Beauty

What Is Hyaluronic Acid — And How Does It Help Reverse Signs of Aging?

Everything you need to know about this trendy skincare ingredient.

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Don’t be put off by its name. Hyaluronic acid (HA) does your body good — lots of good! Present in nearly every one of your tissues, it’s a major under-the-radar player in keeping your skin smooth and supple.

Why do we need it?

Youthful skin naturally abounds with HA. But aw we get older, we produce less and less of it, so that between ages 40 and 50, our levels dive to just half of what they were at age 20. The result? “The skin becomes like a balloon losing air,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at new York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “Less hyaluronic acid means less supple skin and more fine lines and wrinkles because there’s less fullness underneath them. Luckily, it’s not difficult to replenish your supply of HA.

So, what exactly is it?

Hyaluronic acid is gel-like substance that can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, “making it a key molecule in preventing aging,” says dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. Not only does it help keep everything from skin to joints lubricated, it also helps form the framework for fibroblasts, which generate the collagen that keeps skin supple. As a major component of tissue between cells, it provides plumpness and hydration by drawing water to the outer layers, adds Dr. Zeichner.

Does it work topically?

Yes! HA penetrates the skin’s upper layers easily. In fact, a study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found using products with 0.1 percent HA significantly improves skin hydration and elasticity. HA supplements also moisturize skin and increase collagen-sparking fibroblasts, reports Nutrition Journal.

Who should use it?

Anyone can benefit. Although mostly found in anti-aging creams for mature skin, HA is fast becoming a staple preventive for younger people looking to stave off the effects of aging for as long as possible.

How much do I need?

Dr. Zeichner advises daily use of a topical product such as Neutrogena Hydro Boost moisturize ($16.49, Amazon) or SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator ($151.30, Dermstore). Prefer a supplement? Follow the label for dosage. For instant, long-lasting effects, and MD can inject an HA filler beneath the skin to replenish lost volume. There’s an art to placing HA fillers, so make sure you go to a well-trained, board-certified dermatologist.

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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Reverse Aging.

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