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How to Use Hyaluronic Acid (And How Not To)

Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is nothing new but it seems to be popping up in more and more beauty products, appearing in everything from face cream to lipstick to eyeshadow and more.

But what exactly is it? Is it really safe to put acid on your skin? Does it actually work?

First of all, HA is totally safe “ it’s a polysaccharide that occurs naturally in all of us. It appears as a viscous gel-like substance able to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water (first hint: it’s used as a moisturizer). It works as a cushioning agent, filling space between your joints, nerves, tissues, skin, and eyes (second hint: it’s used as a filler).

We are all born with a high level of HA, which is why babies’ skin is always so plump and dewy. As we age, though, our supply of HA decreases and production slows, so we start looking saggy and wrinkled. No wonder it’s one of the hottest anti-aging ingredients on the market.

For anti-aging purposes, HA works best as a filler that is injected directly into the skin. It’s commonly found in such facial fillers as Juvederm and Restylane. When injected, these fillers effectively plump up the skin and diminish lines and wrinkles.

But that’s where the wrinkle-erasing abilities end. There are hundreds of creams and lotions that contain HA, claiming to make your wrinkles disappear. However, the most that they will really achieve is softer, hydrated skin.

Why does HA work against wrinkles in injectable facial fillers but not in facial creams? Dr. Nowell Solish, director of Dermatologic Surgery at U of T and one of the first cosmetic dermatologists in Canada to ever use Botox, explains:

When you apply it topically, the molecule is too big to get hyaluronic acid through the skin. So when we inject it to fill a wrinkle or line it works well. [But] when you put it on topically it’s a misconception that it’s all going into the skin. It forms a barrier on the skin and gives a soft moisturizing effect that makes skin smoother … but it doesn’t eliminate wrinkles.

So there you have it. HA will certainly moisturize your skin, which can help make wrinkles less noticeable (but not invisible or altogether non-existent). Since it’s light and non-greasy, it does make a great moisturizing additive in makeup “ but don’t think that your lips will actually plump up with lipstick that contains HA.

If you are looking to increase your diminishing HA supply to prevent or erase wrinkles, you won’t be able to do it through HA creams, lotions, or anything else that you apply to the surface of your skin. If you really want to get rid of wrinkles with HA, you will have to face the needle.

But if you are less concerned about wrinkles and just looking for some serious skin hydration, try these:

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream for Extra-Dry Skin, $24.99, well.ca

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream for Extra-Dry Skin

Rodial Dragon’s Blood XXL Advanced Sculpting Serum, $155, Shoppers Drug Mart

Rodial Dragon's Blood XXL Advanced Sculpting Serum

Hourglass Illusion Hyaluronic Skin Tint, $64, Sephora

Hourglass Illusion Hyaluronic Skin Tint

Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick, $6.98, Walmart

Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick

2 responses to “How to Use Hyaluronic Acid (And How Not To)”

  1. I just bought 1% hyaluronic acid gel? Is there a shelf life once it is open? Can u use this product everyday? Is it worth it? Yhx, Sally

    • Hi Sally – I would check to see if there is an expiry date on it, but it should be fine if you just bought it. Hyaluronic acid is safe to use every day (in fact, I use it twice a day because my skin loves it!).

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