Hyaluronic acid : What can this active ingredient really do? (2024)

Hyaluronic acid (short: hyaluron or hyaluronan) is a mucilage substance. What sounds disgusting is super useful for the skin. This is because mucilage binds water and surrounds the skin with a moisturizing film. This film is important because it prevents moisture from quickly evaporating from the skin. And well-moisturized skin looks fresher and smoother. Many creams therefore rely on hyaluronic acid and its anti-aging effect.

Content of this article:

  1. Why is hyaluronic acid so important?
  2. The skin needs more than water
  3. Functions of hyaluronic acid: from joints to connective tissue
  4. Not all hyaluronic acid is the same!
  5. Hyaluronic acid in research
  6. The effect of hyaluronic creams
  7. Hyaluron in skin care and cosmetics
  8. The most frequent INCI designations for hyaluron
  9. Active ingredients besides hyaluron
  10. Urea: Good for the skin
  11. Glycerin: the underestimated little brother
  12. Glycerin needs good partners
  13. Other types of application of hyaluronic acid

Why is hyaluronic acid so important?

The skin binds a large part of our body water; the healthy epidermis consists of as much as 70 percent of it. Conversely, this means that it needs moisture itself in order to be able to function. Dry skin is sensitive because it lacks important protective properties. It feels rough and ages more quickly. Hyaluron is found in the connective tissue between the skin cells. Already in the mid-twenties, the hyaluron in the skin constantly decreases. Then the skin loses elasticity and resilience - wrinkles appear with increasing age, and later also deeper wrinkles.

The skin needs more than water

Keeping skin moisture at a constantly good level is therefore one of the most important tasks of coordinated skin care. Water alone is not enough. It is not water that provides the skin with the moisture it needs, but moisture-binding ingredients, also known as humectants. And hyaluronic acid is way out in front.

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide in the body, i.e. a multiple sugar. Hyaluron has impressive water-binding capabilities:

1 gram turns up to 6 liters of water into gel.

This property makes hyluron an important endogenous component, not only in the skin.

Functions of hyaluronic acid: from joints to connective tissue

Hyaluronan is found in the body wherever water needs to be stored, for example in connective tissue and in the elastic cartilage substance. In addition, hyaluron makes up the largest part of the natural joint fluid: Hyaluronic acid increases the viscosity of synovial fluid, thereby increasing its ability to lubricate, cushion and filter. So hyaluronic acid is not just part of the connective tissue, we need it to keep our joints working smoothly.

Not all hyaluronic acid is the same!

Not visible to the eye, but visible in the laboratory: hyaluronic acid comes in different varieties. It is divided into low-molecular, high-molecular and ultra-short-chain. Depending on the size of the molecule, it has different properties. The fundamental difference is that shorter hyaluron chains can penetrate the skin better.

  • Long-chain or high-molecular hyaluronic acid cannot penetrate very deeply into the stratum corneum; its molecules are too large for this. Hyaluron rather forms a thin, tight-fitting film on the skin and thus effectively binds moisture in the stratum corneum. When it dries, this film contracts slightly, resulting in an immediate tightening effect on the skin. Hyaluronic acid is thus also a film former, which will be discussed in a moment.
  • The low-molecular hyaluronic acid, also known as short-chain, penetrates into deeper cell layers - where the skin's own hyaluronic acid depots are located. In return, this hyaluronic acid cannot form a film on the skin. Whether it really penetrates into the dermis to replenish the skin's own hyaluronic acid depots has not yet been scientifically proven.
  • Ultra-short-chain hyaluronic types, on the other hand, penetrate deeper. The small molecules do not bind as much moisture, but retain it longer. Studies prove their plumping effect.
Hyaluronic acid : What can this active ingredient really do? (1)

Hyaluronic acid in research

Hyaluronic acid was first discovered by the German physician Karl Meyer in the 1930s. He came across it when he was studying the vitreous humor of the eye. Since then, cosmetic research has continued to develop new forms of hyaluronic acid in order to combine the advantages and disadvantages of each variant and achieve an even better effect. A good example is cross-linked hyaluronic acid, which is supposed to bind moisture even longer, or fat-soluble forms of hyaluronic acid. The latter promise to last longer in the skin because they penetrate deeper and adhere more firmly. Not at all new, but very promising, is the use of a hyaluronic precursor called


Glucosamine has even compared to the short-chain hyaluron again significantly smaller molecules and can therefore demonstrably penetrate into the dermis. NAG is first converted into hyaluron in the skin and also has a slight skin renewing and brightening effect.

The effect of hyaluronic creams

Hyaluron is a popular active ingredient in cosmetics and is used in many ways in skin care. There are

  • Hyaluronic acid cream,
  • Sprays and
  • Serums.

Although the active ingredient cannot completely stop skin aging, it can slow it down noticeably. Wrinkles are delayed if the skin is well supplied with hyaluron. Those who start to supply the skin with hyaluron in good time can therefore definitely achieve an anti-aging effect. It makes sense to use products with hyaluron when the skin shows first signs of aging and not only when deep wrinkles are already there. Because then it is much more difficult to plump up the skin again.

Product tip: In addition to our hyFIVE SPRAY, our hyFIVE BOOSTER is also a highly effective care supplement. This highly concentrated care gel contains five different hyaluronic acids, ranging from long-chain to short-chain. The application is very simple: The gel can be used as an intermediate step after cleansing and before applying creams. It is suitable for all skin types. Of course, many other HighDroxy products contain hyaluron.

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Hyaluron in skin care and cosmetics

Which types of hyaluronic acid are actually used in the skin care product of your choice can hardly be determined from the INCI name, as it does not indicate the size of the molecule. However, it is always advisable to make sure that several types of hyaluronic acid are combined with each other in order to cover as broad a spectrum as possible. This way, your skin will best benefit from the different strengths and weaknesses of the different variants. You can tell whether hyaluron is part of the content of a cream by the INCI on the packaging.

The most frequent INCI designations for hyaluron


Active ingredients besides hyaluron

Besides hyaluron, there are many other popular substances that also have the ability to bind moisture. Therefore, in creams and cosmetics are also used the following:

  • LACTIC ACID (lactic acid)
  • UREA (urea)

They are all part of the skin's natural moisturizing system (NMF).

Urea: Good for the skin

Urea should be highlighted here, as it is essential for skin health. In psoriasis, for example, the urea concentration is 40 percent lower than in healthy controls, and in eczema it is reduced by up to 85 percent! Conversely, this means that a healthy urea content in the skin strengthens its resistance. One study was able to demonstrate that skin care containing urea significantly reduces the skin's sensitivity to harsh surfactants (sodium lauryl sulfate).

Glycerin: the underestimated little brother

Another popular humectant from this list is glycerin. It attracts water almost magically and then releases it only hesitantly. This helps the cream not only to stay nice and supple in the jar, but also to bind moisture in the skin. The water-binding abilities of glycerin do not even stop at the air: With sufficiently high humidity, it draws the water from the ambient air into the skin.

However, glycerin also has a bad reputation. Again and again we read that too high a concentration of glycerin in the cream draws moisture from the deeper layers of the skin in dry room air and thus contributes to skin dehydration. This is only half true. It is true that glycerin in higher concentrations attracts body water from the lower layers of the skin - but that in itself is a good thing.

Glycerin needs good partners

The fact that glycerin releases this moisture to the outside is false. On the contrary, it holds it in the horny layer. However, glycerin is a "water rat" and therefore dissolves very well from the skin during facial cleansing. This is ultimately the factor that can lead to the feeling of drying out the skin when using skin care products that contain a lot of glycerin. Therefore, products with glycerin in the first third of the list of ingredients should always contain sufficient oils.

Speaking of oils...

In addition to moisturizers, a good moisturizing cream must also contain lipids (emollients) as well as film formers to be able to retain the supplied moisture. Oil-free serums or gels alone cannot achieve this effect.

Other types of application of hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is known to many as an active ingredient in cosmetics, but since it plays an important role in the entire body, it is used in various places in medicine due to its positive effects:

Hyaluronic acid injections or syringes are used for knee problems, such as osteoarthritis. The hyaluronan is intended to improve the gliding ability of the joint fluid and restore the function of the cartilage. To do this, the doctor often injects three or five hyaluronic acid injections over a period of time.

Hyaluronic acid eye drops replace the natural tear fluid. Those who suffer from dry eyes, for example because of too long screen work, can moisten the eyes with it.

Hyaluron is available in the form of drinking ampoules as a dietary supplement, virtually the alternative to creams. When used very intensively, tests showed barely visible but at least slightly measurable improvements in the depth of wrinkles and elasticity.

Hyaluronic acid : What can this active ingredient really do? (2024)


Hyaluronic acid : What can this active ingredient really do? ›

According to some research, skin aging is associated with loss of skin moisture, and hyaluronic acid is the key ingredient when it comes to combating or reversing these signs. “Because of its water-pulling qualities, hyaluronic acid can refine and age-rewind in those dry, sunken, or 'crepe' areas,” Dr. Gasquet says.

What are the proven benefits of hyaluronic acid? ›

That's why hyaluronic acid is often used for treating dry eyes. It's also used in moisturizing creams, lotions, ointments and serums. It makes your skin flexible. Hyaluronic acid helps skin stretch and flex and reduces skin wrinkles and lines.

Is hyaluronic acid good an active ingredient? ›

HA is a special moisturizing active ingredient, used in cosmetics, particularly formulated as emulsions or serums, claiming hydration and skin elasticity effect.

What happens if you use hyaluronic acid everyday? ›

"Hyaluronic acid is safe and beneficial to use everyday for maintaining skin hydration," says Dr. Russak. You just need to make sure you're applying it correctly. As a rule, you want to apply your hyaluronic acid product to clean, damp skin, and the lock it in with a moisturizer and face oil.

Is there a downside to hyaluronic acid? ›

There are no known side effects to topical lotions and creams with hyaluronic acid, as it's already present in your body. Still, you could have an allergic reaction to a specific formulation or brand. Potential side effects of hyaluronic acid dermal filler include: Bruising.

What's better retinol or hyaluronic acid? ›

If you're looking for an ingredient that can help to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone, retinol may be the better option. However, if you're looking for something that will keep your skin hydrated and plump, hyaluronic acid may be a better choice.

How long does it take for hyaluronic acid to work? ›

For example, although Hyaluronic Acid may work within minutes to plump skin, it takes around a couple of months in general to drastically improve hydration levels and skin condition.

Does hyaluronic acid lighten dark spots? ›

Will Hyaluronic Acid help get rid of dark spots? "Unfortunately, Hyaluronic Acid does not prevent or brighten hyperpigmentation spots on the skin," says Hannah. "HA focuses more on hydrating and adding water/moisture to your skin. This helps plump, firm and smooth your skin.

What products not to use with hyaluronic acid? ›

They'll Irritate Your Skin

Some skincare ingredients can combine to irritate your skin. For instance, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), such as Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid, and Synthetic Retinol are a pair that can easily cause irritation.

What ingredients should not be used with hyaluronic acid? ›

“Hyaluronic acid plays well with most ingredients, while caution must be taken when using retinol in combination with alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, and some types of vitamin C.” Linkner echoes the tip about avoiding vitamin C.

Do you put moisturizer on after hyaluronic acid? ›

A hyaluronic acid serum involves a slightly different routine. After cleansing, and while your skin is still damp, press a couple of drops into your face with the palms of your hands. Don't forget to apply a moisturizer immediately afterward to seal in all that hydration.

What is better than hyaluronic acid? ›

Polyglutamic Acid vs.

While they're both effective hydrators, polyglutamic acid has better performance and additional benefits to moisturize that hyaluronic acid does not have.

Do you let hyaluronic acid dry before moisturizer? ›

After applying a hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid serum (or serums), wait a few moments for it to absorb, and then gently smooth on your regular moisturizer.

Should I use hyaluronic acid in the morning or night? ›

When should I use hyaluronic acid? While some skincare ingredients, like retinol, are best used at night and others, like vitamin C, work their magic in the daytime, hyaluronic acid can be used both morning and night. “I recommend use of an HA serum up to twice daily, depending on your skin's needs,” says Abdulla.

What is hyaluronic acid made from? ›

Hyaluronic acid is produced by biotechnology. It is obtained by bio-fermentation, a process using lactic acid bacteria. Then it is collected, purified and dehydrated to form a powder. When added to water, it forms a more or less textured gel.

Can you overuse hyaluronic? ›

You can't use it in too many products, or it will start to draw water from the skin,” she says. “Not everyone is going to react to HA,” Schook acknowledges, noting that sun exposure, chemical exposure, and the immune system may all play a role in an individual's response to HA.

Is hyaluronic acid proven to work? ›

Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid for Skin

Hyaluronic acid has become a popular skin care treatment. While there's little proof that it works as an anti-aging cosmetic product, you can get it injected into your face -- a treatment called a dermal filler -- to lessen wrinkles and add fullness.

How long does it take to see the benefits of hyaluronic acid? ›

Hyaluronic Acid: Instantly – 2 months

Your skin should feel more hydrated, soft, and plump immediately upon application; if you use it consistently for up to 8 weeks or more, you should start to see improvements in skin elasticity and skin smoothness as well.

What is the success rate of hyaluronic acid? ›

At 48 months, 82% (N = 144) of the study population treated with intra-articular hyaluronic acid avoided THR. In the group of 93 patients considered candidates for THR only 17 had undergone THR, with survival results of 82% at 24 months. At 48 months, this percentage reduced to 66% in this group (29).

What of hyaluronic acid is most effective? ›

What percentage of hyaluronic acid is best? According to Dr. Hayre, a 30 pecent concentration of what's called "high molecular weight" sodium hyaluronate gel is most effective. "The longer the sugar chain, the heavier it becomes and the more water it delivers," she says.


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