Ok, maybe I’m the only one, but I kept hearing people talk about ‘hydraulic acid’ on TikTok and wondered why I had never heard of this ‘amazing’ new skincare ingredient.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person confused because apparently, around 22,000 people a month are googling “hydraulic acid” as well as “what is hydraulic acid”, “hydraulic acid for skin”, “hydraulic acid serum”, etc.
I couldn’t find any results and it took me longer than I care to admit to work out that it’s actually just a mispronunciation of “hyaluronic acid”. No new skincare hero here!
However, hyaluronic acid is a pretty awesome skincare ingredient and here’s why…
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What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG) – a type of sugar – that can hold up to 1000x its weight in water. It’s found naturally all throughout your body but over 50% of your body’s HA is found in your skin.
It’s one of the main components of your dermis (the deeper layer of your skin), alongside collagen and elastin. Here, it helps increase the firmness and elasticity of your skin via it’s hydrating effects.
Hyaluronic acid is also present in your skin’s natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) which are your skin’s natural humectants that help regulate water in and out of the skin cells in your epidermis.
As you age, your body produces less hyaluronic acid which can reduce the volume of your dermis and your epidermal skin cells as well as decreasing overall skin hydration.
Visually, this can be seen as dry, cracked, and irritated skin with less bounce and more visible fine lines and wrinkles.
When you apply hyaluronic acid to your skin, it acts as a humectant to draw water from your dermis into your epidermis.
Humectants act differently depending on your environment. In humid environments, humectants can draw the moisture from the air around you into your skin but in dry climates they’re only able to draw water from your dermis.
Which is why it’s recommended to apply hyaluronic acid to damp skin and follow with an occlusive ingredient to prevent that water from escaping through your epidermis and dehydrating your skin.
Best Hyaluronic Acid Products:
La-Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum
What Are The Limits of Hyaluronic Acid?
Topical hyaluronic acid (e.g. serums, moisturizers, etc.) is excellent at hydrating skin.
However, because hyaluronic acid can’t penetrate your dermis, it won’t be particularly effective at increasing lost volume (aside from the temporary plumping effect from increased skin hydration).
One study did find that hyaluronic acid improved fine lines and wrinkles (as well as elasticity and hydration) after 8-weeks of use, with another study confirming its effect on elasticity. However, it’s not clear whether this is purely due to its hydrating effect.
In my personal opinion, while hyaluronic acid is a great ingredient, it’s a little overhyped. There are other humectants that are equally as effective and other hydrating skincare ingredients that are a bit more versatile.
Here are 5 hyaluronic acid alternatives that are worth considering.