This is the first in a series of posts which will break down some of the specific molecular ingredients used in cosmetic products to help you make sense of how different products work. I’m going to kick this off with a magic molecule that you’ve probably all come across before as it’s now widely used in skincare products: hyaluronic acid (or HA for short).
So what exactly is it? HA is a glycosaminoglycan, basically a long chain of sugar molecules strung together like beads of a necklace. It is found in the extracellular matrix which surrounds our cells and is one of the major components of our skin where it increases elasticity and is involved in tissue repair. HA is broken down by enzymes and free radicals but is replaced again at a rapid rate every day. The problem is, as we age the rate of replacement of HA is slower than the rate at which it’s broken down, leading to a bit of a deficit. This leads to loss of moisture and an increase in skin sagginess, not ideal! Continuing on the theme of suncare that The SB has had for the past few posts, UVB rays which cause our skin to burn in the sun, also prevent our skin from making as much of this magic molecule, yet another reason to invest in some good sun protection this summer!
So what does hyaluronic acid do in our beauty products? Well HA is great at holding onto water which is one of the reasons why it’s so great in moisturisers as it helps our skin hold onto water molecules and stay soft and hydrated. It has been shown that topical application of moisturisers with HA increased skin hydration and elasticity and that lower molecular weight molecules of HA used in cosmetic products can penetrate the skin deeper where they have also been shown to reduce wrinkles, great!
Next time you are out shopping for a new moisturiser or day cream, why not look out for products with hyaluronic acid in them? Just look for ‘sodium hyaluronate’ in the ingredients and you know you’re onto a winner!