What’s the hype about hyaluronic acid?

What’s the hype about hyaluronic acid?

What is the hype?

I attended an educational event last year, where a product was being relaunched based on a marketing trend. The product looked at the most popular ingredient searches by consumers. And hyaluronic acid (HA) topped the charts with a staggering 75 000+ google searches. From a formulator point of view, this is a dangerous game, to bow to marketing trends. But is there something to be said for the popularity of HA, not only with consumers but manufacturers too?

The Science

HA was first synthesized in 1964 but it was discovered back in 1934. It is a polymer of glucuronic acid and glucosamine. Aptly named glycosaminoglycan or GAGS. Along with collagen and elastin, it is produced by the fibroblast, a cell not only found in the dermis, but it is also found in the interstitial spaces of organs. Fibroblasts are the most common cells of connective tissue in animals. By making HA, the fibroblast is responsible for retaining skin’s moisture, keeping the skin plump and cushioning cells with this shock-absorbing molecule. Skins that do not have the ability to create HA tend to be very dry and fragile, and bruise easily. Think of the days you suspended fruit in jelly. HA is the jelly that supports the skin’s structure and lubricates your joints.

From an aesthetic point of view, the claims for HA are fabulous. It has the ability to hold 1000 times its own weight in water so it helps to improve fine lines and wrinkles, address dehydration, makes for a healthier, more youthful and supple skin, and helps wound healing. Google Scholar, a more scientific-based search engine, yields 402,000 results for published articles on HA in 0.03 seconds.

The Consumer Conundrum

A simpler Google search for HA yields 65,900,000 results in less than a minute. Obviously, a hugely popular ingredient with both consumers and manufacturers, that search shows pages and pages of products, blogs, and popular opinions on HA. Putting myself in the shoes of a consumer, how would I even begin to choose which product is best and moreover, going to actually provide the advertised results. The search does not discern the hype from fact. The marketing from science. What the Google search does not take into consideration is that not all HA products are created equal.

It’s All About Molecular Weight

What consumers won’t realize unless they are a super-savvy investigative personality, but the kind of person that only has a small portion of the picture, is that there are in fact 3 types of HA; hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, sodium acetylated hyaluronate, and sodium hyaluronate.

Each has their own claims of benefits such as the hydrolyzed version is “chemically chopped up”, the acetylated hyaluronate claims to be a “super hyaluronic” and is synthetic and the sodium version purportedly is more easily absorbed.

Some studies such as the published articles by Jamie E Rayahin et al, on the Role OF HA On Macrophage Activation & Reprogramming,  and the SOFW Journal For Applied Science on Low Molecular Weight HA, confirm that Low Molecular Weight (LMW) HA has better absorption by the skin. And both confirm that short-chain HA under 50kda stimulates the release of inflammatory signals usually associated with wound healing. This activation of inflammatory cells is not an ideal outcome. Long-chain molecules, as large as 2000kda will not penetrate the skin. So what is the solution? Let’s talk about Goldilocks And The Three Bears.

The kleptomaniac little girl, who broke into the bear’s house and opted to eat the food that was not too hot nor too cold, and sleeps in the bed that was just the right amount of comfy, gives us the clue; the fragmentation of HA needs to be just right; medium-chain.

HA is produced by the fibroblast when a specific receptor is stimulated, mainly by vitamin A. But also, by medium length HA fragments. But even with just the right molecular chain length, HA will still need to be aided in order to penetrate the skin effectively. Enter stage right, the brilliance of Cosmetic Needling.

The Final Piece of the Puzzle.

Using a simple device that has many perfectly manufactured minute needles at just the right length creates tiny perforations in the outermost layer of the skin. This barrier is now more permeable and can accept larger molecules, previously unable to penetrate. Now we have a clear and unequivocal way to ensure the right kind of HA is in fact getting to where it needs to be, so it can ultimately live up to the high expectations and exceptional claims of a more youthful appearance.