The number of fancy-sounding ingredients in skincare often blows our minds, and knowing which are actually ‘good’ for your skin and which are better filed in the trash under ‘all hat and no cattle’ can be tricky business.
But through all of the snake venom, snail mucus and bird excrement (yes, really), one ingredient sits there in the background doing all of the hydrating hard work and taking very little credit for it.
The ingredient in question? Hyaluronic acid, or HA if you will.
Quite the skin-loving superhero, hyaluronic acid is a type of polymer found naturally in the body. Composed partly of sugars, it is most prevalent in the eyes and joints where it functions as a ‘water-loving’ lubricant, but it’s also found in abundance within the skin’s structure where it acts as a powerful humectant. This means it holds moisture to keep the skin soft, firm, plump and hydrated. In fact, studies have shown that HA can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, meaning just one gram can hold up to six liters of the stuff. Oh and it also promotes collagen production, reduces inflammation and fights free radicals as a side-note. No biggy.
As with collagen and elastin, however, the body’s natural levels of HA decrease with age, and these depleted levels show up in tired joints, eye problems and dry, sagging skin. HA supplements and injections have been used for years to relieve arthritis and the like, but there’s also good news for the skin because synthetic hyaluronic acid is out there and ready for the taking in many medical-grade moisturizers, serums, eye creams and even sunscreen.
The good news is most moisturizers contain hyaluronic acid without you even knowing it. Just look on the ingredient list and it’s most likely there, hiding away with your retinol, idebenones and vitamin Es. You should also look out for sodium hyaluronate, which is a salt derived from hyaluronic acid. As a skincare ingredient, hyaluronic acid is a fairly large molecule and, while it can still penetrate the top layers of skin to increase moisture and improve elasticity, sodium hyaluronate has a smaller molecular size so can penetrate the skin on a slightly deeper level.
Sold? Then here’s a list of our current HA must-haves for you to incorporate into your daily skincare plan…
Ideal for dry, sensitized or dehydrated skin, this moisture-enhancing gel replenishes essential nutrients to instantly make your skin feel more supple and soothed. With its feather-light, oil-free formulation, it locks in hydration without leaving behind an oily or sticky trace. Use it on its own, or as a sonic boost to your daily moisturizer.
The skin around the eyes is thin, fragile and prone to dryness meaning it ages swiftly and totally gives the game away when you’re tired and/or hungover. This super-hydrating balm targets all of these ‘dead giveaways’ – and more – by harnessing the combined power of HA, caffeine, skin botanicals and wild yam extract. An under eye, anti-aging must. Fact.
Pumped with sodium hyaluronate, this light, daily face cream targets dehydrated skin, without leaving your skin looking crazy-shiny. It also contains retinol to promote an even skin tone, plus coenzyme-Q10 and vitamins C and E for added antioxidant protection. One of ZO’s best-sellers for a reason.
Packed with a clinical level of antioxidants exclusive only to medical products, this daily face cream not only contains hyaluronic acid for advanced hydration, but phytomelanin™ which mimics human melanin to fight free radicals, reduce inflammation and give an added boost of UV protection.
With a proprietary blend of five different forms of hyaluronic acid (hence the cunning name), this super-serum provides long-lasting hydration and moisturization for a good eight hours. Apply it morning and night before your regular moisturizer for the best results.
Written by: Georgia Gould