Cosmeceuticals—a marriage between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals—is the fastest-growing segment of the natural personal care industry. And it’s no wonder. Because if you’re like most people over 40 you want to avoid or get rid of the crow’s feet around your eyes and the vertical lines above your lips.
One of the newest cosmeceuticals to hit the market is hyaluronic acid.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a non-sulfated glycosaminoglycan distributed widely throughout the body in the connective, epithelial, and neural tissues. It is one of the chief components of the extracellular matrix and contributes significantly to cell proliferation and migration. The average person has roughly 15 grams of hyaluronic acid in their body, one third of which is lost and replaced each day.1
How does it work?
The surface layers of the skin are supported from below by columns of fibers made up mostly of collagen and elastin. This network of fibers forms the molecular sponge known as connective tissue.
Keeping Your Skin Hydrated—Hyaluronic Acid and Collagen
The spaces within this sponge are filled with a composition of water, protein complexes, and hyaluronic acid. This jelly-like complex transports essential nutrients from the bloodstream, via the capillaries in your skin. Hyaluronic acid attracts and holds water, which is what plumps your skin so that wrinkles and lines are less visible.
With properties like that, it is clear that hyaluronic acid is vital to:
- Curb premature wrinkling
- Increase skin hydration
- Keep skin moist and smooth
- Boost skin elasticity
- Enhance collagen synthesis
- Nourish healthy skin cell growth
- Promote firm skin tone
- Support healthier joints
Searching for beauty in all the wrong places
In 2005, Americans spent more than $12.5 billion on cosmetic procedures that promise to help restore the dewy glow of youth. With baby boomers and more men looking for innovative ways to slow the aging process, it’s estimated that the medical-aesthetic economy—including device sales and doctors’ fees—will soon surpass $20 billion.
The problem is, Botox, chemical peels, and fillers are temporary quick fixes, expensive and not without risk. Botox is delivered in tiny, non-lethal doses of botulinum toxin, which interferes with nerve function for months at a time. In the end, it could very well cause permanent nerve damage. Injected fillers meant to plump up wrinkles and lines can result in infection, bruising, swelling, and pain.
And honestly—if you’ve been trying hard to eat a healthy diet, and supplement it with nutritional supplements why would you even consider injecting your face with chemicals?
Hyaluronic acid is a healthy alternative for fighting the effects of aging … and the good news is that it’s inexpensive, natural, and free of side effects.
“… it’s also important to replenish diminishing stores of hyaluronic acid, because HA is one of the skin’s most important components for hydration and moisture retention.”
Nourish your skin from the inside out
Slathering your skin with topical creams and ointments helps protect against the elements, but the best way to maintain moist, beautiful skin is to nourish it from the inside out. Drinking 8-10 glasses of purified water each day is important, but it’s also important to replenish diminishing stores of hyaluronic acid, because HA is one of the skin’s most important components for hydration and moisture retention. And without the proper levels of HA in the upper layers of the epidermis, your skin appears dull and wrinkled.
Can a hyaluronic acid supplement really help?
According to this theory, it can. We’re all exposed to free radicals through daily exposure to UV rays and environmental pollutants, which inevitably degrades and destroys hyaluronic acid. HA begins to decrease in your early 20s and this accelerates when you hit 40. (In fact, 50 year olds are estimated to have less than half the hyaluronic acid of people in their 20s.)4 There is a decrease in the amount of hyaluronic fluid and its synthesis, which in turn leads to a decrease in intra-cellular fluid. This results in skin that is drier and more vulnerable to damage.
The formation and maintenance of collagen, which is also vital to maintaining skin elasticity and tone, is affected. You begin to notice more crow’s feet and wrinkles because your skin loses its elasticity.
Luckily, you can enhance the amount and absorption of HA by taking an inexpensive, natural nutritional supplement. And the added bonus is that HA helps support healthy joints!
- HA is a member of the family of molecules called glycosaminoglycans, which also includes chondroitin sulfate. It is an excellent lubricant in the body.
- Hyaluronic acid is produced in the human body and is found in the tissues of all animals.
- HA is also a major ingredient of the synovial fluid that lubricates and cushions joints. Without the appropriate levels of HA, the synovial fluid loses its ability to perform, which leaves the joints unprotected and the cartilage undernourished.
- HA was isolated about sixty years ago from vitreous humor that fills the inner chamber of the eye.
- Its name is derived from the Greek word for glass (hyalos), which accurately describes its transparent, glassy appearance.
- In skin, HA, along with water and protein complexes, fills the spaces in connective tissue.
- The nature of HA’s molecular structure makes it ideal for attracting and holding water.
Although there are numerous studies on the injectable form of HA into knee joints and facial skin, at this time there are no human trials evaluating the oral benefits of hyaluronic acid.
You can spend hundreds—even thousands of dollars each year on topical moisturizers that help soften your skin. But if you want to truly give your skin the moisture it needs to maintain elasticity, strengthen collagen and minimize wrinkles and age spots, it’s a good idea to increase your levels of hyaluronic acid. Although it’s not proven, it makes sense that a natural hyaluronic acid supplement might help. And if maintaining healthy, beautiful skin is important to you, then it’s definitely worth a try.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.
Stern R (August 2004). “Hyaluronan catabolism: a new metabolic pathway”. Eur J Cell Biol 83 (7): 317-25. PMID 15503855.
Fraser JR, Laurent TC, Laurent UB. Hyaluronan: its nature, distribution, functions and turnover. J Intern Med. 1997 Jul;242(1):27-33.
Laurent TC, Laurent UB, Fraser JR. The structure and function of hyaluronan: An overview. Immunol Cell Biol. 1996 Apr;74(2).
Meyer, L.J.M. & Stern, R. (1994) Age-dependent changes in hyaluronan in human skin. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 102. 385-389.