What is hyaluronic acid?
While collagen and elastin are the main proteins that provide structural support for our skin, hyaluronic acid is like a gel cushion that locks in moisture. This natural polysaccharide has the ability to absorb up to 1,000 times its weight in water, and when applied topically it can help skin retain moisture and feel more supple.
High molecular weight hyaluronic acid is also considered helpful in reducing inflammation and supporting tissue repair.
Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid vs. high molecular weight
In the skincare world, Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid (LMW-HA) is often touted as superior because smaller molecules can penetrate the skin’s surface. It is made by breaking high molecular weight hyaluronic acid into fragments using enzymes.
While it is true that low molecular weight hyaluronic acid penetrates the skin, it is also well documented in clinical research that low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is actually pro-inflammatory rather than anti-inflammatory.
Some doctors believe that while LMW-HA may make the skin appear more supple at first, it is due to inflammation rather than hydration, and it can lead to accelerated aging. It is interesting to note that babies mainly produce the high molecular weight form.
Overall, it’s clear that high molecular weight hyaluronic acid is an amazing moisturizer. However, according to this study, full-size HA (high molecular weight) actually penetrates the skin. Here’s what cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski had to say on the subject.
Hyaluronic acid and its health benefits
One of the most common uses for hyaluronic acid is the treatment and management of osteoarthritis (also known as “wasting arthritis”). Some believe that the oral supplement offers the same benefits as hyaluronic acid injections in the knee or hyaluronic acid serums in the face.
Alternative medicine professionals argue that hyaluronic acid supplements can also prevent or treat a variety of unrelated health problems, including:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Skin wrinkles
- Urinary tract infection
Some of these claims are better supported by research than others. Others are largely anecdotal or border on pseudoscience. Here’s some of what current studies say:
Osteoarthritis and hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid is a viscous liquid that, among other things, helps lubricate the joint space. In people with severe knee osteoarthritis, an injectable form of hyaluronic acid, called hyaluronan, can provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness.
Less safe is the benefit of hyaluronic acid when taken orally. That said, several smaller studies have shown promise.
Among them, a 2015 study published in Rheumatology International reported that a three-month course of an oral hyaluronic supplement called Oralvisc offered relief to overweight adults with knee osteoarthritis. Among the 40 people in the study, those who received Oralvisc had a strong reduction in inflammatory proteins (called cytokines), as well as a higher concentration of hyaluronic acid in joint fluids.
A 2017 study in the Journal of Medical Food reported that an oral formulation of hyaluronan had similar effects. Among the 72 adults with knee arthritis who completed the study, those who received oral hyaluronates had lower pain scores, better sleep quality, and a significant reduction in pain medication use compared to those who received a placebo.
There is evidence that oral hyaluronic acid has “anti-aging” properties that can improve skin tone and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
According to a 2017 study in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigative Dermatology , 60 women and men with crow’s feet wrinkles experienced a reduction in wrinkle depth and volume, as well as improved skin radiance and suppleness, after 12 weeks of treatment with oral hyaluronan . Two different concentrations were used, each dosed at 120 milligrams (mg) per day.
Interestingly, those who provided the highest concentration experienced similar results as those who received the lowest concentration, albeit in a shorter period of time.
A 2017 study in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine also reported that a hyaluronic acid supplement containing biotin, vitamin C, copper, and zinc improved skin elasticity, texture, and moisture in 20 women, ages 45 to 60 years, after 40 days. In addition to a reduction in the depth of wrinkles, women experienced a 24.43% increase in skin hydration.
Possible side effects of hyaluronic acid
Due to a lack of research, little is known about the long-term safety of hyaluronic acid supplements. However, a 2016 review of studies in the Nutrition Journal reported that, of the 13 clinical trials reviewed, no notable side effects were reported in any of the 760 participating men or women.
This should not suggest that oral hyaluronic acid is completely free from side effects. When injected, hyaluronic acid is known to cause headaches, dizziness, itching, tingling, or swelling. The same could theoretically happen with oral hyaluronic acid, albeit slightly due to the lower dose.
In rare cases, hyaluronic acid can cause allergies. Since some forms of hyaluronic acid are derived from a rooster’s comb, people allergic to chicken feathers, protein, or eggs should use the supplement with caution. (Other forms of hyaluronic acid are synthesized through bacterial fermentation.)
Oral hyaluronic should be avoided in people with a history of cancer . According to a 2016 study in Clinical Drug Investigation , hyaluronic acid may promote cell growth and theoretically increase the risk of cancer recurrence.
The safety of hyaluronic supplements in children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers has not been established. It is also unknown if hyaluronic acid can interact with other drugs or supplements.
Dosage and preparation
Hyaluronic acid is also available as a dietary supplement that uses synthesized forms of the compound. Since hyaluronic acid levels decline as you age, hyaluronic acid supplements can help treat or prevent aging-related health conditions.
Hyaluronic acid supplements can be easily found online or at any number of pharmacies, health food stores, or specialty nutritional supplement stores. Unlike injectable hyaluronic acid, you don’t need a prescription.
Most hyaluronic acid supplements are sold in tablet, capsule, or softgel form, although there are some flavored and unflavored liquid formulations as well. Some OTC arthritis remedies also contain a combination of hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate.
There are no universal guidelines for the proper use of oral hyaluronic acid. Some manufacturers will recommend a daily dose of 200 mg, while others endorse up to 1,000 mg per day.
Despite claims to the contrary, there is no evidence that higher doses translate to better results. In fact, most clinical studies have limited the daily intake of hyaluronic acid to no more than 240 mg.
Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated, making it difficult to know which brands are reliable and which are not.
Always read the ingredient panel to check for substances you may be sensitive to, including gluten and other common allergens. If you don’t recognize an ingredient on a product label, check with your pharmacist.
If you are allergic to poultry or eggs, opt for brands labeled “vegan.” Even if you are not allergic, you will want to verify that the softgels are made with plant-based gelatin if you are strictly vegetarian or vegan.
Hyaluronic acid supplements can be stored in the refrigerator, but they can keep just as well in a cool, dry room. Discard any supplements that have expired or show signs of damage or moisture deterioration.
Hyaluronic Acid Serum Recipe
- 1/4 cup distilled water
- 1/2 teaspoon high molecular weight hyaluronic acid
- 1/4 teaspoon glycerin (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon Leucidal Liquid Preservative – Optional – (Fermented Radish Roots)
Put the powder in a small, clean jar. Pour in the distilled water and glycerin or leucide if used. Put a lid on the jar and shake well. It will look very thick at this point, but don’t worry. As the hyaluronic acid absorbs the water, the consistency will become smoother. Place in the fridge for several hours (or overnight) to thicken before using.
Shelf life: without a preservative inside in the refrigerator it can be up to two weeks. With a preservative, it can be stored at room temperature for up to three months.
How to use hyaluronic acid serum
Pour some serum from a clean jar onto your hands, this is preferable because dipping your hands directly into the jar can shorten the pot life, then apply a thin layer in the morning and before bed to cleanse the skin. If you use toner, apply it after it and before the moisturizer.
Important Tip: Hyaluronic Acid is humectant, which means that it draws moisture into itself. That’s part of what makes it amazing, but something to keep in mind is that in dry climates where there isn’t a lot of moisture in the air, it is possible that hyaluronic acid can draw moisture from the deeper layers of the skin to the surface. .
To avoid this, moisten your face and neck before applying hyaluronic acid. This way, you have a lot of water to bind. Then after the serum dries, you can add a layer of this hydrating skin repair serum or a sebum balm to seal in the moisture.