Hyaluronic acid naturally occurs in the skin, so it’s important to know the difference between that type of HA and its topical form. “Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan, which is a polysaccharide, or a sugar that is naturally occurring in the skin,” explains Robyn Gmyrek, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Park View Laser Dermatology. “It is an essential component in our extracellular skin matrix, which is the cushioning in which our skin cells rest. HA plays an important role in retaining moisture in the body, as one molecule alone can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water. Hyaluronic acid is found throughout most tissues in the body, with the greatest concentration in the skin. Hyaluronic acid provides support to the structural proteins of the skin, collagen, and elastin, allowing them to impart mechanical strength and elasticity to keep the skin firm and flexible.” In short, HA helps your skin appear supple and youthful and reduces wrinkles.
But as we get older, the topmost layer of skin (the epidermis) loses HA, but the deeper layer (the dermis) is able to retain its natural HA. “The natural decline in hyaluronic acid as we age is exacerbated by external factors like pollution and ultraviolet radiation, leading to wrinkles, fine lines, dry skin, and skin laxity,” adds Gmyrek.
It’s also important to note that HA is a humectant moisturizer, meaning it doesn’t contain moisturizing ingredients in its molecules. Instead, it pulls water from the environment or from deep within the skin.