If you’re new to the world of actives, the name ‘hyaluronic acid’ might sound a little scary. Some skincare shopping lists might even sound a little like a junior cert chemistry exam, to those who are new to the game. But, don’t worry - that’s why we’re here to help! So, let’s start with the basics - what is hyaluronic acid?
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid, or HA, is a substance that is naturally produced by our bodies. It’s a gel-like substance that we use to lubricate our joints as well as helping to hold moisture in our skin.
You can find it in our cartilage, bones, tendons, ligaments and even in our lips! But, more than half of the hyaluronic acid in the body is located in our skin.
Hyaluronic acid is similar to collagen as it naturally depletes as we age. This is because as we get older, the body slows down HA production. Just like it does with collagen. Therefore, it’s important to include it in your skincare routine, especially as you get a little older.
But, why would you want to put acid on your face? Although it sounds like the last thing you would want to do - certain mild acids are great for your skin.
Cast your mind back to that junior certificate science exam again. Do you remember the pH scale? It’s a scale that shows how acidic and basic substances are. 1 is acidic and 14 is basic. Therefore, 7 is neutral. Interestingly, your skin actually sits at about 4.7, so it’s slightly acidic!
Generally speaking, hyaluronic acid ranges from about 5 to 7 on the pH scale. Because it’s close to the natural pH of your skin, it won’t upset the balance or damage the natural moisture barrier.
Is hyaluronic acid like other acids that we use in skincare?
When we talk about using acids in skincare, the majority of the time we use them as chemical exfoliators. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) dissolve the glue that holds dead skin cells together, meaning we can remove them without scrubbing and potentially damaging the skin.
However, hyaluronic acid is a little different. So, what is hyaluronic acid if it’s not an exfoliant? It’s known as a humectant which means it sucks moisture into the skin and holds it there. So, how is it different from a moisturiser? Well, it offers more intense hydration.
Using a hyaluronic serum before moisturising, or using an HA-infused moisturiser, helps the skin absorb moisture into multiple layers of the skin. In contrast, some moisturisers simply sit on top of the skin and only hydrate the top layer.
Hyaluronic acid also helps the skin retain moisture, helping hydrate it for longer. Impressively, a single gram of HA can hold up to 6 litres of water!
The substance interacts with the skin cells to help them retain and regulate the moisture that they hold, making sure that they get just the right amount.
Because man-made hyaluronic acid products mimic the natural HA in our skin, it’s very gentle. Therefore, it can be used much more often than other acids like AHAs and BHAs. They’re also far less likely to irritate the skin.
Why is hydration so important though?
Now that we can answer the question of “what is hyaluronic acid?”, let’s take a look at why hydration is so important in the first place.
When it comes to healthy, happy skin, the number one rule is hydration! If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know that we never stop talking about hydration (and SPF). But if you’re new, we’ll take a quick look at why hydration is so important in your skincare routine.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it acts as a barrier to protect your organs against harmful environmental factors like pollution, UV rays, and germs. But to do this effectively, your skin needs to stay hydrated.
The outer layer of the skin is known as the natural moisture barrier - it’s the outermost wall of the fort that protects you. This layer is protected by natural oils that the body produces, to make sure it’s flexible and healthy. However, using abrasive or stripping products can remove the skin’s natural oils, leaving the skin feeling tight and dry.
When the skin becomes dehydrated, it loses elasticity. Therefore, it’s more likely to crack and break. This allows harmful bacteria to get in, causing breakouts or infections. It also leaves the skin looking and feeling dull and tired - not what we want at all.
That’s where hyaluronic acid comes in. HA helps to restore and retain moisture to the skin, keeping it healthy and glowing.
Benefits of hyaluronic acid for skin
Hydration isn’t just important for maintaining the skin’s natural protective barrier. It’s also important in managing skin conditions and skin concerns.
HA and acne-prone skin
Most of us will suffer from acne at some point in our lives and it’s completely normal. However, making sure the skin is properly hydrated can help minimise breakouts.
Breakouts occur when excess oil (sebum) mixes with bacteria and clogs the pores. However, the best way of managing excess sebum is not by removing it from the skin. It’s by hydrating properly - that’s why we recommend hyaluronic acid.
When the skin becomes dehydrated, it amps up sebum production to compensate. Making the skin far too oily which often leads to breakouts. Intensely hydrating products like HA can deeply hydrate the skin, which in turn helps curb sebum production.
Want more tips for creating an effective routine for acne-prone skin? We've got you covered - check out our easy skincare routine for acne-prone skin!
HA and sensitive skin
The intensely hydrating effects of hyaluronic acid are also beneficial to those of us who suffer from inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
These conditions often flare up when the skin becomes dry. Therefore, using HA as part of your regular skincare routine can keep the skin hydrated, and minimise flare-ups. Because it’s so gentle on the skin, it’s unlikely to trigger any reactions either.
HA and ageing skin
When the skin becomes dehydrated, it can also accentuate signs of ageing.
Fine lines and wrinkles may become more prominent and the skin appears less plump and firm. Making sure the skin is properly hydrated, using HA, can also help to lessen the signs of ageing.
Who can use hyaluronic acid for skincare?
As we mentioned, hyaluronic acid has many uses. But who can use it? The good news is that HA is suitable for all skin types and can be used to tackle a range of skin concerns.
Unlike other actives, hyaluronic acid is extremely gentle on the skin. It mimics the naturally occurring substance so it’s unlikely to cause any adverse or allergic reactions.
It’s also suitable for everyday use - you can even use it as part of your morning and evening routines if you’d like.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Hydration is key when caring for skin of all types, including oily, acne-prone skin and sensitive skin. Hyaluronic acid doesn’t just benefit these skin types by providing intense hydration though, it may also offer anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that it can help reduce redness, swelling and discomfort associated with flare-ups and breakouts. Therefore, it means it can help alleviate symptoms of current breakouts/flare-ups whilst also helping to prevent them in the future.
Hydration is also key when caring for ageing skin, but hyaluronic acid may also help by providing antioxidants. Studies have also shown that HA may help to protect the skin from free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules that can damage the make-up of our cells. Pollution, tobacco smoke, and UV rays are all examples of antioxidants. This damage to the cells can cause premature signs of ageing, congestion, uneven skin tone, and blemishes - yikes!
The best way of protecting the skin against free radicals is by adding antioxidants into your daily routine. In addition, they can help to even the skin tone and leave the skin clear, plump and glowing.
Does using hyaluronic acid for skin have side effects?
HA is super gentle on the skin and therefore, it’s suitable for all skin types. However, if you have sensitive skin, don’t tempt fate. Whilst it’s unlikely to irritate your skin, we always recommend doing a patch test when using new products. Better to be safe than sorry!
Whilst HA is suitable for use when pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s worth noting that other ingredients may not be. For example, if you’re opting for an infused moisturiser or cream, make sure to check the ingredients. Alternatively, you can check with your doctor before using new products.
Where does hyaluronic acid fit into my routine?
Now that we know the benefits of using hyaluronic acid for the skin, let’s take a look at where it fits into your skincare routine.
Because it’s so gentle on the skin, it’s amazingly easy to use. Therefore, you can slip it seamlessly into your skincare routine with very little effort. You can either opt for an infused moisturiser, serum, or infused cream.
If you’re a fan of serums, it’s best to apply them in order from thinnest to thickest. Therefore, one of the biggest hyaluronic acid serum benefits is how easy you can slot it in with the rest of your serums.
You can add the serum into your morning and evening routines, after cleansing and toning. Then, finish up with your regular moisturiser and SPF (if using as part of your morning routine).
Using infused moisturisers and creams is probably the easiest way of slipping HA into your daily routine. If you’re using a moisturiser, you can simply use it as you would normally moisturise - after cleansing, toning and applying serums.
If you’re opting for an infused cream, it may differ slightly where you pop it into your routine, based on the type of cream. For example, our Correcting Eye Cream contains hyaluronic acid. We recommend you apply this after cleansing and toning, before applying other serums. This gives it a chance to absorb into the delicate skin around the eyes.
Can you mix HA with other active ingredients?
When you think hyaluronic acid doesn’t get any better, it does! You can easily mix it with other active ingredients in the same routine.
You can use it before/after using antioxidants like retinol, niacinamide and vitamin C serums. They work in harmony with each other to boost hydration, antioxidant effects and can help soothe the skin, reducing any possible irritation.
Using chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs can be quite strong on the skin. So, using hyaluronic acid after your weekly peel can really help restore moisture to the skin and reduce any inflammation.
Hyaluronic acid, unlike other acids, does not increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Therefore, you can use it as part of your morning and evening routines.
We would recommend leaving it to settle into the skin before applying other serums on top of it though. Applying additional serums, like niacinamide, on top immediately afterwards can often lead to pilling.
Although we usually associate pilling with knitwear, it can happen with the skin when products build up and roll into little balls (gross!). This can be a bit of a nightmare if you intended on putting makeup on top, as your makeup will go into weird little balls too.
So, you just need to take your time with it. Let it sink in whilst you brush your teeth and when you’re finished, you should be good to go!
What are the best hyaluronic acid products to use?
There are tonnes of hyaluronic acid products on the market - from serums to infused creams. All of which are super easy to add to your skincare routine. However, our favourite has to be our Poko-perfect Correcting Eye Cream.
The eyes are often referred to as windows into the soul and whilst this is a beautiful sentiment, they can really give us away if we’re not feeling 100%.
When we’re tired or dehydrated, our eyes are sure to give us away. This is because dehydration can emphasise fine lines, wrinkles and puffiness in the delicate skin around the eyes. But that’s where our Correcting Eye Cream comes in.
By using an infused eye cream, you can deliver hydration as well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory goodness to where you need it the most. As we know, the skin around the eyes is super delicate so using a gentle hydrating product, like HA, is ideal.
Summing things up
In case it wasn’t clear from the above article, we absolutely adore hyaluronic acid! Not only does it offer intense hydration by locking in moisture, but it is also helpful in other ways.
Because of its antioxidant properties, it can help protect the skin against potentially harmful free radicals, reducing the risk of damage to our skin.
In addition, HA has soothing qualities that can help reduce redness, discomfort, and swelling for those of us who suffer from acne-prone skin or inflammatory skin conditions.
The best part? Because it’s so gentle on the skin, it can help reduce the appearance of breakouts and flare-ups without irritating the skin further. This means it can help soothe current skin concerns, as well as help prevent future flare-ups.
Because hyaluronic acid is so gentle on the skin, it’s the ideal candidate for mixing with other active ingredients. For example, it can be paired with antioxidants to boost their effectiveness. Or, you can use them after your weekly chemical exfoliating session, to restore moisture and soothe the skin.
In addition, you can pair them with plant extracts to create a peaceful powerhouse that will care for your skin without irritating it. No wonder we're so crazy about hyaluronic acid!