ingredient focus: hyaluronic acid

I’ve got two words for you. Hyaluronic Acid. I recently attended the American Academy of Dermatology Conference (AAD) in Orlando, FL, and there was a buzz over this super-duper skincare ingredient. Drugstore brands like Neutrogena were touting it as the fountain of youth, featuring it in everything from moisturizers to makeup. I’ve also seen popping up in more natural and boutique brands recently. So what is it?

It’s in us already

Hyaluronic acid (HA), aka hyaluronan, is a naturally occurring carbohydrate in our body that helps trap moisture. It serves to cushion and lubricate joints, aids in wound repair, and gives our skin youthful suppleness by boosting the cellular volume, thus reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Able to hold 1000x its weight in water, hyaluronic acid lives all over the body, but we’re concerned with the HA skin’s epidermis and dermis. There, it sits both in between and within cells to aid in cell structure, development, and signaling. Unfortunately for us, environmental factors (like UVB rays, which degrade HA) and the natural aging process causes our inherent stores to diminish, decreasing the skin’s plumpness, accentuating face creases and the skin’s overall sagginess. By age 50, we’ve lost about half of these water-loving, glow-boosting molecules. So what’s a woman to do?


There are plenty of sources of this miracle worker, ranging from topicals to injectables, to even edibles. More often than not, these products rely on laboratory-derived (aka bacterial) or animal-derived (rooster combs) sources of HA.

Plenty of popular brands have boosted their products with hyaluronic acid, and Neutrogena’s new Hydro Boost line was a hot commodity at the AAD. From gel-creams to foundations to even concealers, they’ve infused a whole range of items with HA that you can find in your neighborhood drugstore.

Another topical product comes from celebrity esthetician and boutique facialist, Joanna Vargas. Her Daily Serum is HA-based and promises to boost the skin’s resilience. I have yet to try it, but its cult following sings its praises.

For the natural beauty lovers, the vegan brand Youth to the People (which has no parabens, artificial color or fragrance, sulfates, or phthalates) offers an Age Prevention Moisture Cream with kale, spinach, green tea, and hyaluronic acid that they claim will give you skin that will make babies jealous. Recently, I started using Juice Beauty’s Antioxidant Moisturizer with a bit of plant-based hyaluronic acid. I really love how it feels on my skin, and I swear it's even done a little plumping.

For more immediate and transformative results, there are HA injectables or fillers such as Restylane® or Juvederm™. Unlike the topicals above which sit on the surface and target minimal facial wrinkles, these fillers are multi-purpose and target severe wrinkles. Injected into the dermis, they diminish nasolabial folds (nose to lip wrinkles) and deep forehead and eyebrow creases, but they're also used to enhance lip fullness. Their plumping effects last anywhere from 6-12 months.

Can you get HA from your diet?

As much as I appreciate topical treatments, especially those that minimize controversial ingredients and their environmental impact, I also love trying to get as many skin-boosting nutrients through my diet. To boost our HA from the foods we eat, we can consume HA directly from foods or consume those nutrients that aid in the production and effectiveness of HA.

Animal broth houses a whole host of skin-boosting nutrients, HA included, as a result of the breakdown of bones and joints. The best kind is made from bones of grass-fed / free-range / local animals.  

Consuming magnesium enhances the production of HA. Look for it in leafy greens, black beans, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and coconut.

Vitamin C, collagen, and HA work together to create support and boost connective tissue formation. HA helps provide support for collagen (which relies on Vitamin C for formation) which aids in a youthful appearance and enhances HA effectiveness as an anti-ager. Look for citrus foods like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons in addition to strawberries and kiwi for vitamin C and humanely-raised animal protein sources for collagen.

And for those who love experimenting with the ever-expanding world of beauty edibles, there’s Fountain’s Super Hyaluronic Molecule, a beauty supplement that sources pure HA from snow mushrooms. Oh how I would love to see some before and after pics of a few weeks of consuming that!

About Those 8 Glasses...

HA may be able to hold lots of water, but remember it needs water to hold. Be sure to drink at least half of your weight in ounces, and even more if it’s warm or you’re particularly active, and munch on hydrating fruits and vegetables.   


Disclaimer: This post is not meant to endorse any particular product, but rather be informative, giving you information on different products and therapies out there. You can read more about my overall Skincare Philosophy here and follow me on Instagram to see what products I’m currently using.


Photos by: Katie Hennessey  |  @iamkatiehennessey
Styling by: Adelyn Duchala  | @aaduchala