By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
It can plump skin like nobody’s business and is alleged to be able to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.
It’s also a must-have component for practically every new topical skincare product that promises renewed youth and antiaging technology.
It is the key ingredient in injectable dermal fillers for lips and face (think Restylane and Juvéderm).
And it is now finding its way into foundations, primers and even lipsticks.
But as much as hyaluronic acid (HA, for short) has become the quintessential active ingredient buzz phrase of the 21st century beauty industry, most consumers don’t really know what it is and how it works.
To begin with HA is not really a new ingredient.
Hyaluronic Acid occurs naturally throughout your body – in your joints, eyes and skin, where it helps to promote the production of fibroblasts, the cells that make collagen, in the dermis, the second layer of skin.
And because it can absorb up to 1,000 times its weight in water, it is the most important molecule involved in keeping skin hydrated.
Inside the skin, the vicious, jellylike HA acts like a liquid sponge to hold moisture and keep your face looking plump and dewy.
Sometimes called hyaluronan or hyaluronate, HA is not an exfoliating acid that scruffs away dead skin cells like salicylic or glycolic.
Instead, hyaluronic acid acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for joints, nerves, hair, skin and eyes.
But like most good things in the body, our ability to produce natural HA production declines as we age, which leads to our skin becoming drier and less resilient.
That waning of HA production also ushers in the first signs of aging, such as fine lines and sagging.
Commercial beauty products use synthetically derived hyaluronic acid to help replenish the skin’s natural surface HA.
In addition to leaving your skin feeling plumper and softer, topical hyaluronic acid forms a moist barrier on the skin.
A light HA-based gel can be used both day and night, either alone or under makeup and with other beauty products.
The downside of topical HA products is that, for the most part, they do not penetrate through the epidermis to the dermis, where they could probably do the most good by boosting the second layer of skin.
The reason for that is that their molecules are just too big to penetrate through the skin cells. (Injectable HAs get around that problem by being inserted under the epidermis with a syringe.)
But what hyaluronic acid topical products can do is to coat your skin and help protect it from daily external elements, especially dehydration.
And in an arid, pollution-laden climate like that of Mexico City, that’s a big deal, especially for dry, sensitive skin types.
As previously mentioned, there are any number of potent topical HA serums, creams and gels available on the market, and they can form a vital part of your daily skincare regimen.
Some of those products are extremely pricey, but since all hyaluronic acid is essentially the same (regardless of whether it is produced in your body naturally or derived artificially), there really is no reason to bother paying the extra pesos for a premium brand label.
If you do decide to invest in a hyaluronic acid product, be sure to check what other active ingredients it contains.
In the end, the main take-away is that hyaluronic acid is more of a prevent ingredient than an age-reversing one.
But shielding your skin from the daily barrage of pollution, free radicals and dryness is as core a goal to staying beautiful as trying to undo wrinkles … and a lot more obtainable.