Hyaluronic Acid, Hype or Help?

It’s the buzzword in the skin care industry, but it is worth it? And should you be using it topically or getting injections to get the best effect?

What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule occurring naturally in the skin and helping to bind water to collagen, trapping it in the skin so your skin can appear more hydrated.

It’s in your eyes, skin and joints and shows up in most mammal tissues. In general, the average human body has about 15g of hyaluronic acid, which is capable of binding over one thousand times its weight in water.

As we age, the production of hyaluronic acid, along with collagen and elastin, drops. Your skin then loses volume, hydration and plumpness.


When applied topically to the skin, larger hyaluronic acid molecules sit on top of the skin, offering hydration at the surface. Smaller hyaluronic acid molecules bind less water than larger molecules and can penetrate deeper into the skin, but only the topmost layer of skin. For the best surface hydration, buy a product containing hyaluronic acid molecules in a range of sizes.

If you’re fighting dry skin, a serum or moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid can help. But remember that topical hyaluronic acid will deliver hydration on the surface only. Topical hyaluronic acid is generally well tolerated, doesn’t usually irritate sensitive skin, and it is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Hyaluronic acid also is used in dermal fillers, many of which are in injectable gel form. These add volume by filling the area as well as drawing water to enhance the filling effect. These fillers are used to lift cheeks, soften folds and creases around the mouth and chin, improve sunken undereye circles, hydrate and enhance lips and rejuvenate hands and earlobes.

Best of all, hyaluronic acid fillers are reversible. So if you’re not happy, your dermatologist can insert the enzyme hyaluronidase to dissolve the filler within a matter of minutes.

For those with bee allergies, use caution because the enzyme in the hyaluronidase-based procedure to reverse hyaluronic acid is present in bee venom.