Hyaluronic acid is now widely available as the miracle ingredient used in serums, skin creams and injectable fillers. But what is it and why is it touted as THE answer to youthful skin? In this blog post we look at hyaluronic acid and skin and the ways in which it can be used to gain a smoother, more youthful complexion, its use in dermal filler to smooth out wrinkles, restore volume and as a lip filler to give fuller, plumper lips.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a natural protein present in the middle layer of our skin. It has an important structural role – basically it is fills up the space between cells giving skin its volume and firmness. Scientific studies have shown hyaluronic acid to maintain skin elasticity, to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory functions, stimulate production of collagen in the skin and work as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger. It is also an effective moisturiser as hyaluronic acid adds volume not only through the physical hyaluronic acid itself but also by drawing in water.
The health benefits of hyaluronic acid became widely known in the early 2000s after a reporter visited the Japanese village of Yuzurihara and wrote an article on the longevity and youthful appearance of the elderly men and women in the village. Many villagers over 80 and 90 years old had smooth skin, thick hair, flexible joints and were very active for people of that age. Dr Toyosuke Komori, the town’s doctor, suggested that the reason for this was that the low-iron, sticky vegetable-based diet (lots of soya and tofu) of the villagers promotes hyaluronic acid levels in the body.
As we age, the body produces less hyaluronic acid which results in the skin losing its volume and firmness leading to sagging skin, thinner lips and wrinkles (check out our blog post on skin ageing). It is estimated that by the time we reach our mid-40’s, the synthesis of hyaluronic acid is approximately half that required by our body. Fortunately, it is possible to supplement the amount of hyaluronic acid in the body. This can be done either by eating a diet that either contain hyaluronic acid or encourages its production in the body, topically applying hyaluronic acid to the skin or injecting hyaluronic acid directly into the skin or lips as a filler.
The source of hyaluronic acid in the Japanese village of Yuzurihara is the local diet. This is a low-iron vegetable-based diet which consists primarily of carbohydrates such at satoimo (a sticky potato) and imoji (a potato root) as well as tofu and soya. Outside of Japan, foods such as leafy greens, root vegetables and soy products (which contain hyaluronic acid) may be easier to get ahold of. Homemade soups and broths made from animal bones, connective tissues and skin are another great source of hyaluronic acid. Those who enjoy a tipple will be pleased to learn that red wine can stimulate production of hyaluronic acid in the body. While hyaluronic acid is available as a supplement there is still controversy over its efficacy.
Topical applications of hyaluronic acid
One way to regain that youthful complexion is by applying topical hyaluronic acid cremes, masks and serums. These products work as a moisturiser and act as a hydrophilic reservoir on the skin to slow the evaporation of water. Whilst a number of products on the market use a smaller sized hyaluronic acid which is supposed penetrate deeper into the skin to smooth lines and wrinkles in the skin, more studies are needed to conclusively prove this.
Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers
Hyaluronic acid can be injected into the skin in order to plump thin lips and fill and smooth facial wrinkles, folds or hollows in our skin. It is by far the most commonly used filler and its uses include filling creases such as ‘marionette’ lines (which run from the mouth to chin), smile lines and enhancing and sculpting lips and the face to give a more youthful appearance. It is also used either by itself or in conjunction with anti-wrinkle injections such as Botox to reduce lines in the forehead.
One of the great things about using hyaluronic acid products in fillers is that it is a molecule that is naturally found in the body. Although hyaluronic acid fillers are synthetically produced, the substance used in most major brands is nearly identical to the hyaluronic acid we produce naturally in our body. As a result the fillers are naturally integrated into tissue when injected, adding volume without certain risks that may occur with other synthetic chemicals that can be used as fillers. For this reason, and because in our experience hyaluronic acid-based fillers achieve the best results, at City Skin Clinic we always use hyaluronic acid fillers.
That is not to say, however, that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to dermal fillers. There are many brands of dermal fillers that use hyaluronic acid (some of the best known are Juvederm, Teosyal and Restylane) and which one we use will depend on the specific area of the face and desired result of our clients.
Hyaluronic acid can also be used as a wrinkle filler and lip filler through wrinkle or lip injections with a very fine needle. Whilst this is a relatively simple procedure and is done under local anaesthetic, there is a risk of side effects and, therefore, our philosophy and practice at City Skin Clinic is that these procedures should be performed by an experienced aesthetic doctor with surgical training who can cope with any unexpected complications. One of the pros of dermal fillers is that the results are immediately visible although swelling may occur afterwards and subside in a week or so. If the results are not exactly what you had in mind, there is an “eraser” called hyaluronidase which can be injected to reduce or remove the dermal filler.
The effects of the dermal fillers is temporary and lasts between 6-12 months. This is because hyaluronic acid dermal fillers degrade as time passes. This process can be slowed (but not stopped) by looking after your skin. Check out the posts on our blog on caring for your skin and remember that it is important to eat well, keep hydrated, take care of your skin, wear sunscreen with an SPF rating over 30 and avoid smoking!
We hope this blog post answers your questions on hyaluronic acid. For more on hyaluronic acid dermal fillers visit our dermal fillers and lip fillers Q&A page.