Skin-care devotees and novices alike have heard about the hydrating wonders of hyaluronic acid, and since everyone wants the glowiest, most supple skin possible, there’s been a huge increase in the number of HA serums and creams on the market these days. The common refrain is that hyaluronic acid can hold up to a thousand times its weight in water, which in turn allows your skin to feel bouncier, smoother, and more deeply hydrated. But within the world of skin care, if something sounds too good to be true, there’s a good chance that it is. So are there any alternative ingredients that are actually more effective than HA, but are perhaps not as flashy or marketable? In the quest to get the glowiest and most moisturized skin possible, we decided to do some digging.
As a quick refresher, HA is a molecule (technically a glycosaminoglycan, or long linear chain of polysaccharides) that is uniquely adept at binding to and retaining water molecules. It is naturally occurring within the body as a part of the extracellular matrix—molecules that lie between the cells of the epidermis, dermis, and underlying subcutis that provide a constructive framework and affect cellular function. Of all the HA found in the body, over 50 percent is within the skin. But as we age, the levels in our epidermis decrease dramatically (although, for reasons unknown, the dermal levels stay relatively stable). A lack of hyaluronic acid molecules means less water is being held within the skin, which is why we tend to get drier when we’re older. Dry skin also shows more wrinkles and fine lines. So the most logical thing would be to add a topical HA to our current skin-care routine, right?