Like that trusty pair of Spanx— always there if you need ‘them and they make you look amazing every single time you slip into them…
Let’s assume that, since you’re reading this, you’re a fan of skincare products. And let’s also assume that if you’ve shopped around for something new in the past year, you’ve come across any number of skincare products that contain hyaluronic acid (HA). And let’s also assume that you’re like, “wow, this stuff seems to have popped up overnight and is now in every skincare line I see!”
Well, you know what they say about assuming things… Because even though hyaluronic acid may seem like the newest miracle ingredient to hit the skincare industry, it’s actually been around for a long, long time. HA is kind of like that trusty pair of Spanx you’ve had for years, but sometimes forget about. They’re always there if you need them and make you look amazing every single time you slip into them, but they often get buried in the bottom of the pile while buzzier new items rise to the top.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
First fun fact of the day: Hyaluronic acid isn’t actually acid. It’s a sugar that naturally occurs in your body. I know we’ve been told that internal sugar can mess with our skin, but hyaluronic acid is the exception (it’s also not “sugar” the way you think of it, so just go with it, OK?). It’s in your joints, your eyes, and skin… any part of your body that needs lubrication to thrive contains hyaluronic acid.
How does it work?
Second fun fact: This goo can absorb up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Imagine a dry sponge that weighs one pound that suddenly has the capacity to absorb 1,000 pounds of water. Of course, hyaluronic acid molecules are much smaller than a sponge and weigh far less than one pound, but that visual should give you a pretty good idea of just how intensely hydrated hyaluronic acid molecules are.
So, what about all of the hyaluronic acid that occurs naturally in almost all of your skin cells? It’s holding onto moisture, acting as a cushion to keep it trapped just below the surface, and consistently feeding your skin with moisture. And when water is introduced, your skin cells swell and lead to skin that is plumped, smoothed and hydrated. A win-win-win if you ask me. (The fancy term is “humectant”, which means something that pulls water from its environment into your skin.)
Of course, as with most bodily functions, our hyaluronic acid production decreases as we get older, so the more of it we can get now, the better we’ll look and feel down the line!
Why does it work?
Once upon a time, hyaluronic acid molecules were too big to penetrate into the skin’s deepest layers, meaning only the skin’s surface was benefiting from topical HA. But, thanks to the wonders of science and what I imagine to be a “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” situation in a lab somewhere, things are a little different now (“little” being the operative word): low molecular weight HA—made from synthesized HA—is widely available and that is what most effective skincare products contain. This lower molecular weight means the molecules are smaller and, therefore, not only moisturize the top layer of skin, but also penetrate into the other layers to plump them up. Got to love science!
How can I get more?
You can apply it topically! Before I go into details, it’s important to note that you should be layering your HA products with emollients like creams and oils. Why? Other runny humectants and water are often combined with HA so HA can bind with the water and deliver it to your skin. Sounds great, right? BUT! Despite absorbing quickly into the skin, that lightweight hyaluronic acid/water combo tends to evaporate if it’s not properly locked in, negating the whole hydrating effect. So, be sure to spray a toner first, lay down your HA serum, and then top it off with moisturizer to seal in that moisture. Hyaluronic acid is most effective when used regularly and over time.
So think of hyaluronic acid as “Spanx for your face.”