Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ingredient: Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is being used in cosmetic products as a moisture booster, preventer of moisture loss, humectant, and anti-inflammatory. It is an anionic polysaccharide that has great water binding activity that might work as an anti-wrinkle ingredient at low levels, like 0.1% to 2%.

Hyaluronic acid is found in the middle spinous layer of our skin, not in the stratum corneum or stratum granulosum. Its role in skin hydration is not completely known, but it is a very powerful humectant that can bind a thousand times its weight in water and it does help our skin in retaining said water for hydration. Older and dry skin is characterized by lower levels of HA, with 50 year old skin having about half the HA it had when younger. So far studies are showing that topical application of HA won't penetrate your skin to increase the amount in the stratum spinosum, although it will make your stratum corneum feel nicer. (The molecules are simply too big!)

If it doesn't penetrate through our skin, does it do it any good? Yes, it does. Studies are showing that the application of topical HA of various molecular weights can form films on the skin that will increase moisture, reduce moisture loss, speed up wound healing, reduce inflammation, and decrease the formation of age spots. It softens the skin and restores elasticity to skin, which can reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

How do we use it? As usual, I recommend you use the suggestions from your specific supplier when figuring out how to use it as this ingredient comes in many different weights. The lower the molecular weight, the more chance there is that the HA will penetrate your skin, so check the listing from the supplier to see what the weight of the product is and how much to use. I cannot stress this enough. You can't assume that all hyaluronic acids are the same. You can find ultra low molecular weight, super low molecular weight, low molecular weight, and not listed molecular weight in powder form. You can also find it as a liquid with the HA in it as a percentage, for instance at 1% in the container, which means that bottle has 1% HA in it. (If you use 10% of that 1% liquid, you'd get 0.1% HA in your product.)

I'm using the low molecular weight or LMW hyaluronic acid from Lotioncrafter, and its recommended use is 0.01% to 2%. This post from Making Cosmetics notes that you don't want to go over 2% as it will clump because all the water is bound. And, in the research I've done, it doesn't seem like there's any point in using more than 2% as it doesn't offer more moisturizing or other benefit.

It's not an inexpensive ingredient - 10 grams will run you $15 to $25 depending on the weight - so you want to use as little as you need to get the maximum benefits. You can make up the gel from the recipe to which I've linked below, then use that gel in your products. For instance, if you wanted to use 0.1% in a product, you could add 0.1% HA into the product, or you could add 5 grams of the gel to the product. (10 grams has 0.2 grams HA, so 5 grams would have 0.1 grams HA.) Either way, you're getting 0.1% HA.

I made a gel using this recipe and found it a simple recipe to make. I sprinkled in the HA, mixed well by hand, then I left it for three hours and came back to a lovely looking gel! As you can see, it is completely clear, and doesn't feel sticky on skin.

I've been testing it over the last few weeks. So far the results are pretty awesome! My mother and best friend are using it under their night time moisturizer and both feel that their skin looks plumper and smoother. I've started using it at night on its own as I don't use a moisturizer, and I feel that my skin feels moister than it did before using it.

You can use it alone in a gel format, with other ingredients in a gel format, or you could add it to things like lotions, moisturizers, or any other water containing product.

Here's a recipe from for a serum that includes it. Here's a recipe from Lotioncrafter that also includes Vitamin C, Vitamin E, panthenol, and more, and a simpler recipe that contains HA and panthenol! As I'm still in the process of playing with this ingredient, I don't have my own recipes to share, but I can tell you that the gel I list above from Lotioncrafter feels just awesome!

Handbook of Cosmetic Science & Technology, 3rd edition
This study (although they used human growth factor and don't indicate how much of what weight HA they used, so take it with a grain of salt)
This study, which is about reduction in facial seborrheic dermatitis
This study, which indicated it could be used for faster wound healing
Lotioncrafter posting
Factsheet from Making Cosmetics (they had a better one that I saved on my computer)


Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

I did some research on this ingredient, and it looks like there are quite a few studies that will vouch for the benefits of HA at 0.1-0.2% for wrinkle reduction. However, as you pointed out, you'd probably want low molecular weight HA in order to ensure deeper penetration into the skin. The problem with this is that low molecular weight HA can cause skin irritation. I found a study that compared irritation/inflammation at various molecular weights, and it suggests that HA with a molecular weight of around 50 kDa would be ideal. Lotion Crafter's low molecular weight (LMW) HA is 80-110 kDa, so it should suffice.

I also read that HA's outstanding water binding ability may actually be harmful in dry climates, because if the air is too dry, it will pull moisture from the skin!


Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid:
Its Effects on Epidermal Gene Expression &
Skin Ageing

Efficacy and Tolerability of Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid Sodium Salt 0.2% Cream in Rosacea
Does Your Skin Need Hyaluronic Acid?

Wendy Gaechter said...

I just ordered some of this. Going to give it a try.

Elizabeth Aqui-Seto said...

Susan, I've been hoping that you would review and provide your comments on Hyaluronic Acid; and I am so happy to read your comments and see that you also love this product.

I got caught up with all the hype about HA and purchased HA from Lotioncrafter over a year ago.

I found a recipe on the net for a Hydrating B5 Gel, which I've been using for the last year, and thoroughly enjoy the results. There was a bit of trial and error with the HA-SLMW that I used. I was expecting it to gel, but this weight clearly states SLMW will not form a viscous gel in water, which of course I had forgotten, and had to phone Lotioncrafter to get some help. They were very helpful and explained the differences to me.

In any event, I love my serum. Here is the recipe, if anyone is interested in trying it. I use it before I apply my moisturizer. I feel there has been a noticeable difference in how my skin feels and I also feel the laugh lines around my mouth are less visible since using my HA serum. I think you can tell that I love this product and if there's one item, as a Canadian with the dollar trading below $.80cents against the US$, I'm gonna be buying more HA from the US, unless I can get my supply from Canada?

Hydrating B5 Gel (Serum) for face

91% Distilled (I use Neroli floral water)
5% dl Panthenol
3% Leucidal Liquid
1% Hyaluronic Acid
1. Combine water, dl-Panthenol and Leucidal Liquid and stir until dl Panthenol is fully dissolved.
2. Sprinkle HA on surface of water and mix well with paddle mixer until mixture is smooth and evenly hydrated (this can take up to 45 minutes).
Alternately, you can sprinkle the HA on top of the water, mix it in and let it sit for up to 3 hours to fully hydrate and then mix it again until the mixture is thick and of a uniform consistency. With either method, white clumps or streaks of HA will disappear and the mixture will thicken when it is fully hydrated.

Makes approximately 100 grams or 3.5 ounces of serum

Elizabeth Aqui-Seto said...

Haha, I just realized the 'simple recipe' I've been using is from Lotioncrafter.

Wendy Gaechter said...

Thanks for the recipe, Elizabeth. I purchased LMW HA (found it on Amazon). I suppose your initial problem with the setting was related to using "S"LMW instead of LMW HA? I saw that Lotioncrafters had both types. I cannot wait to try your recipe!

Wendy Gaechter said...

Just noticed that the LMW HA sold by CosChem on Amazon has 8,000-15,000 Daltons, which is less than Lotioncrafter LMW HA weight, so your recipe probably won't "gel" and will be more like water (Lotioncrafter sells a new ULMW HA which is more like the one I ordered, I suppose). So, there is definitely a difference in weight and names between suppliers!

Elizabeth Aqui-Seto said...

Wendy, even though my finished product is "more like water" I'm happy with this. Initially, I had hoped to get some gelling, but I've grown to like it. I squirt a bit in the palm of my hand, and pat on my face. It absorbs very quickly in the skin and is very easy to apply.

On my next order, I'm thinking that I'll probably stay with the SLMW. But who knows, there might be another HA prod to choose from at Lotioncrafter. When I ordered my HA, there were only two choices at the time. Now there are four to choose from.

Kim Vermeiren said...

Is this a product like AHA?
Do you need to protect your skin from direct sunlight because it is an acid? (Like you have to do with AHA)


Wendy Gaechter said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. Now I know I will be putting this into a spay bottle. Do you only use just one spray? Have you had any irritation if you've used more?Lastly, do you use this under your makeup or at nighttime? My understanding is that although we will not have a "gel" product, we are getting maximum absorption with the lower molecular it's all good.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Scott! Check out this post on glycerin and dry weather. Just apply an occlusive on top of it and you'll be fine!

Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for your comments!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the tip! I'll be making my first batch of moisturizer soon, and since the humidity is really low, I want to be sure I get it right the first time. I have dimethicone and shea butter in the recipe, so I think I'll be OK. I don't have any HA, but it sounds like something I'd like to try in my next experimental batch!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Kim. Check out this post on AHA and see if you notice any similarities!

Wendy Gaechter said...

OK! Just made Susan's simple recipe using the LMW HA. I got it from Lotioncrafter. Returning the other because it was less than 1000 Daltons. The gel came out very nice. I will be trying it after my shower. I still need a moisturizer, so I will work on that next. I also made an eye serum out of Sea Kelp Bioferment and Eyeseryl (a little less than 10%) from Lotioncrafters. I tried it out and it felt really nice. It's supposed to help with bags, circles and wrinkles. Hoping to find a replacement for the Sea Kelp because it was costly. Thinking Aloe Gel? might work.

Patricia said...

Hi Susan,
My name is Patricia. I've been reading your blog lately (I'm already a huge fan!!!).

This simple HA recipes are on my "first-to-try list" but I need to get confidence before putting my hands on them.

At this initial point, a stupid question came to me:
Why these easy HA solutions don't need to be heated first?
(As you usually remark the importance of heating the water phase)

Sorry for my lack of knowledge.
Keep on teaching us!

Patricia said...

Hi again,

I want to add the only information I've been able to find related to my previous question.

If these HA recipes are made in good (clean) lab practices, they maybe don't need to be sterilized for topical use (which however would be a must for medical use!).

I found this article:

which says:
[It seems that the higher purity of microbial HA could be more appropriate for use in medical and pharmacological applications (e. g. sterilization)]

And they studied the stability of various HA solutions (of different molecular weights):
[The molecular chain of the HA can be depolymerized quite easily under pressure, heating, radiation, oxidation and enzymatic hydrolisis]
[Treatment at temperatures from 60 to 90ÂșC for 1 h results in only mild depolymerization, which corresponds to a decrease in molecular weight to about 2.10^5]

That brings me another question:
So, could we actually buy high molecular weight HA and by heating the solution, having a sterilized and lower molecular weight HA? Sounds good! ;-)


Ellsie said...

Hi friends, has anyone found a Canadian supplier for Hyaluronic Acid? It's such a popular ingredient, you'd think that somebody would carry it!

Rin said...

Hi Susan! Is there any difference between Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate? They are the same right?
Thanks! Rin

Rin said...

Oh and to add on, what is the deal with Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid?
Thanks! Rin

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rin! Nope, sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid (Wikipedia), so it's not the same thing. But it is considered to be more effective than some forms of hyaluronic acid, interestingly enough!

Where did you see hydrolyzed HA? Can you send me a link?

Rin said...

Thanks for the reply!
I read about it on this website, and this is what it states:
"Having a low molecular weight, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid does not need to be salified, as it has a high solubility and it is able to penetrate the stratum corneum, stimulating the synthesis of collagen and keeping the skin moisturized, compact and elastic."
I've also came across this ingredients in various moisturising products!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rin! I don't understandy why someone would salify or make the hyaluronic acid salty. It sounds like there might be a translation error?

KM said...

Hello Susan,

Although this thread seems to be inactive for almost a year, I thought I'd share a few recent research findings that go a long way to clear up industry-generated confusion surrounding HA and its molecular weight.
The scientific consensus (discounting industry-sponsored research) currently seems to be that HMW HA induces the generation of fibrocytes that promote the healing of damaged tissue, whilst LMW HA is responsible for inhibiting the differentiation of monocytes into fibrocytes. Moreover, LMW HA has been found to decrease the levels of the HA receptor CD44.
It therefore seems counterproductive to use LMW topically to promote the healing of damaged tissue. Whilst HMW HA is simply too large to penetrate the skin, recent research shows that it is, in fact, naturally present in the stratum corneum itself.
In light of recent research findings, it would perhaps be best to avoid products containing LMW HA and opt for HMW HA instead - retaining all of its humectant properties and boosting the HA content of the stratum corneum.
For deeper insight into the issues outlined above, see:
Hope the above was helpful.
Keep up the good work!