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What is Hyaluronic Acid?

Yingdee Chew, MPharm

8 Dec 2017

It’s a naturally-occuring staple of anti-ageing and hydrating products – but are there health risks associated with it? Join the SkinNinja team as we take a deep dive into hyaluronic acid (not literally)…

What is hyaluronic acid?

The Oxford Dictionary  [1] defines hyaluronic acid as:

 “A polysaccharide molecule which is one of the chief components of connective tissue, forming a gelatinous matrix that surrounds cells”.

In other words, it is a polysaccharide (one of a group of molecules formed of long polymer chains of sugars), which is found naturally in our bodies within connective tissues, with half of it being found within the skin. It helps to form the framework in which our cells sit, and it plays an important role in retaining moisture.

Which skincare products contain hyaluronic acid?

Not surprisingly given hyaluronic acid’s properties, it is widely used in many cosmetic preparations. Apart from its use in certain eye surgeries, and as an aid to healing burns, scars and ulcers, as an injected dermal filler and an oral supplement, hyaluronic acid is used in topical products applied to the skin, where its water-retaining abilities help keep the skin supple and hydrated.

These properties are used to produce similar effects in a wide range of products, including skin hydrators, skin elasticity removers and fine line removers. Hyaluronic acid can be found in serums, creams, face masks, foundations, blushes, primers, lipsticks and more.

Is Hyalorunic acid good for wrinkles?

Hyaluronic acid has been a popular ingredient in most anti-ageing products. As we age, our skin loses its water content and the ability to preserve moisture, resulting in dryness and loss of firmness. Given hyaluronic acid’s properties, it has the ability to restore moisture that is important to having a more youthful-looking skin. At the same time, it rejuvenates the outer layer of the skin, making it look and feel softer and hydrated, and instantly reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

What are the health risks of hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a natural compound occurring in the skin, so adverse effects are rare in normal use. However, usage can occasionally (rarely) cause an allergic reaction [2] or mild, temporary redness and/or swelling.

Hyaluronic acid moisturises by drawing water from the environment. In very dry climates or conditions it is unable to do this from the air, and may draw moisture from deeper in the skin.

None of the concerns associated with topical usage of hyaluronic acid have been expressed alongside injection or oral use of the compound. However, use of injected hyaluronic acid is not advised while breastfeeding, owing to hyaluronic acid being excreted in breast milk and researchers not yet knowing the effects this excretion may have on breast milk and on an infant.

Hyaluronic acid is produced commercially from either an animal source (rooster combs) or a non-animal source (bioengineered from bacteria). The former route raises issues relating to possible bird product allergies or personal dietary practices.

How can I avoid hyaluronic acid?

If you are concerned, check your product list for sodium hyaluronate, sodium acetyl hyaluronate, hydrolysed hyaluronic acid, hyaluran and hyaluronan, as well as hyaluronic acid itself.

If you’re reacting badly to skincare products containing hyaluronic acid or just want to switch to something free of the compound, just download the SkinNinja app and get scanning! SkinNinja will generate a free, personalised Shelf Health report and recommend healthier, safer alternatives from one of the thousands of products in our database.


[1] Oxford Dictionary –

[2] WebMD –

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