Plumping it up: Why Hyaluronic Acid is a "must have" ingredient in your skincare regime

Daniel Judd BSc, MBiol

It may sound nasty but Hyaluronic Acid is one ingredient you need in your skin care products. Daniel Judd explains why. 

Hyaluronic acid is an incredibly popular ingredient for skin care products and is used in both injected fillers and topically applied creams. In fact, hyaluronic acid fillers are one of the most popular of all non-surgical cosmetic treatments. Your body naturally builds hyaluronic acid by sticking individual sugar molecules together end to end to form chains thousands of units long. These large chains are very good at grabbing and holding on to water molecules, giving them a jelly-like quality and making them perfect for their job of keeping your skin hydrated. As well as hydrating the skin, these large chains also play a space-filling role as they sit between your cells, contributing to the plumpness of your skin.

As you age though, your body slows down its hyaluronic acid production and the stores of it in the skin become depleted. This can lead to dry skin as skin loses moisture and wrinkles and sagging as the space it took up empties.


Hyaluronic acid fillers aim to undo this loss of skin plumpness by directly replenishing hyaluronic acid reservoirs in the skin through injections. Fillers can be injected around wrinkles to smooth out their appearance. As your body will very quickly break down any regular hyaluronic acid introduced to it, the hyaluronic acid is treated in a process called crosslinking which sticks the chains of sugar together.

Crosslinked hyaluronic acid is more resistant to break down meaning it lasts longer between treatments. As your body naturally stores hyaluronic acid in the layers of the skin, these fillers are well tolerated by the body and the cross linking process does not introduce any harmful chemicals into the mix. Some patients do however experience redness, swelling and bruising at the injection site.

Dr Steven Harris of the Harris Clinic in London said hyaluronic acid fillers are “for all people, men and women from their early 20’s onward who are looking for skin rejuvenation”. When asked about the limits of what these fillers could achieve, he said “Although we can achieve volume replacement, and we can reshape things, we can tighten things, it’s not surgery and there are limits to what we can do with it… Sometimes I’ll say you’ve come to the wrong place, that’s a face lift, we can’t do that”.

As a topical product, hyaluronic acid makes for an excellent moisturiser. Due its water holding nature it acts as a humectant, keeping the outer layers of the skin hydrated for longer and improving the appearance of dry skin. There is some evidence to suggest that topical hyaluronic acid can also improve the appearance of wrinkles as some of the hyaluronic acid applied to the skin can sink in deep enough to restore the natural internal stores of it. A study looking at this effect found that the size of the individual hyaluronic acid chains is very important to providing this effect as longer chains are too big to get into the deeper layers of the skin.

Hyaluronic acid is well deserving of its popularity as both a dermal filler and a topical moisturiser. As an injection it offers rejuvenation and tightening of the skin without the worry of rejection by the body. As a moisturiser, it does a great job of hydrating the outer layers of the skin and might even offer the same improvements as the fillers.


1.Fakhari, A. and C. Berkland, Applications and Emerging Trends of Hyaluronic Acid in Tissue Engineering, as a Dermal Filler, and in Osteoarthritis Treatment. Acta biomaterialia, 2013. 9(7): p. 7081-7092.

2.Papakonstantinou, E., M. Roth, and G. Karakiulakis, Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermato-endocrinology, 2012. 4(3): p. 253-258.

3.De Boulle, K., et al., A Review of the Metabolism of 1,4-Butanediol Diglycidyl Ether–Crosslinked Hyaluronic Acid Dermal Fillers. Dermatologic Surgery, 2013. 39(12): p. 1758-1766.

4.Pavicic, T., et al., Efficacy of cream-based novel formulations of hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights in anti-wrinkle treatment. J Drugs Dermatol, 2011. 10(9): p. 990-1000.

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