ACID is a scary word. Most of us automatically think of a liquid that when applied to something else dissolves it into thin air, but that’s not really how it all works. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to 6th grade science class. I know, time travel should always take us somewhere fun, but hang in there with me, this won’t take long. Does anyone remember the pH scale? On one end you have acids, and at the other end you have Alkalines (basics), and smack dab in the middle is neutral. Oh yeah! You remember now. Everything has a pH. Even your skin which floats around 5.5 to 6, so slightly acidic. There are many substances that fall in the lower end of the pH spectrum that will not and cannot disintegrate other material. Sulfuric acid and Nitric acid happen to be two acids that can dissolve and denature other things, but they are two of only a few. Hyaluronic acid is not one of the few. In fact, rather than being harmful, it is quite helpful!
Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that can be found in just about any professional skincare line. It has been used as a humectant for the skin topically for decades, but it's been relevant in skincare since the dawn of man. You see, hyaluronic acid is naturally occurring in the human body, and more relevantly, in the skin. H.A., as it is often called, acts as a lubricant for cellular function. Skin cells need to be lubricated in order to operate properly, but through the aging process our bodies ability to produce H.A. severely declines. No worries, we can just slap some serum or cream on and get right back to keratinizing skin cells, right? WRONG! Topical hyaluronic acid comes with some pretty steep hurdles. Before we get into the benefits of H.A., let's look at why it's such a problem child.
Okay, I hate to get scientific on you twice in one post, but I’m going to anyway. Your skin cannot absorb substances that are more that 500 kilodaltons in molecular size. That means that products with molecularly larger ingredients rely on delivery systems to get nutrients into the cells. There are different kinds of hyaluronic acid with different molecular weights, but the type of H.A. that is found in skin care products is usually between 800 and 2,000 kDA. Rhutt-roh, that means your skincare products need a good delivery system in order for your hyaluronic acid to be beneficial. Otherwise, this wonder ingredient sits on your skin’s surface until it either evaporates or is worn off. To further complicate things, the diameter of H.A. is about 3,000nm and the intracellular space it needs to get through is somewhere between 20 and 50nm. Chemists are tasked with finding alternative ways of getting those huge molecules into your skin, and that can be tough (I know because I’m married to a chemist and we speak fluent nerd in my house). What does all of this mean for you? It means you need to invest in a good cosmeceutical H.A. if you actually want to see great changes in your skin. Speaking of which, let’s explore those benefits!
As I already mentioned, there are different types of hyaluronic acid. Some are good for joints, some are good for internal organ function, and some are good for skin. Because it holds 1,000 times its weight in water, this hydrophilic polysaccharide is often paired with hydrophobic ingredients with varying benefits for the skin. This means that ingredients that might typically dry the skin out will instead bring higher hydration levels. These same hydrophilic properties make H.A. a great ingredient for plumping skin that has lost volume and filling in fine lines. The most obvious benefit of this wonder ingredient is its ability to hydrate the skin, but beyond that, long term use trains the body to produce more of its own hyaluronic acid! This type of hydration can be especially beneficial for acneic skin that needs drying ingredients to control breakouts. Be careful to check for other ingredients with oils and comedogenic (pore clogging) ingredients in their formulations. I’m particularly fond of Skin Medica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator which has 5 different types of hyaluronic acid and Skin Better Science Interfuse Intensive Treatment Lines whose delivery system gets clinical results in 2-4 weeks!
Incorporating hyaluronic acid into your current skin care routine can increase your skin's elasticity, reduce inflammation and redness, smooth texture, and contribute to your skin's overall health. H.A. should be used after antioxidants and active serums but before moisturizer and sunscreen. If you are unsure which formulation of hyaluronic acid is right for your skin's unique needs, you should schedule a consultation with your aesthetician. If you don't have an aesthetician, you should get one. If you don't have an aesthetician and you are in the phoenix metro area, call me.
Professional hyaluronic acid products can be purchased by calling Stephen P. Beals, MD Skin and Laser Center at 480.947.6788 or at www.bealsmd.com. If you need help with product selection, I am available for complimentary individual consults through this website's chat or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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