactly is hyaluronic acid?
Weirdly hyaluronic acid (or HA for short) isn’t acid at all. It is a naturally occurring sugar called Glycosaminoglycan — a class of molecules that can hold onto water efficiently due to their very polar nature, which forms a vital component of connective tissue in your body.
Hyaluronic is found pretty much everywhere, including your skin, hair, eyes and nerves. It also lubricates joints and boosts collagen and elastin levels; think of it like internal scaffolding for your skin plumping and cushioning, keeping it hydrated and youthful.
There’s approximately 15 grams of hyaluronic acid in your body, one-third of which is turned over, degraded and re-synthesised every day. One gram of HA can hold onto 6 litres of water which equals a whopping 6000%; wow, that impressive, so maybe now you can see why it is referred to as the super moisture magnet.
Why does molecular size matter so much?
This is an important subject when it comes to treating your skin with HA.
Not all hyaluronic acid molecules are created equally because they exist in a continuum of molecular weights, from very low to very high, indicated by its Daltons. High molecular weight hyaluronic acid has a larger molecular size and is always >1,000 kDa. Anything lower than that (10-1000 kDa) is considered medium and low molecular weight HA, which is formed by chopping it into smaller fragments.
High molecular weight (HMW) HA
This is a natural, physiologic ingredient found in human skin and has many benefits; its primary role is to form a protective film within your skin’s keratin (protein) on evaporation and keep your barrier function intact and skin balanced and healthy. We have created a high molecular weight serum that is entirely pure and unadulterated; h20 hyaluronic acid skin shot.
Low molecular (LMW)-HA
Studies have found that low molecular weight hyaluronic acid acts as a bio-signal in the opposite direction because the smaller the size of the molecule means it can penetrate deeper. LMW HA can increase inflammation and prevent healthy, non-scarring matrix production; for this reason, we don’t use it in our formulas.
To put it simply:
- high molecular weight hyaluronic acid is associated with providing a hydrating, protective layer and repairing the barrier, healing, regeneration, and calming inflammation.
- Low molecular weight penetrates your skin more deeply and is associated with inflammation & scarring.
Therefore if your skin is sensitive or compromised, it will get further irritated if the molecular size is wrong. This is not great, and we see a lot of salons treating post-procedure skin with low molecular weight HA, which, as discussed, can impair the protective barrier function and cause a whole host of skin conditions; we do see this a lot with microneedling treatments, which is a vast topic we discuss in detail here.
So as you can see, when it comes to the type of hyaluronic acid used in your skincare products, size does matter; it determines whether the hyaluronic sits on your skin’s surface or penetrates deep into the subcutaneous layers.
Is it the perfect post-procedure topical following treatments like micro-needling?
Hyaluronic acid is a native human molecule; therefore, it is the ideal treatment for those whose natural defence barrier has been purposely compromised.
After many years of working directly with the skin, we firmly believe that PURE, UNADULTERATED HYALURONIC ACID is the ONLY INGREDIENT you should be using DURING and at least up to 36 HOURS AFTER-TREATMENT to PREVENT CONTAMINATION and INFECTION.
There are so many bi-products in other formulas. Yet, time and time again, after procedures, we see many skincare specialists offering products with vitamin C and snail slime and aloe vera. These ingredients contain microbial byproducts that can cause a whole host of skin problems and do irreversible damage to your skin. Some of these case studies are due to the topicals used during and after treatment at the procedure.
If you think about it, micro-needling causes small micro-channels in your skin to open; therefore, the last thing you want to do is introduce foreign ingredients into it that it doesn’t recognise, which can lead to granulose infections discussed here. That said, when using a pure, unadulterated, high molecular form, it can be highly beneficial to use during micro-needling to help with glide when automated pens are being “dragged” across the skin. And also post-procedure to encourage skin healing.
How is hyaluronic acid produced?
Nowadays, it is primarily produced from the fermentation of group A streptococcus bacteria. The manufacturing and purification process eliminates bacteria and bacterial fragments; therefore, it finishes that process as a sterile product. In manufacturing hyaluronic acid products for cosmetics, the last step before release into the market is microorganism testing.
What is the difference between hyaluronic and sodium hyaluronate?
Here’s the exciting thing HA has a counterpart sodium hyaluronate. It is a salt form of hyaluronic acid and is said to improve stability and lessen the likelihood of oxidisation.
Can hyaluronic acid dehydrate my skin in certain climates and make it dry?
It is theorised that this is due to hyaluronic acid drawing moisturisation away from your skin.
While it is true that this ingredient loves water, once it is saturated, it will not act as a drying agent referred to as desiccant in the industry. Generally, the hyaluronic you purchase is less than 1%, and the rest is water combined with other ingredients. If you place pure diluted hyaluronic on your skin, there may be some evaporation at the skin’s surface that can make your skin feel dry, which is why we always recommend layering with an occlusive like Fortify barrier repair cream. However, the hyaluronic still acts as a water loss barrier, keeping your skin underneath happy, moist, and healthy.
Can hyaluronic acid help with the penetration of other ingredients?
We like to think of this clever humectant as being a molecular chaperone, especially in the context of micro-needling, where the skin barrier is penetrated. Using other actives by first applying a layer of hyaluronic acid can help prevent the degradation of these delicate ingredients by keeping them moist and in contact with the stratum corneum, your outer layer of skin.
What products do you recommend?
The naked chemist has three mainstays.
- H20 hydrating complex is a pure, unadulterated hyaluronic acid, the high molecular structured gel that is highly regenerating and healing can be used alone post-procedure to help heal your skin safely
- The B+ Niacinamide complex is a unique, multitasking gel-based serum targeted for premature ageing and pigmented skin and to balance out an oily and combination skin type.
- Immortelle is a unique skin-identical cream that contains many ingredients naturally found in your skin that are often depleted with age.
Can it be applied topically?
It can, infact that is its most significant benefit; moisture is the essence of healthy, youthful skin, so you want to make sure you’re applying your topical hyaluronic acid regularly, so you can lock as much moisture against your skin as possible to keep it moist and plump.
What is important to remember is when using a water-based hyaluronic serum, you need to layer in the humectants close to your skin; although Hyaluronic acid can attract and retain moisture, it can’t prevent moisture from evaporating over long periods; for this reason, to maximise its benefits, we recommend sealing your solution with an occlusive or emollient cream like Fortify barrier repair cream.
Is hyaluronic serum better than a ceramide, lipid-rich moisturiser?
These are two completely different ingredients; Topical hyaluronic acts quite differently from lipids and other humectants and offers better penetration capabilities. But for the very reason of its size and molecular weight, it perhaps provides a better short term barrier replacement.
Moisturisers like Fortify barrier repair cream contain ingredients that penetrate, helping your skin build its barrier molecules over time, including specific ceramides, glycoproteins, and physiologic lipids in the correct ratios. So whilst they bring two very different things to your skin, they complement each other and will significantly help to rebuild your barrier function.
So we now know that the best form of hyaluronic acid is high molecular weight because small molecular weight can penetrate deep and cause havoc in your skin, significantly if your skin barrier function is impaired or post-procedure.
We found that it also occurs naturally in your body and acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, and eyes. It keeps your skin full of moisture.
It has many valuable benefits and is a potent moisturiser, drawing moisture from the air holding almost 1000 times its weight in the water keeping your skin moist. It can have extra moisture, and since dehydrated skin is one of the leading causes of premature ageing, HA replenishes lost moisture reducing the appearance of any fine lines.
It is also considered a safe option for fillers since its composition is closely related to substances in our bodies; it works well and won’t cause significant irritation. It can also help increase volume to areas like the lips and cheeks, which naturally lose volume over time.