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Science Behind Beauty Project

Hyaluronic acid


This first article of “The Science Behind Beauty Project” was written with my friend Lauren and featured on her blog Lauren Loves… The focus was on Hyaluronic Acid. Lots of skin creams nowadays such as L’Oreal Dema Genesis and L’Oreal True Match foundation say they contain hyaluronic acid and that this suppose to be proven to help smoothen wrinkles. I investigated these claims!

So, what is hyaluronic acid?

Molecularly, hyaluronic acid (HA) is a glucosaminoglycan (or GAG which is much better!), which basically means it is a long chain of sugar molecules linked together. It is naturally present in the body (at around 15g per person) and is important in a number of areas, like skin, neural tissues and cartilage for example.  In the cell, it contributes to lots of different processes including cell proliferation, tissue repair, hydrodynamics and cell surface interactions.

Does our natural hyaluronic acid help to smooth wrinkles?

In a way, yes. One third of our stores are used (and re-created) everyday and some of this goes to help regenerate certain skin cells (keratinocytes), rehydrate the skin (through interactions with retinoic acid) and increase collagen synthesis (by interacting with CD44). Research has shown that people who have a high natural content of HA in their diet tend to have less wrinkles.

What are its main uses in medicine and cosmetics?

HA is often used in treatment for eye surgery and arthritis, among other things, due to its other roles in the cell. Cosmetically, it is normally used as a filler. That is you would get an injection of HA directly under your skin. In this form, it definitely helps to smooth wrinkles: it will plump up the skin by adding volume and promote collagen synthesis and normal skin function. But as we have seen, our stores need to be replenished so any injection will only work as an ongoing treatment.

How would it work in a cream?

Right ladies, this is where it gets difficult. As we have seen, a high diet content or direct injections are one thing (and have research to prove they are of value), but what of slapping it directly on your skin? The problem here is that your skin isn’t just going to absorb anything you put on it and even if it did, it’s unlikely to absorb enough to really make a difference. I know this might be depressing but a lot of face creams don’t usually have a high enough concentration of these miracle products. The fact of the matter is, any cream which contains any kind protein will, at least for the day, make your skin feel tighter. This is because proteins are formed of long chains of molecules. In your cream, these proteins are all floppy and hydrated but when you apply them to the skin, they become rigid due to drying out. This will make you feel like your skin is tightening but as soon as you wash it off, it probably won’t have penetrated your skin.  It is also possible they are simply too big to pass through your skin. Although there is some budding research into smaller molecular versions of HA that might penetrate your skin, it is still in early stages and doubtfully what you fill find at the bottom of your face cream.

So what’s the verdict?

Personally, I wouldn’t splurge on expensive anti-wrinkles creams because they say they contain hyaluronic acid. Not just yet anyway. It’s possible that in the future, the lab minions will find a way for it to penetrate your skin properly, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Simple hydration does the trick I think, from the inside with plenty of water and outside (obviously I’m not saying all face cream is pointless,I believe hydration is key to healthy skin!).

Stay tuned for more articles on “The Science Behind Beauty Project”!!!

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Hyaluronic acid

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About me

Hi! My name is Natacha - I'm a research scientist and a lover of all things science! I love finding out interesting facts about all aspects of life, whether it's how genetic engineering works or what the difference between crimped and straight hair is. There's a bit of science behind every mystery and the Science Informant will help find the clues for everyone to enjoy and understand the amazing world of science!
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