Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Ingredient Spotlight: Hyaluronic Acid January 13, 2011

During the winter most people are looking to restore the moisture content in their skin and finding the right moisturizer for your skin type will help you do that.  One great skincare ingredient to look for in a moisturizer is hyaluronic acid. 

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant skincare ingredient which means it draws water to the skin and increases the water content of the epidermis (or outer most layer of the skin).  If you are in a humid environment, picture yourself on a tropical island, than a humectant like hyaluronic acid can actually draw water from the atmosphere around you to your skin.  The great thing about hyaluronic acid is that it holds 1,000 times its weight in water.  Think of it as a super sponge.  So when applied topically hyaluronic acid has a two-fold purpose – it increases your skin’s moisture content and helps prevent moisture loss as well.

Everyone’s skin naturally contains hyaluronic acid.  It is found in the reticular layer of the skin or the deepest layer of the dermis (the dermis is located under the epidermis or the top layer of our skin).  The reticular layer contains collagen and elastin, and hyaluronic acid is found between these fibers helping to give your skin its volume and snap.  Babies skin in full of hyaluronic acid which explains why a baby has such soft and moist skin.  As we age the amount of hyaluronic acid in our skin diminishes; we simply produce less of it.  (This is why hyaluronic acid fillers like Restylane and Juvederm are so popular and effective.  I decided not to address the topic of hyaluronic acid fillers in this post since I wanted to concentrate on the subject hyaluronic acid in topical skincare products in this post instead) 

Don’t forget – applying hyaluronic acid topically will not replace what your skin has lost as it ages.  When applied topically hyaluronic acid simply acts as a great moisturizing agent – nothing more.  Only hyaluronic acid fillers can temporarily replace what has been lost as you age. 

Have I convinced you yet that hyaluronic acid is a great topical skincare ingredient?  Well before you run out to buy a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid in it there are a few more things to consider.  Hyaluronic acid is extremely expensive, it is more than a 1,000 times expensive as glycerin for example, so most topical skincare products don’t contain enough of it in order to be effective over the long-term according to dermatologist Jeannette Graf (in an article in Allure from December, 2010).  According to the Allure article the most effective skincare formulas with hyaluronic acid in them use a dehydrated form of hyaluronic acid packaged into microspheres which apparently makes it easier for this ingredient to be absorbed into the skin.

One more thing to consider – according to dermatologist Leslie Baumann in a low humidity environment, like a plane for instance, using a cream with a high concentration of hyaluronic acid could be counterproductive since in such an environment the hyaluronic acid actually draws water from the skin and dries out the skin.  According to Dr. Baumann, and so far I’ve only seen her say this, when hyaluronic acid isn’t getting enough moisture from the surrounding environment it will take moisture out the skin. 


Bottom Line:  Hyaluronic acid is a great skincare ingredient to look for in your moisturizer.  Perhaps if you are in a desert or a plane you might want to consider actually using a moisturizer without a high concentration of hyaluronic acid but that is really an individual choice. 



  • The Skin Type Solution by Dr. Leslie Baumann – pages 23 and 50
  • The Mind-Beauty Connection by Dr. Amy Wechsler – pages 31, 42, and 270
  • Hyaluronic Acid – article from Elle magazine from a few years ago (can’t say the exact date and can’t find it online – sorry!)
  • Best Face Forward Allure, December 2008
  • Anti-Aging Know-it-alls Allure, December 2010
  • Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians, 9th edition – page 157


Products with Hyaluronic Acid:

The article in Allure, Anti-Aging Know-it-Alls, recommends more products with hyaluronic acid in them.


3 Responses to “Ingredient Spotlight: Hyaluronic Acid”

  1. Skin care book reviews…

    Thanks for good article. I added a Trackback to it on my blog…

  2. Debbie clark Says:

    I’ve been looking for a place to order a very good topical hyaluronic acid. I’ve read a lot but been to two health food stores and they have pills. I want a gel or cream.

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