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6 helpful benefits of hyaluronic acid

Offering a range of benefits from hydration to bone health, is this skincare’s most versatile ingredient?

It may be called an acid but don’t be fooled, as hyaluronic acid (HA) is as natural as it comes.

Naturally found in the skin (around 50 per cent), connective and neural tissues, this remarkable water-holding molecule benefits not only our skin but our general health and wellness, thanks to its humectant and anti-inflammatory properties.

But as we age, levels start to decrease, resulting in progressive physical wear and tear including wrinkles and stiff joints.

”Hyaluronic acid production decreases from the mid twenties in both men and women due to changes in sex hormones, which is why hyaluronic acid is essential for maintaining skin health and a youthful appearance,” says Dr Vincent Wong, Cosmetic Doctor and EV Editorial Panel member.

“People may be familiar with cross-linked hyaluronic acid being the main component of dermal fillers, which can help restore lost volume. Hyaluronic acid can also be injected without cross-linking (therefore not viscous and doesn’t give volume) or applied topically to improve skin hydration,” Dr Wong explains.

“Each molecule of hyaluronic acid can absorb up to 1000 times its weight in water, making it a super-ingredient in rehydrating and reboosting the skin, regardless of skin type, age or gender.”

When choosing a topical product, look for the words ‘sodium hyaluronate’ if you can’t see ‘hyaluronic acid’ listed. With a lower molecular weight than HA, it is generally more easily absorbed.

Not many people realise that, as well as being produced by the skin, HA is also found in bone, cartilage and synovial fluid, working to absorb shock, alleviate arthritis, joint pain, fatigue, and other concerns.

So how exactly does hyaluronic acid help our skin, eyes, muscles and joints?

It’s hydrating

Any beauty junkie will know that hyaluronic acid is said to be the gold standard for topically hydrating and moisturising. With one molecule able to hold 1000 times its own weight in moisture, it sits on the skin’s surface pulling water to it, and also helps to plump up fine lines and wrinkles – the same way that HA-based dermal filler works when injected into the skin. Suitable for all skin types, it’s gentle enough to be used every day and should be used on clean (jdeally damp) skin, before locking it in with your moisturiser or facial oil.

It’s best friends with collagen

Hyaluronic acid stimulates the skin’s fibroblast cells, which in turn promotes the production of new collagen. In supplement form, hyaluronic acid is often paired with collagen. Combined with a collagen supplement or drink it can help reduce wrinkles, give thirsty skin a good drink from the inside, and help encourage plumper, more supple skin and scalp – yes, hyaluronic acid is also present in the scalp.  

It can alleviate painful joints

Hyaluronic acid injections are not just effective when employed as dermal filler – they can also be used to relieve the pain and inflammation caused by wearing of the cartilage and bone in osteoarthritic knee, elbow and hip joints. The substance replaces depleted synovial fluid and helps to restore movement and lubrication, although pain relief is not instant – it can take up to a month to notice the effects.  

It speeds up healing

Hyaluronic acid, perhaps unsurprisingly, can also help wounds to heal faster by regulating levels of inflammation and signalling to the body to get to work repairing the damaged area. When applied topically, it has also been proven to reduce the size of the wound faster than if it was left untreated, while regenerating and repairing injured tissue and boosting the development of new blood vessels.

It can alleviate dry eyes

Not many people know that hyaluronic acid is found inside the eyeball and helps to keep our eyes lubricated and comfortable. If you suffer from dry eyes – another symptom of ageing – you’ll find the substance in both oral supplements and topical eye drops, both of which can help alleviate dry eye syndrome. Unlike artificial tears, eye drops have a greater viscosity so you may only need to use them once daily.

It's a must for bone health

Research has found that hyaluronic acid may help in regenerating bone formation. The best way to keep bones strong and healthy is to feed your body with the nutrients it needs to produce it – this means consuming foods rich in magnesium, zinc, iron and sulphur to help naturally boost your levels of hyaluronic acid. Alternatively, it can be taken in supplement form to help improve bone health.

Vincent Wong, Cosmetic Doctor

Dr. Vincent Wong is one of London’s leading cosmetic doctors. He is trained in advanced non-surgical cosmetic treatments...

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