What is Hyaluronic Acid?

by Sarah Ban

Forget diamonds—hyaluronic acid should be every girl's best friend. (Well, a guy’s too.) If you've never heard of it, don't be intimidated. Sure, it sounds like a tongue-twisting synthetic chemical, but first impressions can be deceiving. Hyaluronic acid, in fact, naturally occurs throughout the body. Once you've gotten to know it better, we guarantee you'll want to rub it all over your face and never let it go. 

Hyaluronic Acid 101

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a sugar molecule that’s naturally found in your skin, eyes, lips, joints and connective tissues. When it binds to a water molecule, it develops a gel-like consistency (which some people describe as Jell-O). HA is revered for its remarkable ability to hold 1,000 times its weight in water (one gram can hold six liters of water!). But there’s a catch: although it can temporarily hydrate and smooth out skin, HA’s molecular size is a bit too large to make maximum impact when it’s applied topically. The good news is that skincare alchemists have found a way around it: sodium hyaluronate.

Sodium hyaluronate is the salt of HA that has a smaller molecular size, allowing it to absorb deeper into the skin. Sodium hyaluronate possesses the same moisture-attracting qualities, which means the benefits will go a lot further. This is really exciting.

(Now that you know the difference between hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate, for simplicity we’ll refer to the ingredient as HA moving forward.)

Despite its name, HA is not an acid that works by sloughing away skin cells like glycolic acid. HA’s main role in the body is actually to keep joints protected, cushioned and lubricated so they work at their best capacity, and its other responsibility is to keep skin hydrated. Like many other substances in our bodies that promote youthful qualities, HA is abundantly present in babies (hence their adorably plump skin) but decreases as we get older and wiser. The fall in HA begins more rapidly when we’re about 40 years old.

The Visible Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid

Because of its extraordinary ability to retain moisture, applying HA on your skin reclaims its appearance of plumpness and softness. Think of how a sponge looks when it’s filled with water—it’s fuller and smoothed out—but when you wring it out, the sponge shrivels, shrinks in size and can even develop cracks when it’s completely dry. The same concept can be applied to the skin. When skin is well moisturized, it tends to appear firmer, smoother, tighter and less saggy. Meanwhile, loss of moisture over time is a major factor in skin aging and loss of elasticity.

The Promising Studies Behind HA

As we mentioned, HA doesn’t penetrate skin as deeply as sodium hyaluronate, but it can provide benefits on the uppermost surface, acting as a moisturizer to temporarily fill up fine lines. One study with 76 female subjects between the ages of 30 and 60 found that HA “led to significant improvement in skin hydration and elasticity. This same study also noted that a lower-molecular HA offered even better outcomes.

Another study found that topically applying a formula with multiple types of hyaluronic acid (including different variations of HA and sodium hyaluronate) improved “cheekbone volume” and “wrinkle depth.”

How To Use It

HA is best applied daily to make the most of its effective wrinkle-filling and skin-firming capacity. Long-term use has shown marked improvement in skin texture and appearance. LATHER’s Moisture Magnet plumps up skin almost instantaneously, leaving you with a pillowy, soft, dewy complexion.

If you have oily skin, try LATHER’s Shine Control Face Lotion. (HA is amazing at moisturizing without clogging pores!) This lightweight product works to balance oil production while moisturizing to prevent skin from drying out.

If you have crow’s feet or fine lines around the eye area, try LATHER’s Licorice Root Eye Treatment. This cream combines licorice root extract and hyaluronic acid to soothe and moisturize. Apply from the outside of the area and move in toward the nose, gently dabbing it along the skin. Use daily for best results and allow it to absorb before applying makeup.